Automated pet feeders are ingenious devices that dole out food to your pet in the amounts and frequency you desire.
They are available in a wide variety of styles, providing a vast array of functions.
You can choose from simple gravity feed devices to sophisticated, high tech, programmable feeding systems. The choices are many and varied, and the selection process can be a bit confusing.
In this guide and automatic pet feeder reviews, we will compare and explain the reasons for using one of these units to help you choose the best automatic pet feeder for you and your furry friends.
Top 10 Best Automatic Pet Feeders
Brand & Model
Total Dry Food Capacity
Cats / Small Dogs
Dogs / Cats
Dogs / Cats
Cats / Small Dogs
5 x 1 Cup Meals
Cats / Small Dogs
Cats / Small Dogs
5 x 1 Cup Meals
Cats / Small Dogs
Cats / Small Dogs
Best Automatic Cat Feeders
Cats get bored easily, but when you set up an automatic pet feeder for your kitty, you can build in a series of exciting events for your cat to anticipate while you are away.
Some cat feeders allow you to set up as many as four feeding times daily. Couple this with enjoyable toys and a good view from the window, and your cat will not suffer from boredom while you are gone.
There are some cat feeders that will dispense canned food as well as dry food.
This added variety also helps alleviate kitty boredom, which can so often result in furniture clawing, yowling and other undesirable behaviors.
It’s also a valuable feature if you have an older cat who cannot eat hard kibble.
Best Automatic Dog Feeders
Dog food dispensers have even more variety and features than cat feeders. For example, some dog feeders are not automatic. They simply work with a gravity feed.
While this does not limit the ultimate amount of food your dog can access, it can slow him or her down and prevent wolfing all the food in just a few moments.
If your dog would tend to stand at the gravity feeder and eat all day until all the food is gone, you will want to invest in an electronic feeder.
Electronic feeders for both cats and dogs can be programmed using a handy, modern digital screen. The most elaborate offer a wide variety in dispensing time, amount and type of food. Some all-function feeders can dispense kibble, wet food and water.
Features & Specifications
There are many choices in automatic pet feeders, and new options and designs are presented on a regular basis. Here are a few top features you should consider.
1. Digital Timer: This feature allows you to choose the precise time(s) for your pets' meals.
2. Size & Duration Settings: This feature allows you to choose the amount of kibble to be dispensed. It also allows you to determine how long the food will be available.
3. Capacity: Some feeders let you increase the total amount of food that will be available between filling. You can add extensions or extra hoppers in a variety of sizes ranging from a couple of cups to a little over three gallons. This is helpful if you have a very large dog or if you plan to be away for a slightly extended period of time.
4. Guaranty/Warranty: As with any appliance investment, you want to be sure you get your money's worth and have some protection in case something goes wrong. Be sure to pick a product that has a strong warranty in place, just in case.
How Many Pets Do You Have?
Think about the number of pets you have and consider their personalities. This will help you decide whether you want to get one large feeder for sharing or several smaller feeders.
If you don't have a bully in your household, your pets may be able to happily share one feeder.
If one pet tends to get chased away from the food, it's a good idea to get one feeder for each pet, plus one! With an extra feeder, there will always be one feeder "open for business" even if you have a very aggressive food hog in your midst.
Styles & Operation
Be sure your pet is able to operate the style of feeder you choose. Some feeders are lightweight and easy to open and close. If you have a dainty little teacup variety dog, this may be alright. If you have a big, strong tom-cat it will not.
SEE ALSO: Best Pet Camera
Carefully examine your choices. Choose a style that will be strong enough to keep your pet from opening it and eating all the food. Simultaneously, it should be easy enough for your pet to figure it out and operate it successfully.
Cats & Dogs Are Different!
Remember that cats and dogs are different in many ways. A feeder designed for a dog may not work for a cat and vice-versa. Additionally, cats and dogs should not share a feeder because their nutritional needs are very different.
Dogs should not have access to cat food at all. It is far too rich and high in protein for them. Eating it can cause kidney damage.
If you have both cats and dogs in your household, be sure to get specialized feeders for both and set them up in such a way that dogs cannot get cat food and cats cannot get dog food.
While it won't hurt your cat to eat a little dog kibble from time to time, he or she should a regular diet of specially prepared cat kibble.
Cats need the amino acid, taurine, in their food. Dog food does not provide this, but cat food does. Cats who do not receive enough taurine in the diet eventually go blind.
Consider your pets' feeding habits carefully.
- Some feeders simply open a door and dump a predetermined amount of food into a bowl.
- Others dispense the food steadily, electronically for a measured period of time.
- Still others may be opened by an electronic signal from a device attached to your pet's collar.
If your pet does not tend to gobble up all of his or her food at once, a single dispensing of food once or twice daily may be fine.
If all the food would be gone within moments of dispensing, a slow feed of small amounts of food several times daily would be better.
RFID Collar Feeders
Feeders that are accessed via electronic signal from your pet’s collar are very helpful if you have both dogs and cats.
