Scheduling—and sticking to—regular feeding times and portioning the proper amount of food for each pet in the household is arguably one of the most difficult parts of everyday pet parenting. It’s something that only becomes more difficult if you’ve started commuting to the office again or would like to go out for an impromptu dinner and drinks every now and then.
Thankfully, that’s exactly where automatic pet feeders come in. These handy devices were created to make feeding your pets as streamlined as possible—and they can be a great option for those who struggle with overfeeding or properly portioning meals.
What is an Automatic Pet Feeder?
Automatic pet feeders are pre-scheduled feeding devices that help pet parents ensure their pets are receiving pre-portioned meals at the same time every day. These types of feeders can help with weight control by decreasing overfeeding and can also help to prevent early morning wakeup calls because of your pet’s hunger.
“An automatic pet feeder allows pet parents to work later or make travel plans without feeling guilty their pet’s meal schedule may not stay consistent,” explains veterinarian Dr. Michelle Burch. “Maintaining a dog or cat’s mealtime while an owner is traveling can help reduce stress and anxiety.”
According to Dr. Sarah Wooten, a small animal veterinarian, automatic pet feeders can also be a great way to ensure that your pet is getting the correct amount of food each day, at the same time, without the need of a human to fill the bowl or rely on quick measurements. This can be a great solution for both pet parents and their furry friends, who may prefer to snack on regular small meals throughout the day.
Shopping for an Automatic Pet Feeder: What to Look For
There are a lot of automatic pet feeders on the market, and they all have different features that pet parents like. Here are some things to consider when shopping for an automatic pet feeder:
Size and storage: If you have multiple pets or larger dogs, you will need a bigger feeder. Some feeders have multiple bowls for multiple pets. Airtight storage and desiccant bags, which help prevent moisture, will keep food fresher for longer. Some are battery powered, some plug in.
Whether you are feeding canned food, dry food, raw food, or a combination: Some feeders work best with just dry food, others are refrigerated to store portions of raw or canned food.
How easy it is to clean the feeder: Many feeders have a lot of nooks and crannies that can be difficult to get into. Look for a feeder than can easily be washed down—or better yet, is dishwasher friendly.
Technology: Automatic feeders range from basic models that just feed your pet to models that connect by WiFi to an app on your phone, Wooten says. Some let you schedule multiple feedings, some play a prerecorded message that calls your pet to eat, etc. Decide how much technology you want ahead of time so you don’t buy something that is over your head!
Specific diet requirements: “If you have multiple pets with different food requirements, you can get a feeder that only opens by the animal wearing the right collar or microchip,” Wooten explains. “In addition, if you have a pet that requires a specific portion size for weight loss, this technology can prevent that cat from overeating.”
Best Automatic Pet Feeder: 6 Options to Consider
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Considering an automatic pet feeder for your household? Here are some of the best options on the market right now—from high-tech, WiFi-enabled feeders to more basic and budget-friendly options.
Best Automatic Pet Feeder: Overall Winner
Our pick: Petlibro Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder
The Petlibro Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder is our favorite automatic pet feeder on the market right now. Not only is it quite budget-friendly compared to other feeders out there, it’s also highly reliable. Set the time and amount of food to be dispensed using the LCD display and big, clearly marked buttons and let the feeder handle the rest! It comes equipped with a backup battery power supply in case of interrupted power, and bells and whistles that make meal time enjoyable for both you and your pet.
- Can store up to 20 days worth of dog food or 35 days worth of cat food
- Allows you to record a personalized voice message that plays during feedings
- Comes with a a desiccant bag to keep food fresh
Things to Consider
- The initial set up and programming can be tricky to get right on the first go
- Backup power requires 3 D-cell batteries (not included)
- The company also makes a stainless steel WiFi version, if you’re looking for something more high-tech
Sample buyer review: “My adult indoor cat loves to eat. Putting dry food out twice daily meant he would eat nearly all of it right after it was set out. In the interim, he would seek more, which I would not offer, as he gets plenty. Of course, I felt guilty ignoring his pleas. I researched the various types of automatic food dispensers and decided on this one. I’m glad I did. It works reliably, is easy to clean and refill.”
Best Automatic Pet Feeder for Multi-Pet Households
Our pick: SureFeed Microchip Reader Feeder
The SureFeed Microchip Reader Pet Feeder is recommended for a house with multiple pets, Burch says. The SureFeed Microchip Reader Feeder ensures that one pet in the household is not stealing another’s food. Pet parents with a dog or cat on a prescription diet will ensure the correct pet is eating the food. The feeder is compatible with all identification microchips worldwide with an RFID collar tag.
