If there’s one thing cats love, it’s food. Honestly, they probably love food more than they love us, the givers of the food. However, we can’t always be at their side to feed them at meal time, as much as we wish we could be.
But, life goes on and we’ve got places to go and people to see, and our cats’ feeding schedule shouldn’t have to suffer for that. So if your cat has become accustomed to regular meal times throughout the day and your workday (or long weekend away) doesn’t quite line up with that, an automatic feeder is a smart investment to keep your cat fed without disturbing either one of your schedules. While we can’t guarantee that an automatic feeder will help your cat be cool with you leaving them home alone, at least you can rest assured that they won’t go hungry while they miss your company.
What to consider when buying an automatic cat feeder
Whether you’re looking for a no-frills, basic gravity feeder, or a full-fledged product to program perfectly timed and portioned meals, we’ve found the best automatic cat feeder options to fit your — and your kitty’s — needs. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Wet or dry food: Which food type does your cat usually eat? Wet dispensers will require daily cleaning and more attention than dry food feeders.
Your cat’s needs: While automatic feeders should never be a replacement for human interaction, consider your and your cat’s routines. Would the feeder be useful for days when you’re busy in meetings, or are you planning to go out of the house for a while? If it’s the latter, your feline friend could develop separation anxiety so it’s important to pick one that best suits their needs (like one that allows you to leave voice recordings — yes, really — which is great for those pandemic adoptees who have never been alone for long stretches of time).
Overall functionality: If you’ll be using the feeder often and have a dishwasher, look for dishwasher-safe containers or bowls so you aren’t stuck hand-washing each week. If you’re someone who often mixes up times, pick a programmable feeder that will remember for you. If your cat will continue to snack all day long, opt out of a gravity feeder and go for one that dispenses a specific amount of food.
How to train your cat to use an automatic pet feeder
The younger a cat is, the easier it will likely be to train them to get used to an automatic cat feeder, but a cat of any age should acclimate relatively well. It’s food, after all, so even if they’re apprehensive of the fancy new robot hanging out in their feeding area, they will eventually eat when they get hungry enough. That said, there are a few tips and tricks to help the process move along smoothly:
Remember that cats love routine and familiarity, so don’t be surprised if your cat turns up their nose at the new device. Give them time to get used to the automatic feeder’s presence — especially if it makes noise — and let them sniff and examine it for as long as they need to get comfortable.
If your cat is not already adjusted to a regular feeding schedule, try getting them into that routine first. If they’re used to having a bowl of food available to them at all times, an automatic cat feeder with timed food disbursement will come as quite a shock.
Don’t remove your cat’s current food bowl from the area; keep it near the automatic feeder so they can still get some food even if they’re a little skittish around the new device. Leave out both the old cat bowl and the new feeder for a few weeks, decreasing the food in the old bowl while increasing the food in the automatic cat feeder.
Keep as close of an eye on your cat’s behavior around the food bowls as you can. When they are eating primarily from the automatic feeder, you can start to take away their old pet food bowl for good.
A surefire way to coax your cat to the automatic feeder is by placing some of their favorite treats in it.
The most important thing to remember as you train your cat to eat from an automatic cat feeder is that you can’t expect to plop the automatic feeder in front of your cat and immediately run off for a weekend away. This process will take a little time and patience — and doubly so if you have multiple cats — so be sure to plan ahead and give them lots of reassurance and cuddles.
What kind of food can you put in an automatic feeder?
Automatic cat feeders are ideal for dry cat food, and are typically sealed pretty well to keep the dry food from getting stale over time. Kibble of just about any size or shape should fit well inside and dispense properly from the feeder without clogging or overflowing.
Since the nature of an automatic pet feeder relies on the fact that cat food will be sitting out for a while, most automatic cat feeders are not designed to house wet food or semi-moist food, both of which can spoil easily in a few hours’ time. However, some pet feeders are designed with a cooling mechanism to make wet food delivery possible. Be sure to take note of the type of food your automatic cat feeder is designed for before you make your purchase.
So, which automatic cat feeder is best?
Imagine being able to sleep in late without cats pawing at your face because they’re hungry, or working overtime without feeling guilty about missing kitty’s mealtime. With an automatic cat feeder, you can make that a reality, and your cat will most certainly thank you for it.
To help you figure out which option is right for you, we researched the internet’s favorite models and broke them down based on the features cat owners care about most. Find the best automatic cat feeder for you and your cat in 2022 right here.