The Best Automatic Cat Feeders And Timed, Programmable Dispensers Reviewed & Rated
There is perhaps nothing more annoying than your cat waking you up in the middle of the night to fill up her food bowl – again!
When cats are hungry, they’re hungry. And, they’ll do everything in their power to make sure they get food in their belly as soon as possible, including screeching next to your head in the middle of the night.
And, let’s not forget about the complexity of finding someone to feed your cat while you’re away. Even if you’re planning on being gone for one day, your cat will ensure that you have someone there to care for her while you’re gone.
Sometimes, even complicated work schedules can get in the way of feeding your cat on time. Have to stay at the office late? You can bet your kitty is not going to be very happy when you get home.
Luckily, there is a hero to take care of all your feeding time woes – the automatic cat feeder.
- 1 Best Overall Quick-Find Table
- 2 What to Consider When Buying an Automatic Cat Feeder
- 3 What Makes an Automatic Cat Feeder Great? (How We Reviewed Them)
- 4 Reviews Of The Best Automatic Cat Feeders
- 4.1 The Best Automatic Cat Feeder Overall: Arf Pets Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder (EDITOR’S CHOICE)
- 4.2 Best Automatic Cat Feeder for Multiple Cats: SureFeed Microchip Small Dog & Cat Feeder
- 4.3 Best Cheap Automatic Cat Feeder: Qpets 6-Meal Programmable Pet Feeder
- 4.4 The Best Automatic Wet Food Cat Feeder: Cat Mate C20 2-Bowl Automatic Pet Feeder
- 4.5 The Best High-Capacity, Wifi and App Enabled Automatic Cat Feeder: Petnet SmartFeeder Automatic Pet Feeder
- 4.6 Best for Small Feedings And Lots Of Control: PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Programmable Pet Feeder
- 5 What Kind of Cats are Smart Feeders Good For?
- 6 Tips for Use
The automatic cat feeder does precisely what the name says – feed your cats automatically.
It doesn’t matter if you’re home or 200 miles away. It will take care of feeding your cat for you.
Automatic cat feeders work wonders for those who are away from home a lot. But they are also perfect for those with overweight cats or who don’t want to stress about feeding schedules.
Of course, not every automatic cat feeder is the same. Some are well worth the money, while others are so-so at best.
To help you get the most bang for your buck, I’ve reviewed the best automatic cat feeders on the market. First, let’s look at what makes a great automatic cat feeder great, and then I’ll tell you about some of my favorites.
Best Overall Quick-Find Table
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What to Consider When Buying an Automatic Cat Feeder
Before you go shopping for the best automatic cat feeder, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Thinking of these things before beginning your search will help you orient yourself in the wide world of automatic cat feeders.
Number of Cats
Firstly, you need to consider how many cats you have in your home and their personalities.
Many cat feeders have no way to control what cat eats from them. If you have multiple cats, this can lead to one cat getting more food than the other. If your cats already share food pretty evenly, then you probably don’t have anything to worry about. However, if you have a particularly voracious cat or one of your cats is on a special diet, that is something you need to take note of.
Size of Pets
While most cats are about the same size, some are noticeably smaller or larger than others (you Maine Coon parents know what I mean!).
If your cat is notably larger than average, she might have some difficulties using bowls designed for tiny cats. Bowls with lids that don’t open very wide can also be a problem for big cats.
If your cat is young or small, she might have issues using bowls with taller rims.
Most average sized cats will have no problem using any bowl. But, if your cat is at either end of the spectrum, you should keep their size in mind during your search for an cat food dispenser.
Suitable for Cats and Dogs
Depending on your particular situation, you might want an automatic pet feeder that is suitable for both dogs and cats. Or, on the other hand, you might want an automatic pet feeder that is impossible for your larger dog to eat out of.
Figuring out exactly what you want to use your automatic cat feeder for will help you determine whether or not it needs to be usable by both cats and dogs. Of course, if you only have a cat, then this isn’t applicable.
With these things in mind, let’s move onto crucial features you should look for when choosing an automatic cat feeder. Not every automatic feeder is going to be suitable for every home. So, it is essential to know what to look for when selecting an automatic cat feeder for your kitty.
Learn more: Best Automatic Cat Water Fountains
What Makes an Automatic Cat Feeder Great? (How We Reviewed Them)
There are quite a few features you should take stock of when deciding which automatic cat feeder to buy. Some feeders are designed to be universal, while others are more specialized. Knowing what you need and what features to watch for can help you choose the best automatic cat feeder for your family.