- Makes it very easy to ensure different pets get the quantity and type of food they need
- Compatible with both dry kibble and wet foods
- The feeder is app-enabled and sends data straight to your phone
Things to Consider
- To use the app, it requires a hub that is sold separately, making this a big ticket option
- The feeder doesn’t always recognize taller cats and dogs right away
Sample buyer review: “I have 2 kitties, one likes to graze and the other likes to devour everything in sight so it was hard trying to ensure both were being fed appropriately. One of the kitties is slightly on the heavy side so this allows me to not only ensure that each feeding station is specific to each kitty but that I can monitor how much is fed, their feeding patterns and their overall consumption to eventually work out the appropriate amounts to feed them.”
Best Automatic Pet Feeder for Serving Smaller Meals Throughout the Day
Burch recommends the PetSafe Eatwell5-Meal Automatic Feeder for single-pet households. The PetSafe Automatic feeder can be programmed to feed multiple meals a day to encourage slow feeding and prevent vomiting from overeating. The design of the automatic feeder also makes it difficult for pets to break into pre-set meals.
- Makes it easy to serve multiple small meals a day
- Can also be used to schedule time for treats
- Very compact and ideal for smaller kitchens
Things to Consider
- The reservoir will need to be filled every five days (or more)
Sample buyer review: “This is ideal for anyone who isn’t with their cat during the day. Now your cat can eat on a schedule and NOT be overfed by leaving a full bowl of food out all day. This is what the Vet recommended. My first one lasted 12 years and now this is my second one – well worth the money. Highly recommend it.”
Best Automatic Pet Feeder for Curious Cats and Dogs
Worried your dog or cat might be able to break into the feeder and feast their little heart out? You might want to consider the HoneyGuaridan 7L Automatic Pet Feeder for Two. This sturdy feeder is proven to be totally tamper proof—which will offer great relief to pet parents who just know their furry friends will be working to get into the food reservoir on a regular basis.
- Allows for custom meal sizes at different times throughout the day
- Includes the option for up to two different bowls of food at once
- Includes a double power supply just in case of unexpected outages
Things to Consider
- Requires you to record a new voice every time you schedule a new feeding time
Sample buyer review: “This food dispenser is wonderful. One of my kitties can open doors, flush the toilet, etc and is too smart for most feeders. She has figured out how to free feed from all the feeders I’ve tried within 24 hours. Not so for this one.”
Best Tech-Enabled Automatic Pet Feeder
The LeeKooLuu Smart Feeder is going to be the best option for anyone who likes to check in on their furry friend on a regular basis: not only does the smart device serve scheduled feedings, it also comes with a 1080P HD camera that allows you to observe and even chat with your pets throughout the day. The top rated pet feeder also allows you to edit and schedule feedings right from your phone for added convenience.
- Makes it easy to check in on pets when out of the house
- Large reservoir fits up to 24 cups of food
- Includes a two-year warranty just in case your pets don’t warm to it
Things to Consider
- Rather expensive compared to other models on the market
Sample buyer review: “One of the awesome things about this SmartFeeder is the remote capabilities. I love using the phone app while I am away. I can check-in on the pets, feed them if needed, talk to them and if placed in the open area of a house or business, it can be used for dual function; a room camera for security to check out the house/business and to watch your pets!”
Best Budget-Friendly Automatic Pet Feeder
Our pick: PetSafe Automatic 2 Meal Pet Feeder
If you’re looking for a no-frills pet feeder for occasional use or to deliver treats throughout the day, the PetSafe Automatic 2 Meal Pet Feeder will be right up your alley. The budget-friendly feeder offers enough room for up to two meals (or treat servings) and can be scheduled up to 24 hours in advance. Note that the feeder uses plastic dials to schedule meal time and is not as accurate as other feeders on the market.
- Dishwasher-friendly and very easy to clean between feedings
- Very affordable compared to other models on the market
- Works with both dry kibble and wet food
Things to Consider
- The time of feeding can vary up to half an hour due to the rather inaccurate scheduling dials
Sample buyer review: “This is useful if you are out for the day and want to feed your pet at the normal time. The dials are set to open each flap to gain access to food by closing the lid and setting the dial to the number of hours to the time that you want it to open. Don’t expect it to be bang on the time you want, but it is close.”
Using an Automatic Pet Feeder: Tips and Advice
Here are a couple of expert tips to keep in mind when using an automatic pet feeder:
Consider scheduling regular meals throughout the day: An automatic feeder programmed to give small meals throughout the day can help combat overeating and boredom, Burch says. Boredom in pets left at home throughout the day can result in stress and separation anxiety.
They don’t replace a pet sitter: “The cons to automatic feeders are that they may not store a lot of food, big dogs can knock them over, and they can malfunction,” explains Wooten, “which is why an automatic feeder is not a good replacement for a pet sitter.”
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