The best automatic cat feeder is one that your cat likes to use!
It’s also one that you can rely on and trust to deliver food to your cat like it’s meant to.
Safe, hygienic, usable and functional – this is what makes up a quality self feeder for cats.
With that said, there are certainly some that are just better designed and better functioning than others. And that’s the whole point of me writing this long (and regularly updated) guide.
I wanted to see what’s out there, what choices we have when it comes to cat auto feeders and which ones stand out.
Considerable time (think dozens of hours) and research has gone into creating this article which is a combination of comparison, reviews, and a general guide to not only buying, but using an auto feeder with your cats. Hope you enjoy it, and I hope it makes your choice easier.
I update this article regularly with new information, insights, new products, and anything else that I believe is of value to us dedicated cat people!
Note: Just because you have an auto feeder, it doesn’t mean a cat should ever be left home alone without being checked on, for long periods of time.
If you’re going away and choose not to place your cat in a boarding facility or hire a petsitter, always have someone check in on your cat daily.
Automatic pet feeders and waterers can fail at any time a and are not a replacement for responsible cat supervision.
Why Would You Use An Automatic Feeder For Cats?
Contrary to popular thinking, a self feeder is not just for people who want to leave their animals at home along while on vacation.
I absolutely don’t support leaving pets at home unsupervised for more than a day for many reasons, so my commentary in that area will be minimal.
There are certainly many other great reasons that you can benefit from using a quality auto feeding station. Consider:
It’s easy to overfill the bowl when you’re feeding your cat, especially with dry food (generally not an issue with wet food when you’re feeding from the can). Not all self feeding units measure the food into portions, but the ones that do are what you should be looking at if this feature is important to you.
You can then pre-measure out the dry food that you want your cat to have each day, or at each meal time, and you’ll know exactly how much she’s getting.
Cats are pretty flexible animals. Not to mention nocturnal by nature – but that doesn’t apply to a lot of our pets. They tend to get in tune with our own routine. If your schedule is shift work though, and your cat isn’t ready to eat when you’re around (and awake), things can get tricky.
Setting your auto feeder to a timer gives your cat a more structured eating schedule, and he won’t be completely reliant on your sleeping and working patterns everyday (and you’ll likely have less interruptions while you’re trying to sleep!).
Keeping a Food Routine
If you’re cat is an early riser (before the sun comes up, say), you might not be living up to his high expectations of when he wants his breakfast. Needless to say, this makes me feel guilty and I doubt I’m alone. A cat who is adamant about wanting breakfast when she wants it, no matter if the sparrows haven’t even risen yet, is clearly going to let you know until you give in.
This is an ideal situation for automatic feeders – you can set it to reveal the food at whatever unearthly morning hour your cat is known to wake you from your slumber. And when it all goes to plan, and your cat receives breakfast (or just a snack to tide him over) automatically while you’re still dozing, everyone is happy.
The same can apply at night. Work until late? Set the timer for a 6pm cat dinner and kitty no longer has to sit staring at the door waiting for you to get home.
For many people, self feeding units are able to “fill in the gaps” for those times of the day or week when you can’t stick to a schedule as you’d like to. Whether it’s used once a week or everyday, a self feeder keeps your cat on a regular feeding routine, no matter how chaotic your own schedule might be.
Note about using wet food in self feeders
Most auto feeders are made and recommended to be used only with dry food. If you’re anything like me, dry food makes up a minimal percentage of the diet.
I personally don’t feed my cats entire meals of dry food. I have made special note of the self feeders which are made for use with wet and canned foods, as they have specific built in features to keep the food fresh.
However – you will find many people who use “dry food only” self feeding machines with wet food, coming up with their own ways of keeping it fresh.
Often this means refrigerating or even freezing the food, or making use of ice blocks. With this method, you would be limited to a two-day feeder in order to risk loss of freshness in the food.
Is this recommended? Not by the manufacturers, and yes it may void any warranties. You also need to keep hygiene and freshness at top of mind and absolutely never risk serving up off meat or canned food to your cat.
In summary: if you wish to use wet food in a self feeder that is listed as being designed for dry food, use your discretion. Otherwise, consider only the models that are designed for use with fresh cat food.
Automatic Cat Feeder Reviews
The majority of auto feeding products aren’t made specifically for cats, but for both cats and dogs. And that’s perfectly fine.
My focus in this article though, of course, is how each feeder serves the needs of our cats. Because let’s face it: cats can have quite a different eating style to dogs and what works well for a dog may not always be ideal for our felines.
So my goal is to determine which feeders are the most feline-friendly and are worth your time and investment!
Trixie Tx2 Automatic Cat Feeder
This is one of the more simple auto feeders.
There’s nothing too fancy here: it’s a plastic build (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that), there’s compartments for 2 meals which you can set on a timer that spans a 48 hour period.