These are also the features we used to judge each device.
Amount of Food
It is vital that an automatic cat feeder can distribute the amount of food your cat needs. Of course, you also don’t want the automatic cat food dispenser to give your cat TOO much food.
An automatic cat feeder that can’t give your cat an appropriate amount of food isn’t going to help you much. Choose one that either delivers a proper, granular portion control right out of the box or one that has an adjustable setting.
Just because an automatic cat feeder is designed to deliver a specific amount of food doesn’t mean that it actually will. Some cheaply made feeders aren’t very accurate in their food delivery system. Some will deliver too little food one time and then too much the next.
Automatic pet feeders that have a simple lid-lift mechanism are going to be the most accurate in many cases. Those that pour food in a bowl or deliver it in some other ways might not always provide the right amount of food, however.
The best way to is to test it yourself when you get it. Weight out the food it dispenses to make sure it’s accurate. This is also one of the few cases where we can rely on other pet parents’ reviews to see if accuracy is a concern.
Efficiency and Capacity
Many cat food dispensers are designed to hold more than one meal. However, some can only store one, while others can hold nearly a week’s worth.
If you’re only concerned about traveling for one or two days at a time, you probably don’t need a one that holds a ton of food. But, if you’re regularly away from home for extended periods, one that can hold quite a few meals is probably best.
Before selecting an automatic cat feeder, make sure it can hold however much food you need it to.
Cheaply made automatic pet feeders are going to be, well, cheap. While it is possible to find a lower-end automatic pet feeder that works wonderfully, in most cases you get what you pay for.
At the same time, just because an automatic pet feeder is more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to work wonderfully.
Feeders made of low-quality materials or cheap mechanisms are more likely to break than those that are well made. It is almost always better to buy the high-quality feeder in the long run than one that is going to break in a few short months.
If in doubt, choose one of our top picks below…since we reviewed a lot and only included the best of the best in this crowded market.
If your feeder’s batteries run out in the middle of a vacation, your kitty is not going to have a good time. On the other hand, if the power goes out, your feeder that plugs into the wall is not going to work. Having multiple types of backup power solutions is valuable and will give you peace of mind.
An electric feeder with a battery backup is preferable, but these can be hard to find. Feeders that plug directly into the wall are also good since the power goes out seldom in most places. Feeders powered by batteries are okay, but you will have to remember to change the batteries regularly.
More and more of these products are being designed with high-tech features like wifi connectivity, cameras, and chip readers. The average user doesn’t need all these features, but they can be incredibly helpful in some situations.
Many of these more advanced features also carry a high price tag. So, don’t feel like you have to buy a feeder with a wifi connection just because it is available. I recommend only getting a feeder with these features if you need them, because many of them are still brand new technology, which means they don’t often work well.
Learn more: The Best Cat Foods Reviewed
Now that you know what to keep in mind while searching for an automatic pet feature take a look at some of my top picks below.
Reviews Of The Best Automatic Cat Feeders
The Best Automatic Cat Feeder Overall:
Arf Pets Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder (EDITOR’S CHOICE)
Out of all the automatic pet feeders I reviewed, the Arf Pets Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder is by far the best. This feeder was designed to keep our pet on a regular feeding schedule, whether you’re home or not.
It automatically dispenses dry cat food whether you’re home or away. You can customize it to release up to four meals times per day and change the portion size to fit your specific cat.
It can dispense food in one to ten 24ml portions per meal. That’s about 0.8 to 8.1 ounces per meal, giving you plenty of room to customize it for your cat’s needs.
This pet feeder’s ability to dispense more than one meal a day is beneficial for cats who overeat or eat too quickly. It can safely spread out your cat’s daily intake to prevent stomach upset.
All settings are easily adjustable with an LCD clock and display, so you don’t have to spend hours trying to get it to work correctly. This feature takes the guesswork out of set up.
One of my favorite features about this timed feeder is its ability to record a special voice message to play at mealtime. While many cats will figure out when mealtime is eventually, this particular message where he can hear your voice will alert them when their meal is ready. If you’re worried about your kitty not knowing when food is available, this feature can put your mind at ease.
Another one of my favorite features is this feeder’s dual power capability. It can plug into the wall with the adapter and comes with a battery backup. You’ll never have to worry about the batteries going out or the power going off.
