Cats may not have the title of ‘mans best friend’ as their canine counterparts do. But, they certainly hold a special place in the hearts of so many of us. Just like with any pet we have a responsibility to make sure they are well cared for. And, feeding is part of that responsibility.
But, sometimes we can’t always be home to feed our cat at set times. Increasingly hectic lifestyles and busier schedules can mean that our four-legged feline friends might end up getting their meals a little later than we (and they) would like.
Enter the automatic cat feeder to solve this modern problem. It makes sure your cat always gets their meals on time. Even if you can’t always be there to feed them yourself.
What is an Automatic Cat Feeder?
In its simplest form they are designed to release a portion of food for your cat to eat at a set time. Of course, the styles and kinds of feeders vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, they all provide a convenient way not just to feed your pet, but also control the amount of food given and helps make sure we don’t accidentally over-feed our cats.
Most can also keep the food sealed. Which means they can help protect your cats’ food from other pets in your home and from flies and insects.
Automatic Cat Feeders Comparison Table:
Prices & information last updated on 2019-12-08
Our Pick Of The Top Automatic Cat Feeders Reviewed:
PetSafe – Healthy Pet – Simply Feed Digital
During long hectic days when you are not home until late at night, it can be very challenging to make sure that your pet is fed, especially when there is no one on call to help. And, even when you are around, being woken up very early than you would want by hungry cries from your four-legged companion can feel a tad inconvenient.
However, such hustles can be a thing of the past if you choose to invest in the PetSafe – Healthy Pet Simply Feed programmable digital pet feeder. With this contraption from PetSafe, it is possible to schedule feed times and control how much food your cat (or dog) eats without being physically present. Sounds interesting? Read our complete buyer’s guide on this automatic pet feeder to find out what it has to offer.
How it Works
The PetSafe Simply Feed comes with a large hopper that holds up to 24-cups (or 5,678ml) of dry or semi-moist kibble. A stainless steel bowl with a plastic holder that attaches to the main unit sits below the chute found on the front side where food comes out.
Two main components facilitate the basic functions of this automatic pet feeder:
First, there is a battery-powered digital control panel, which offers options to program what times of the day the machine will dispense pet food. In addition to a timer for scheduling meal times, the 5-button digital controls with LCD screen allow you to choose how much kibble is dispensed, with portions ranging from a 1/8-cup up to 4-cups. You will be able to see the time, the number of programmed meals per day, battery indicator, as well as the chosen portion size and other selections on the unit’s digital display.
The second component that makes this pet care accessory function is a conveyor belt inside the unit. It has rigid plastic dividers that hold meal portions. The belt also keeps rotating to release meals at programmed times.
Ease of Use
Operating this automatic pet feeder is a breeze thanks to several ingenious features that PetSafe integrated into the design. To begin with, there are two presets for cats and dogs, which schedule meals at different times twice a day and you can select the proper portion sizes according to your pet’s dietary needs.
The ‘user’ setting lends great customization options to pet owners who prefer to set up special meal plans. With this option, you can program the pet feeder to schedule a maximum of 12 meals in a day. Best of all, the battery-powered digital control panel saves your personalized settings or chosen presets. This means the 24hr timer keeps dispensing kibble at your programmed times over multiple days until the feed runs out.
For easy food level monitoring, PetSafe built this unit with a hopper that is easy to see through. But, with this pet feeder’s large capacity, you won’t need to refill kibble too often, especially if your household only has one pet.
Other than being able to plan meals according to your schedule or pet’s feeding habits, this pet feeder also offers additional feeding modes that come in handy in various situations. For instance, the Slow Feed mode, represented by a ‘turtle’ icon on the digital controls, reduces the speed at which meals dispense from the pet feeder. Once activated, this feed mode will slowly dispense the chosen amount of kibble over a 15-minute period. You may want to use this option if you have a pet that eats too fast in order to prevent choking, vomiting, bloating, and other health issues that may stem from gulping.
The Pause Feed mode suspends programmed meal times until you disengage it. Simply hit this button when you decide to travel with your pet over the weekend or a few days.
There is also an Immediate Feed mode, which dispenses the next planned meal right away. This can be useful if you decide to treat your pet with an early meal.
What We Think?