But sometimes basic is best and one of the biggest draws of the Trixie Tx2 is that you can use it with wet food without any modifications.
Because there’s no vertical storage container and due to the design that consists of what are basically two covered feeding bowls, the Tx2 natively handles canned food just as well as it does dry food.
So if you’re someone who doesn’t feed a completely dry diet even for short periods of time (as I am), this automatic feeder is going to be appealing for this reason alone.
The Trixie Tx2 automatic pet feeder is a good choice for people who want to be able to confidently use wet food in a self feeder and who just want a low cost, simple, easy to use self feeding unit for cats without the bells and whistles.
|Number of meals:||Customizable|
|Food type:||Dry food|
|Timer:||Yes, with LCD screen|
|Timer increments:||Up to 6 daily meals|
|Food capacity:||3.3lb/12 cups of dry food|
|Power:||3 x D batteries|
|Other features:||Voice recorder lets you record your own voice to play back to play back to your cat at meal time|
- Detailed portion control – great for strict diets and weight loss.
- Cat proof food container: very secure against determined cats who try to break into the food container and the chute is too small even for kittens to get in.
- The bowl itself is built in to the unit, so you can’t take it out to clean it separately.
- Program settings and timer via the LCD screen can be confusing and complicated.
- Instructions could be clearer and more detailed.
- Dry food only.
Arf Pets Automatic Pet Food Dispenser
Number of meals: Customizable portions; up to 4 daily meals
Timer: Yes, with LCD display
Food type: Dry food
Food capacity: 1.14 gallons
Power: 3 x D batteries or DC power
Other features: Voice recording
They specifically state that no wet or canned food should be used in the Arf feeder.
Cat Mate C20
Number of meals: 2
Timer increments: 2 x 48 hour timers
Food type: Wet and dry
Food capacity: 2 x 450 grams
Power: 1 x AA battery
Dish Material: Plastic
Other features: 3 year guarantee
The Cat Mate C20 is one of the few automatic feeders that is made for use with wet and canned cat food. So if feeding wet foods with a self feeder is a priority for you, and you want a product that is made for this purpose (rather than attempting to use wet food in a dry food feeder), the C20 will definitely be at or near the top of your list of potential choices.
The food is kept fresh with an ice pack and this is all built into the system. So there’s no need to try and turn a non-compatible self feeder into one that can handle canned food (potentially causing a lot of issues); the C20 is built to handle fresh cat food and to keep it fresh.
Cleaning is easy because the food bowls are removable. You can put them in the dishwasher, or wash them any way you prefer, and simply place them back in the C20 unit.
PetSafe Automatic 2 or 5 Meal Feeders
2 MEAL MODEL
Number of meals: 2
Timer increments: 2 hours
Maximum time: 48 hours
Food type: Dry food only
Food capacity: 2 x 1.5 cups
Power: 1 x AA battery
5 MEAL MODEL
Number of meals: 5
Food type: Dry food only
Food capacity: 5 cups
Power: 4 x D batteries
Material: Plastic (BPA-free)
Both the 2 meal and 5 meal PetSafe Feeders are designed for use with dry food. But even PetSafe acknowledges that people do use them with wet food, while placing an ice pack under the tray. While acknowledging this, PetSafe says that “it is not intended for this purpose”.
Guide to Buying and Using a Cat Food Auto Feeder
This section of my big article on automatic cat (or pet) feeding covers the more practical aspects of actually using them.
There’s some things to consider when using one of these machines. Think about:
Will your cat take to a new automatic feeding unit?
What food should or can you use in it?
How long can it be left for?
What sort of maintenance does it need?
What are some practical tips and ideas for using one of these snazzy devices?
What To Look For When Choosing a Self Feeder For Your Cat
It can get a bit overwhelming sifting through the features and functions of the various self feeders out there (and there are enough of them).
If you can pinpoint specific functionalities that you need or would like, then it can make the process of choosing the right unit a little easier. Do you want to be able to serve up wet food?
This will narrow down your choices quite a bit. Would you like to have the ability to record a voice message that will call your cat automatically at meal time? Or perhaps you have an especially determined cat whose food burglary skills require your auto feeder to be of the highest security.
Whatever the case, every self feeding product has its own benefits and disadvantages and some do better in certain areas than others.
Putting wet food into a pet feeder presents unique challenges in the areas of freshness and cleanliness.
One of the main issues with automatic feeding devices is that most of them only work with dry food. What if you want to feed your cat wet food with an auto feeder? Obviously this presents some challenges compared with dry food. Wet food is messy, sticky, has a short shelf life once opened, and requires cleaning up after.
Dry cat food on the other hand, obviously works well in auto feeders because it’s such low maintenance (and that after all, is one of the benefits of providing an automatic food delivery to your pets).