Either way, the feeder can default to the other power source and still feed your kitties on time. This capability also prevents you from having to re-program the machine every time you have to change its batteries, which can get tedious.
With a 1-gallon capacity, you don’t have to worry about the feeder running out of food. Even if you feed your cat the maximum 8 ounces for all four meals, the feeder can still hold enough food for four days.
The cat food is kept securely underneath a magnetic sealed lid, preventing your cat from eating a whole weeks’ worth of food in one go. The unit itself is also decently heavy, even when empty. So, you don’t have to worry about your cat knocking it over and spilling food all over the room.
Just like with any product, this one does have a few downsides. This machine’s food dispenser only works with dry food. So, if your cat eats wet food, you should not purchase this product.
Unlike some other automatic feeders, this product has no way to feed multiple cats separately. It merely releases the food, and then any cat (or other animals) can eat it. If you have multiple cats or other animals that like to get into your cat’s food, this might not be your best option.
- Easy to set
- Large capacity
- Dual-power capability
- Secure lid
- Highly customizable meal portions
- No way to feed multiple cats
- Cannot handle wet food
If you only have one cat or don’t mind your cats sharing one bowl, then this feeder is the best option. It will work for nearly every situation.
Best Automatic Cat Feeder for Multiple Cats:
SureFeed Microchip Small Dog & Cat Feeder
If you want to go high-tech with your automatic cat feeder, this is the way to go. This feeder can read ID microchips and RFID tags and opens only to authorized animals. For multiple cats, this feeder can’t be beaten.
Since this product uses ID microchips or RFID tags to figure out whether or not a pet is authorized, it is nearly impossible for it to become confused. I have seen many feeders that use a camera open to the wrong pet or not open to the right one.
There is little point in designating which cat can open the feeder if they can both eat from it at the same time. The cat with the correct ID can waltz over, open it, and then the other cat can eat from it as well.
However, this feeder is made only to be used in one direction. This feature ensures that the cat that is eating out of it is the cat that is supposed to.
This feeder is compatible with both wet and dry food. The bowl seals down tightly, keeping the food fresh for longer.
This automatic cat feeder uses an ID microchip reader, and RFID collar tag reader to determine whether or not it needs to open its lid. Just in case your cat doesn’t have an ID microchip, this feeder does come with a free RFID tag.
All you have to do is put it on your cat’s collar, and you’re good to go.
But there is one reason why you might not want to purchase this feeder.
Comparatively, the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder is expensive compared to others. Of course, this is for a good reason – it has tons of additional technology that many other feeders don’t. However, if you don’t need this technology, you probably don’t need to spend the extra money.
- Near fool-proof ID system
- One-way entrance
- Compatible with wet and dry food
- Includes an RFID collar tag
- Easy to set
This feeder is perfect for cats who have special diets or are overweight. If you need to be extra cautious about which cat eats which food.
However, if you don’t need this sort of caution, then save your money and buy a different feeder.
Best Cheap Automatic Cat Feeder:
Qpets 6-Meal Programmable Pet Feeder
If you just want your cats fed and could care less about the fancy gadgets, this pet feeder might work. It has a simple design. You pour food into the six bowls, and the machine reveals the container when the timer goes off.
This feeder comes with enough capacity for six meals. If you feed your cat once a day, that’s enough for almost a week.
While some more expensive models can hold more food, it is challenging to find one at this price point that can store more than a day’s worth. With this feeder, you can go out of town and not worry about the rest.
A built-in LCD clock allows you to program your machine without worrying about it going off at the wrong time.
This machine is very sturdy, so you don’t have to worry about your hangry cat breaking it.
However, due to the price, you can expect this timed feeder to have a few problems.
The lid does not fit all the way against the bowls. A decently smart cat will be able to reach a paw in and scoop out food with minimal effort.
Overall, this machine is not easy to program. You should plan on spending more than a few minutes figuring out the mechanics and run lots of tests to make sure it is running correctly.
- Six meal capacity
- LCD clock
- Difficult to set up
If you need a cheap alternative to use on the short-term, this one can work. However, if you want to use it in the long-term, I highly recommend investing in a better model.
The Best Automatic Wet Food Cat Feeder:
Cat Mate C20 2-Bowl Automatic Pet Feeder
While the Cat Mate C20 2-Bowl Automatic Pet Feeder isn’t the best one on the market, it is the best option for cat owners who prefer wet food or for those senior cats who can’t eat kibble anymore.