The Simply Feed is incredibly customisable, keeps your cat’s food secure from probing paws and is very well made. The only real downside is the price and it is expensive compared to the CatMate C3000 which is a similar pet feeder in terms of the amount of it can hold. This is a great buy if you’re not on a budget, but you might want to consider another of the feeders on this page if you want to try using a feeder first without diving in the deep-end and spending a fair bit of money.
Cat Mate C20 Automatic 2 Meal Pet Feeder
Made by established brand ‘Pet Mate’, the Cat Mate C20 doesn’t sport the most exciting design, but its reliability and low price point have made it very popular amongst pet owners.
How Much Food Can The C20 Hold?
The C20 has two feed tray allowing you to get 1-2 days worth of food queued up. I say ‘around 1-2 days’ because even though each tray can hold up to 450g of food (which is a substantial portion), it depends on how much and how often you like to feed your cat.
For example, you might only feed your cat one large portion of food per day. Which your kitty might eat in one go or come back to a nibble throughout the day. In this case, the C20 could provide two days worth of food (one large portion each day). However, if you prefer to feed your cat smaller portions, you might set one tray to open in the morning and one to open in the afternoon, with a smaller portion in each tray. In this case, the C20 would only provide one days worth of food.
It really depends on your cat’s preferences and if you want to help limit your cat’s calorie intake.
Finally, the trays are made of smooth plastic and can be unclipped for easy washing. In most cases, you could just wipe them clean.
What Food Types Are Accepted?
The C20 can take either wet or dry food and because wet food can start to go off pretty quickly during the summer months, Pet Mate have included a handy ice pack. This can be fitted beneath either of the trays and whilst this doesn’t keep the wet food refrigerated as such, it does help keep the food cool and fresher for longer. This makes the C20 ideal if you’re looking for an automatic cat feeder for wet food exclusively because many options will only accept dry food.
How To Use The Cat Mate C20
Looking at the top of the C20 you’ll see two hinged flaps which cover and protect the food until its ready to be released. At the top of each flap is a timer dial – one dial per lid. Each dial can be set with a delay of up to 48 hours and once the timer is up the respective lid opens automatically.
It is worth mentioning that the timers won’t function until you flip a switch located on the base of the unit to activate the timing mechanism. Once you’ve done this you’ll see the gears beneath the switch begin to turn. This can be easy to miss because the switch is quite small.
The device is powered by a single AA battery and can power the device for up to 1 year of continuous use – which is very handy because you won’t need to worry about the batteries running out of juice every few weeks.
One other feature worth mentioning is that you can fit this device to a wooden board to prevent your cat from moving it around. Whilst this isn’t such a consideration for cats generally it is quite a handy feature and well worth knowing – just in case your cat does decide to move the feeder to a more appropriate spot!
What We Think
Overall the C20 is a good value and simple entry model. Whilst the timers aren’t to-the-second accurate, like a digitally timed feeder, they are about as accurate as an analogue alarm clock and will do the job well. Plus, Pet Mate backs this unit with a very respectable 3-year warranty which shows this product, whilst simple, is designed to last for some time. There is also a slightly cheaper, single tray model, the C10, if you require it.
Trixie TX2 Automatic Food Dispenser
This Trixie cat feeder is very similar in appearance to the Pet Mate C20. Just like the C20 the TX2 features a two tray layout and each tray has an independent timer.
There are however a few differences which make it a worthwhile featuring in our reviews. The first is price. It can often be purchased for around £10 cheaper than the C20 and this makes it the cheapest cat feeders we’ve reviewed.
The second is that each tray can hold 300ml (which based on a simple conversion equates to 300g of food) this is around 150g less than the C20. The 3rd is that it arrives complete with 2 ice packs to help keep wet food fresh on warm days – compared to just one pack with the C20.
So, whilst you lose on some areas, such as capacity, you gain in others such as a lower price and the inclusion of an extra ice pack.
Now we have made a comparison between this and slightly higher priced C20, let’s look at the Trixie TX2 on its own merits and find out what it can do.
How To Use The Trixie TX2
As I mentioned earlier the TX2 has two independent timers – each of which can be set to a maximum of 48 hours. This can be handy if you go away for a short overnight break and it can also be useful for busy working days. This is because you can effectively ‘queue up’ two days worth of meals for your cat – just in case you get home a bit late.
Each of the two feeding bowls can be completely removed and are made of plastic which is dishwasher safe – making cleaning a breeze. And, as an added bonus, the bottom of the unit features non-slip rubber feet, which will prevent it from sliding over your floor.
