For cat owners who are constantly on the go, cat food dispensers can certainly make life easier. With a dependable dispenser working at your home, you can feed the cats at the right time and not worry. These products are readily available and can be ordered online but making a choice can be frustrating. There are a dizzying array of styles, features and options available. They range from funky to cool to high tech. How do you decide?
A number of our readers have asked us about automatic feeders, so we went to Angela Bronson (one of our go-to-experts) to share some of the most common mistakes cat owners make when purchasing an automatic feeder. Here’s the advice she gave us:
Cat owners (and pet owners in general) may, at some point, end up in a situation where they need to automate their pet’s feeding schedule. Whether you’re leaving for an extended period of time for a vacation, work trip, emergency, and so on, it’s important to consider your options carefully before deciding on an automatic feeder for your cat.
The following are a few important factors to take note of. Taking care not to make these mistakes will ensure that you are able to purchase an automatic feeder for your cat that you can utilize with minimal problem and worry.
1. High price feeder equals quality?
The first mistake many cat owners make is something that we have all likely been guilty of at some point: purchasing an item based on its high price, as if it is an indicator of quality. This is not always the case; while some automatic cat feeders are worth the price, many are not. It is important to look in to as many factors as possible, including user reviews, what the warranty entails, the quality of materials used in manufacturing the unit, and so on.
Image: Left: GemPet-SmartFeeder / Right: Hoison-SmartFeeder
2. Not considering the size of your cat’s food
Another typical mistake many cat owners make when purchasing an automatic cat feeder is not thinking about the size of their cat’s food. These units usually employ a screw/wheel system that rotates and pushes food out onto a feeding tray; this food has to be “bigger” (about 1/2 inch in diameter) or the portion size laid out in the user manual won’t be accurate. It is important to know what type of food your cat eats as these feeders only work with dry food, how big the kibble is, and how much you’d like your cat to eat each session.
Image: Left: Wireless-Whiskers-AutoDiet / Right: PetSafe-Healthy-Pet-Simply-Feed
3. Last minute purchasing of a feeder
The next mistake that is common amongst cat owners wishing to purchase an automatic feeder is buying the unit last minute before going away. It’s crucial that you don’t forget that there is a learning curve required with the purchase of any new technological gadget, as there are a number of problems that can arise. The batteries, for example, may fail while you’re away and the unit may stop working which can be fatal as it can cause your cat to miss their feeding session. Another situation that may come about is that your pet unplugged the AC adaptor that plugs into the wall socket; this may also cause your unit to stop working.
Image: Left: Crown-Majestic-Diamond-Series-V3 / Right: Lusmo-Automatic
If you don’t leave sometime between purchasing your unit and leaving on your trip, you may not notice that you programmed the unit wrong and that it either jumped cycles or did not work at all. You may also not notice how your cat was able to break into the unit and eat all the food at once.
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4. Forgetting that cats are versatile animals
Cats, though generally calm and nonchalant, can also be cunning and determined; their abilities, as cat owners may notice, are unique and versatile. With these traits come various risks associated with leaving them with an automatic cat feeder, mainly that your cat may be able to break in. Each cat has a different personality, and breeds such as Bengal or Siamese cats are known to be more aggressive when searching for food.
Image: Left: CSF-3-Super-Feeder / Right: Petnet-SmartFeeder
It is important to pay attention to your cat’s abilities. If they’re known to open doors, jump on tables, or knock things over, chances are you will need to give your feeder extra protection, or consider purchasing a unit made of heavier and stronger materials. Furthermore, if your cat mainly spends time and feeds outdoors, your unit may need extra protection from other outdoor animals.
5. Not checking the unit’s warranty
It is smart to thoroughly read through and understand the warranty that comes with the product, as it can be different depending on the brand. As a rule of thumb, you want your automatic cat feeder to have a warranty that lasts for at least one year; this will give you enough time to test the product, get acquainted with how it functions, and then decide whether it’s the right product for you and your cat’s specific needs.
Image: Left: PET FEEDSTER PF-10 / Right: PETLY Automatic
It’s extremely important not to take purchasing an automatic feeder lightly as there are many things to consider and research, as well as many things that could go wrong. It’s easy to lose track of all the brands that produce these units and to overlook seemingly miniscule, yet important factors, so making a comparison chart is wise as it lets you organize and thus more carefully choose the right match.
Finally, you and your cat will benefit from having someone check on them regularly while you’re away. Having peace of mind, knowing your cat is well, will definitely make your time away more enjoyable.
Check out Angela’s comprehensive reviews and ratings for automatic cat food dispensers.