This model works very simply. It has two bowls that are covered with a lid and connected to a timer. Once the timer goes off, the top opens, allowing the cat to eat the food inside.
This automatic cat feeder has two bowls, allowing you to set up to two meals at a time. This isn’t wonderful when compared to feeders that use dry food, but it is better than many wet food feeders.
Instead of being for everyday use, this feeder is more suitable for occasional outing or day trips.
Because you can’t just leave your cats’ wet food sitting out, this feeder comes equipped with an ice pack that will keep the food cold during delayed feedings.
You can set the feeder up in the morning, and the food will still be fresh in the afternoon when your cat eats it. With the ice pack in place, the food will stay cool for approximately 8 hours.
Larger portions of food will stay cool for longer.
Let’s face it; wet food can be messy. It is essential that you can quickly clean each bowl after use.
Luckily, this feeder has bowls that are easily removable and dishwasher safe, saving you lots of time.
This unit is made of fairly flimsy plastic. The batteries are not very securely placed into the bottom of the feeder, so one determined attempt by your cat to get at the food early can quickly knock the batteries out of place.
Without the batteries, the feeder isn’t going to open at all, creating one hangry kitty.
The only way to turn off the feeder is to take out the batteries. There is no off button. In most cases, this isn’t going to be a problem. But it is one feature that I found strangely absent.
There are also quite a few defects reported on this product. Some people get feeders that never open at all. Others get feeders that break within a day or two. While every product is bound to have a defective unit or two, this one seemed to have more than usual.
If you purchase this feeder, I recommend doing a dry run to make sure everything is working correctly.
- Two food bowls
- Keeps food fresh
- Easy to clean
- Can use for wet food
- Not secure
- No off button
- Potential defects
Overall, this is not one of the best timed feeders you can purchase. However, it is the best-wet food feeder. I would recommend buying this only if your cat must eat wet food (or is too picky to eat anything else). Otherwise, you’d be better off buying a different one.
The Best High-Capacity, Wifi and App Enabled Automatic Cat Feeder:
Petnet SmartFeeder Automatic Pet Feeder
If you go out of town often, you need a feeder that is designed to hold plenty of food. The Petnet SmartFeeder does just that. It holds up to seven pounds of dry kibble.
This feeder is designed to work with an app on your smartphone. You can set scheduled feedings, or you can say “Geronimo” to release kibble remotely.
This feeder can hold quite a bit of food. With a 5-7-pound capacity, it can store quite a few feedings. If you are away from home a lot, this can be a huge plus.
This feeder is designed to work with an app. You program the feeder from the app, change the portion size from an app, and can release kibble remotely using an app.
If you want something that is easy to program, this is a good option. The app will also send you notifications when it feeds your pet so you can be sure everything is working correctly. You’ll also get notified when the bowl begins running low. So, you don’t have to check it.
Many parts of this feeder are dishwasher safe, so you don’t have to worry about hand washing everything.
However, there are also plenty of reasons to NOT like this feeder.
This feeder can only be programmed using an app. If you don’t have a smartphone or suddenly find yourself without a smartphone, you’re out of luck. Additionally, if the unit is not wirelessly connected to a WiFi network, you will not be able to operate the feeder via the app.
There are tons of reports that this feeder isn’t reliable. Many users report missed feedings. The notification that your pet has been fed is automatic and doesn’t mean that any food has fallen into the bowl. These reports seem to be the norm, not the exception.
This unit is very loud when it releases food. If your cat is skittish, this can be a huge problem.
This machine cannot be troubleshot from the app or remotely, even if you call customer service.
If something breaks while you’re away, there isn’t anything you can do.
- Large capacity
- Works with an app
- Easy to wash
- Metal bowl liner
- ONLY works with the app
- Not always reliable
- Troubleshooting difficult to find
While this isn’t necessarily the best feeder out there, it is one of the best high-capacity models. If you need a pet feeder that can hold quite a bit of food at one time, and you love the app feedback you get, this one can be a good option.
Best for Small Feedings And Lots Of Control:
PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Programmable Pet Feeder
If your pet needs to eat multiple meals a day for medical reasons or tends to scarf down their food, this is a wonderful option.
The PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed can be programmed to release up to 12 meals per day. Each meal can be set to slowly release over a 15-minute period, preventing your cat from eating too quickly. Dispensing food too quickly can cause stomach upset and vomiting.
You can change to portion sizing from 1/8 of a cup to 4 cups of food, which should work for nearly every cat.
A digital LCD screen makes programming straightforward, and a translucent lid and hopper make it easy to check food levels at a glance.
With a storage capacity of 24 cups, this feeder can hold enough kibble for quite a few feedings. It is suitable for short trips and longer vacations.
This feeder comes with a pause mode that stops future feedings for a set period of time without losing your programmed settings. This works well for those that prefer to manually feed their cat when they’re home or who are only looking to use an automatic feeder part time.
An Immediate Feed Mode allows you to manually release the next meal at any time. Want to feed your cat early before you leave the house? Just press the button.
For easy cleaning, the tray is actually a removable stainless steel bowl, making it one of the more hygienic options. All you have to do is wipe it down, and of course it can be washed in the dishwasher.
One of my favorite things about this product is its ability to use both batteries and a power cord. While the power cord is sold separately, it is well worth the purchase.
With both the battery and power cord in place, you don’t have to worry about the batteries dying or the power going out. The machine will always have an alternative power source.
Here is a video of how this feeder works:
But, like with all products, there are a couple things you should keep in mind.
Many customer reviews said that this machine hard to program. I suggest setting aside plenty of time to get use to the controls.
Some people also report their cats figuring out how to get the lid off.
- Easy cleaning
- Large storage capacity
- Lots of features
- Variety of portion sizes
- Up to twelve meals a day
- Stainless steel bowl
- Complex programming
- Not secure
Overall, the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed automatic feeder is a great product and one of the best cat food dispensers. However, most pet owners will not need all the features and could settle for something a little less complex.
What Kind of Cats are Smart Feeders Good For?
Smart feeders are suitable for any feline and owner. However, some cats might particularly benefit from an automatic feeder.
Being overweight can have substantial negative health consequences for a cat. Nearly 50% of cats are obese; that is a considerable amount. Improper portion control is an enormous contribution to obesity in cats.
Carefully controlling your cat’s food intake with a timed feeder can prevent them from becoming overweight and help them lose weight, allowing them to reach their ideal mass.
Learn more: How Much Food Should My Cat Eat?
Some cats eat insanely fast. While this is not always necessarily a problem, fast eating can cause many cats to experience intestinal discomfort and even vomit.
Slow feeding, or spreading their meals out throughout the day with an automatic feeder can prevent eating too quickly.
Pet Parents Who Travel Often
If you travel a lot, it can become very tedious to find someone to feed your beloved feline all the time. You want to keep your feline’s feeding times consistent, but this can be difficult if you travel. An automatic cat feeder can make things faster and easier.
Instead of tracking someone down to feed your cat, you will only have to press a few buttons, giving you peace of mind while you travel.
Tips for Use
No matter what automatic cat feeder you buy, we have a few quick tips to help you get the most out of your purchase:
- Check to make sure that feeder is still working regularly.
- At least once a week, check to make sure that the feeder is appropriately distributing food. For most people, the weekends work best for this sort of testing. Just set the feeder up to distribute food like you usually do, and make sure that it does what it supposed to do.
- Introduce the feeder to your cat slowly.
- The last thing you want is for your cat to be scared of the automatic feeder. Put food in it by hand first. Then, if your cat is comfortable, turn it on. Some feeders are noisy when it comes to distributing food, which can scare your cat if they’re skittish. Allowing your cat to warm up slowly can prevent this from happening.
- Read all maintenance instructions carefully and follow them.
- Many machines will last a lot longer and work better when they are adequately maintained. This maintenance will help you get the most out of your money.
- Most feeders are not made to be used outside.
- Many are not designed to handle rain or intense temperatures. Of course, theoretically, many of these feeders will be okay as long as they are in a covered location that is out of the elements. However, be aware that unless the machine is made to only open when approached by a particular animal, it is entirely possible for neighborhood cats, wanderings dogs, and raccoons to get into your cats’ food.
- Always have a backup plan.
- Even if you have an automatic feeder, you should still have a backup plan for your cats’ care in case something goes wrong. I recommend having someone check on your cats once or twice if you’re going to be gone for more than a couple of days. While the automatic feeder should keep your cats fed, the last thing you want is for something to break and your kitties not get fed.
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