What We Think
Price certainly isn’t everything. However, it is a big selling point for the TX2 which offers nearly identical features to a unit which is priced around £10 more it is a worthwhile addition to this guide.
PawFiesta 6 Day/Meal Automatic Pet Feeder
With technology becoming cheaper and smaller it is now possible to fit an incredible amount of useful tech into the most surprising of devices. The PawFiesta 6 Day feeder certainly fits into this category and comes loaded with a 6 day programmable timer, motorised feeding mechanism and even a voice recorder – so you can tell your cat its dinner time, even when you’re not at home.
But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, and whilst this tech is impressive, we’ll begin by looking at the basics.
How Many Meals Can The PawFiesta 6 Day Serve?
To start with you can get up to 6 days worth of food into this automatic cat feeder.
However this is based on one meal a day and, if you feed your cat twice a day, it will last 3 days and so on. It can take both wet and dry food but we’d probably recommend against using wet food in this device in warmer weather. It does not come with any ice packs to keep the food fresh and, as I’m sure you already know, wet cat food can begin to pong quite quickly in the heat!
How To Use The PawFiesta 6 Day
Inside the PawFiesta 6 Day is a circular, removable feeding tray which is separated into six segments. Each segment rotates under an access hole at the feeding times you set. But, before you can configure the feeding schedule you first need to set the clock.
Setting The Clock
This is very similar to setting a digital watch. The ‘set’ key is held for two seconds and then you press the mode button to increase the hour. Once you are finished a single push of the ‘set’ key saves the hour and the minutes digits begin to flash. All you need to do is repeat the process above to set the minutes and you’re done – easy.
Setting The Feeding Schedule
Next, you will need to set the feeding schedule. This works in a similar fashion to setting a digital clock. Pressing the mode button for 2 seconds will change the clock display to show the feeding schedule. The first digit represents the feeding number and the 2nd and 3rd digits represent the time of the day in 24-hour format. Pressing the mode key will increase the time and pressing the set key will save it. The machine will then cycle through all six times, in turn, for you to set.
The only setting which was not immediately obvious was how to set the device for multiple feedings per day. Although this is pretty simple too – once you know how. The best way to illustrate how to do this is with an example. So, to set the device to feed your cat twice a day, once at 8am and once at 6pm, you would set the first feeding to ’08’ (8am) and the second feeding to ’18’ (6pm).
Using this simple system you can set the device to automatically feed your cat up to 6 times per day. There is even a delay feature which allows you to start the feeding schedule tomorrow. A single button press is all that is required to activate this. The advantages of this feature are obvious and it is a very nice touch.
Message Record Function
Depending on your cat it will either love or loathe this feature! Pressing the record key on the front of the device for a few seconds will cause a red light to illuminate. You will then have 20 seconds to record a personal message to let your cat know its dinner time. This message is played 3 times at each feeding schedule – because we all know cats generally won’t come the first time you call them…
What We Think
This is a very cool gadget with some great features. It even has a securely locking lid to prevent your cat from getting its meals early and the smart technology means you can literally set and forget this device from anywhere between 2 and 6 days. It also comes backed with a very healthy 2-year warranty should anything go amiss. This is always good to see and shows real faith by PawFiesta in their products. If you’re looking for a simple to use and secure cat feeder, but don’t mind the lack of cooling packs, this unit is sure to please.
Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Dry Food Feeder
The Cat Mate C3000 is one the largest feeders on our list. It can store up to a whopping 3kg worth of dry food in its hopper and dispense enough meals to last for up to 30 days. It is a true set-and-forget system because its programmable timer can literally be set to loop indefinitely. All you need to do is remember to top up the hopper and give it a clean periodically.
One of the things which caught our eye about the C3000 is just how customisable it is. You can configure the feeder to dispense up to 3 meals per day and even control how much food is dispensed for each individual meal. This is a fantastic way to make sure we don’t accidentally overfeed our cats and can help prevent some of the problems which can develop when they become overweight.
How To Use The Cat Mate C3000
Just like most digital feeders you first need to set the timer. This is done in a similar fashion to a digital watch. One key thing you need to remember is that once you’ve set the time you need to leave the unit for 60 seconds before entering any further information – a simple but easy to overlook step.
Because this device is more customisable than most automatic feeders there are two more steps to configuring the dispensing system: setting the meal sizes and then setting the meal times. Although this may seem like a bit of bother it is really fast to do and takes only a minute or two.