This type of feeder is also useful if your pet stays outdoors where wild animals or strays might loot his or her food.
This type of dispenser doesn't control the amount of food your pet can get, but it does ensure that only the designated diner can access the food.
Fresh Water Is Essential
While you want to provide a properly measured amount of food, you should provide water in a "free-feed" style. Water is life, and good hydration is as essential for pets as it is for people.
There are a number of good pet watering devices available today that will filter your tap water and/or circulate it to keep it fresh for your pet.
SEE ALSO: Best Pet Water Fountains
Benefits Of An Automatic Pet Feeder
Improve Your Pet’s Quality Of Life
These clever devices essentially follow the popular wisdom of the day in terms of human meal planning. They provide your pet multiple, small meals a day rather than encouraging infrequent gorging. This is better for digestion, nutrition delivery and peace of mind.
Your pet will look forward to his or her multiple mini-meals, so having an automatic feeder can also be an excellent way to help relieve pet boredom.
Alleviate Sibling Rivalry
The best thing in your pet’s life is loving attention from you. The next best thing is mealtime!
Sometimes this can be a bit of a challenge though, if you have pets who exhibit "sibling" rivalry or who simply have different eating habits.
For example, if you have one cat or dog who believes that all food should be consumed instantly, on-the-spot, and another who likes to nibble a bit at a time, it's easy to see that you will soon have one very fat pet and one very thin pet unless you initiate some sort of portion control.
This can be difficult if you are away at work all day and/or simply don't have the time to sit down and supervise your pets' mealtimes. This is one of the top reasons for purchasing an automated pet feeder.
These innovative devices come with all sorts of excellent features that allow you to decide exactly how much food will be available to your pets and when it will be available.
Give Yourself Peace Of Mind
Clearly, using an automatic pet feeder provides cats and dogs with many benefits, not the least of which is a consistent diet. This convenient and responsible method of feeding also provides excellent benefits for you.
When you provide a reliable, high quality feeder you can rest easy if you:
- Are Delayed By Inclement Weather
- Go On A Short Vacation
- Get Stuck In Traffic
- Work Overtime
You will have a great deal of peace of mind knowing that your pet will not go hungry while you are away.
Prevent Food Anxiety
Having an automatic pet feeder in place may help prevent having your pet develop food anxiety. This problem is often caused by long, hungry hours.
Pets that have been starved or abused almost always have this condition, but if your pet must spend hours and hours every day waiting to be fed, he or she could also develop a great deal of anxiety around food - even if you feed plenty at meal time.
Dogs & Cats In The Western World Are Simply Too Fat!
You may have heard that people in industrialized societies face unique health challenges due to sedentary lifestyle and consumption of excessive amounts of processed food products.
It turns out that our pets also face this dilemma, and the vast majority of well-kept pets are actually dangerously overweight.
One of the causes of this is "free-feeding".
Many people simply leave a dish of kibble out at all times for their pets to eat as much as they wish, whenever they wish. This is a bad idea all around. Just imagine if that was how your managed your own diet!
What if you just set a big bowl of tasty snacks in a conveniently located place and munched all day long? You would soon be dangerously overweight, yourself!
Excess Weight Causes Myriad Health Complications
A recent study conducted by the Association For Pet Obesity Prevention determined that over half the dogs and cats kept as pets in the United States are quite obese. The effect of this pet obesity epidemic run parallel to our problem with human obesity.
Here are some of the problems overfeeding can cause for your pet (and you!)
- Reduced Life Expectancy
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Respiratory Illness
- Insulin Resistance
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Kidney Disease
When your pet goes through life overweight, it reduces his or her enjoyment of life and robs you both of a couple of years of time together.
Why Do People Overfeed Their Pets?
We want our pets to be happy, and we often feel guilty for leaving them home alone for many hours at a time. Giving treats and feeding generously seems like a natural way to show love and make up for our absences, but this is really rather faulty reasoning.
It is very common to equate food with love, but as humans we know that this is a false belief that leads to an unhealthy relationship with food.
Pets are not quite so self-aware. They do equate food with love, and that makes our temptation to overfeed and provide excessive treats very strong.
Your pet will be much happier and healthier if you wisely control food intake and add some walking, petting, brushing and playing to your daily routine.
As a knowledgeable and caring pet owner, you are in the best position to determine exactly what sort of feeding schedule will work best for your pet.
Carefully evaluating your pets needs and then making a point-by-point comparison of the types of automatic feeders available to you is the best way to set up just the right feeding plan for your dog or cat.
It's easy to see that regulating food consumption is paramount when it comes to good pet care. For this reason, a high quality, durable automatic pet feeder is an excellent investment.
When you purchase wisely, you will reduce your pet care expenses in terms of food and veterinary bills. You may also increase your pets' quality of life and life expectancy.
Did you enjoy this guide? Let us know in the comments about your favorite automatic pet feeder, experiences and tips you may have to share with others.