Setting The Meal Sizes:
To set the meal sizes press and hold the ‘FEED’ button for 5 seconds until the letter ‘F’ and two zeros appear and begin flashing on the display. Pressing the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons will allow you to set how many feed units you would like dispensed for this meal. Pressing the ‘FEED’ button again will then allow you to set the meal sizes for meals 2 and 3 – although you can leave the units at 0 to tell the machine that no feed needs dispensing if you only want one or two meals to be dispensed per day.
Before we move onto setting the meal times we thought we should briefly mention what a ‘feed unit’ is. This equates to around 10g worth food and it is recommended that for just one meal a day an average cat should have around 5-7 units. You can even get the machine to dispense feed units one at a time whilst it keeps count of how many it has released. Weighing the dispensed food will then help you to work out how many units you need for your cat.
Setting The Meal Times:
The final step is to set the meal times. This works in a similar fashion to setting the feed unit sizes and all you need to do is press and hold the ‘FEED’ buttons for five seconds to enter ‘meal times’ mode. Using the plus and minus buttons it is possible to set not just the hour but also the minute the food is dispensed. This is particularly handy if say, for example, your cat is used to being fed at 5:30.
What We Think
The Cat Mate C3000 is a really impressive feeder which can be customised not only to make your life easier but also help make sure your cat remains healthy by only dispensing the correct amount of food at meal times. When you couple this with the easy clean hopper and tray (both of which are dishwasher safe) and the huge 3-year warranty provided by Pet Mate it is clear to see why this device has become so popular.
SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder
The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder is slightly different from the other feeders on this page. This because it does not come with a timing mechanism and can only serve 1-2 meals before it needs to be refilling.
But, this lack of features is deliberate. It was never designed to be a delayed feeding system. In place of this functionality, SureFeed have managed to solve several common problems most of us have encountered when feeding our pets. Which we thought was pretty spectacular.
What Does The SureFeed Microchip Do?
The SureFeed system is designed to help protect your pets’ food and keep it fresh. This might sound quite simple but anyone who has more than one cat or, indeed, a cat or a dog knows some of the problems this can bring. One pet cat could be more dominant than the other and steal food or your dog might take a liking to your cats’ food (as ours does) and gobble it down any chance it gets.
Not only that but flies quickly cover wet food during the summer and even toddlers have been known to stick their hands into wet cat food and have a play – yuck!
So, how have SureFeed solved these problems?
The first way is by simply covering the food using an automated hinged lid. This lid does not simply rest over the food, it forms an airtight seal to keep flies, fingers, and dirt out of your cat’s food. This seal will also help keep the food fresher for longer.
Secondly, the SureFeed employs a smart RFID system which detects your cat’s microchip and only opens the cover for the microchips it is linked with. It even comes with a free RFID collar tag so you can use the system even if your cat is not microchipped.
How To Use The SureFeed MicroChip
With all this impressive tech we first that configuring the SureFeed device would be tricky. In fact, it is very simple to set. To add a cat to the device a single button press is all that is required (located around the rear of the feeder). This will cause the indicator light to flash green then place your cat, or the supplied RFID tag, near the unit until the light turns solid green. That’s it. Your cat has been added to the system.
Cleaning the device is also very straight forward. A switch around the back of the unit can be toggled to manually open and close the lid so you can remove the feeding bowl for cleaning. Even the lid can be removed for easy washing should it get any food on it.
What Else Is Included?
Included with the device are a number of useful accessories:
The first is that two different feeding bowls are supplied. One has a divider in the middle so you can fill it with wet and dry food, the second has no separating barrier and is suitable for one food type.
Secondly is the RFID tag (which we mentioned above) which will allow you to use your device even if your cat doesn’t have a microchip.
Finally, one of the included items which impressed us the most came in the manual. Inside is a very comprehensive guide on how to get your cat to associate the feeder with food. This is sure to come in handy during the early days of using it. There is even a second guide on how to get even the most cautious of cats to use it. Not only that but the device can also be put into ‘training mode’ where you can manually cause the lid to part open and close slowly so your cat gets used to the noises of the feeder.
What We Think
SureFeed have managed to conquer some common problems associated with feeding your cat and had the foresight to include some genuinely useful extras with this device which will make using, and cleaning it, simple. The only downside is the cost. This unit sits at the pricier end of the spectrum when it comes to automatic cat feeders. However, we have noticed that in recent months its price has fallen considerably.
Different Kinds of Automatic Cat Feeder
Looking at this guide you’ve probably already seen that automatic feeders come in all shapes and sizes. But, how do you know which kind is right for you? In this section you can find out what different kinds are available and read their pros and cons. Allowing you to quickly figure out which kind meets your needs.
Gravity feeders usually comprise of a relatively large hopper of food and a feeding bowl/tray which is situated beneath it.
The food is dispensed from the hopper in portions sizes set by the user and at certain times. For example; 25g of food might be programmed to be released at 5pm and 10g of food and 11am and so on.
They are ideal for controlling meal sizes because you can control how often and how much your cat eats – which can really avoid the temptation to over feed. This has the advantage of making sure your cat maintains a healthy weight.
We’re not sure if ‘hinged lid’ is the correct terminology to describe this type of feeder – but it certainly seems a good fit.
Hinged lid devices are the simplest of all the automatic feeders and consist of a food tray, timing mechanism and lid. A portion of food is placed into the tray and the lid is closed. The timer is then set and the lid will only open when the timer has elapsed.
They are by far the cheapest and usually come in single or dual tray configurations with a maximum delay of 48 hours. So, unlike a gravity feeder, the timer will not reset itself and loop indefinitely. It needs to be manually reset after each use.
Again we’re not sure if the term ‘rotating tray’ is the correct term but it does a pretty good job to describe how these devices work. This kind of feeder consists of a circular tray divided into 6 segments, each of which can be filled with food. This tray is then placed inside a base unit and a lid, with an opening the size of one of the segments, is securely fastened on top.
The device can then be configured to slide one of trays to an opening in the unit at set times, allowing your cat to eat.
Automatic Cat Feeders Buyers Guide – What To Look For
Knowing a few simple pointers can help narrow your search and settle on a feeder which meets your needs, first time. And, that’s just what you’ll find this section of the guide. We’ve put together the core requirements we think everyone should know about before they buy.
1 Cooling mechanism
If your cat prefers wet food, or is a kitten and cannot yet eat dry food, you may need a device with a cooling mechanism to keep the food fresh – especially during warmer weather.
Most devices achieve this by having a compartment beneath the feed tray which can accommodate an ice pack. It is worth pointing out that this doesn’t keep the wet food refrigerated as such – just cool. So, even with an ice pack we’d still only recommend queuing up 1-2 days worth of wet food to be absolutely certain it does not spoil.
A larger capacity device means you can let the machine do its job with less intervention. This is particularly handy if work absorbs your week and you can’t always get home on time to feed your cat. Having a device with a large food hopper means you place a weeks worth of food into the device and it will feed your cat on time every day.
Typically gravity fed devices are the only feeders capable of this device of functionality and they can only accept dry food, so it is important to make sure you cat is happy to eat just dry food.
3 Timer function
Timers are at the heart of automated feeding devices. They provide the mechanism which allows you to feed you cat when you can’t be there to do it yourself.
This is why you need to think about how often you need the feeder to take your place during an average week. Do you have time to refill it every day? Or would you prefer something you only have to re-fill once every week? Typically feeders which need refilling most often use a lid which is controlled via a timer mechanism. The timer releases the lid, exposing a bowl of food so your cat can east and these generally accept wet and dry food. Longer lasting feeders, on the other hand, only usually dispense dry food but can often last many days between refills.
Asking these kinds of questions will help narrow your choice and ensure the feeder you buy will meet you needs and is a worthwhile investment.
4 Accepted food types
This is probably down to your cat more than you! It might be tempting to think that you can switch your cat from wet to dry food and they’ll be fine.
But, we’ve had many a cat which wouldn’t even try dry food and ignored it. So, it is worth testing different dry foods on your cat before you buy. Especially if you buy a gravity fed or other device which can only accept dry food.
There’s no denying just how useful automatic cat feeders can be. They can make sure our feline family members are fed even when we can’t do it ourselves. So long as we remember common sense rules and never leave our cats alone for extended peroids these devices are incredibly useful, time saving contraptions.
If you’re still a bit unsure we recommend:
- Considering the Cat Mate C3000 if you want a hands-off feeding appliance and don’t mind the fact it does not accept wet food.
- Looking at the Trixie or C20 if you want something affordable and simple which can take wet and dry foods.
- Viewing the Pawfiesta for something a little more sophisticated and secure that offers a flexible feeding schedule for your cat.