short hair spotted dog watching food off camera

What to look for in an automatic pet food feeder

In today’s hectic life, with people having more commitments than ever, giving the routine tasks to automation can free up valuable time. Buying an automatic pet food feeder can alleviate the daily routine of feeding your pets. No longer will you have to ask “did you feed the dog”, “will Fluffy be fed this afternoon if I am late from work?”

Listed below are key features to look for when you are shopping for an automated pet food self feeder. These will helped you make an informed decision when you compare the ever-expanding variety of these feeders.

One caution before you continue, is that these feeders can only feed dry bulk food; if you are looking to feed moist food (like you would find in cans, plastic containers, or pouches), these feeders would not provide a solution to that problem.

  • Capacity. Take a look at how much your dog or cat eats, and how many portions will be fed per day. Remember, that if you have multiple dogs or cats, you will need to adjust your calculation accordingly. You will want to ensure that the hopper or bin of the product is large enough to allow you to avoid refilling it frequently. For example, if you have a small dog who eats two cups of food per day, a machine with 24-cup capacity will give you 12 days between refills. If you have two dogs, each eating two cups of food per day, that brings you down to 6 days between fills.
  • Programming. All automated feeders will dispense food on a schedule that is either preset or user defined. Most feeders give the option to preset a schedule specific to their pets needs, and some allow up to 6 specific feeding times. Check the user manuals online to see how easy programming the machine is. Controls vary widely and can range from basic LCD displays with few buttons, to full-color displays with clearly labeled buttons. Some models are WiFi enabled allowing the user to program times using a smartphone or web interface.
  • Dispensing Quantity. Most machines have a standard size ‘portion’, for example 1/8 of a cup. You can dispense as many 1/8 cup portions as you need at each feeding time. Note, that if your pet requires less than the minimum portions size, you may end up accidentally overfeeding your pet.
  • Ease of Cleaning. Look for dishwasher safe parts, and easy disassembly. Especially in the summer or during warm months, you will want to ensure you follow the recommended cleaning schedule to prevent pests, and to keep the machine running smoothly.
  • Power Source. Does the unit you are considering come with a wall outlet, or does it require batteries? Most are designed to utilize battery power, but do not come with batteries in the box. Consider adding some to your purchase, or look into a wall outlet to avoid replacing them. The common battery life is six to eight months before they require replacement. Is there a wall outlet located close to where you will be installing the pet feeder?
  • Durability. The purpose of a timed release pet food feeder, is to ensure your pet only has access to the food at regular intervals. Food-motivated pets, larger dogs, strong cats, or smart pets of any kinds, may be able to defeat the food containment bin. When looking for a solution, think of the skill and strength level of your pet, and the construction of the feeder, to determine if you pet can obtain early access to the food.
  • Hopper size. With new sizes and formats of food pieces from all food manufacturers, can the unit you are considering dispense large pieces, food with mixed sizes, light freeze dried pieces, or all of the above
  • Connectivity. Newer options on the market can allow you to program your automated feeder from your smartphone or a web interface. Some allow you to record a voice message to your pet to alert them to feeding time. Several models have live voice and video allowing you to communicate with your pet in real time. Think of how the device will be used, and the amount of technology you are looking for.

All-in-all, there are several brands and models available to choose from, with new feeders coming to market all the time. Consider the points above to make the best decision for you and your pet.

Vacations, long weekends, late work hours, or even the stress of day-to-day life can cause pets to miss their feeding times. This can add stress to their lives, and may cause health issues, especially if your pet is on a veterinarian prescribed feeding schedule.

One of the units that meets several criteria is the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed 12-Meal Automatic Feeder. It has a large capacity with translucent walls to monitor usage, can dispense both large and small food pieces, has a default Dog and Cat setting (but allows you to program custom times), and features dishwasher safe components.



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5 thoughts on “What to look for in an automatic pet food feeder

  1. Pingback: Top Automated Pet Feeders | Dexter's Dog Days

  2. Pingback: Are regular feeding times important for dogs? | Dexter's Dog Days

  3. Jean Dion

    I had an automatic feeder years ago, when my very cranky kitty decided that he’d like to eat his dry food breakfast at 4am. Using the auto-feeder for that one meal allowed me some much needed shut-eye! Since all of my kids eat different foods these days (and few eat dry), this isn’t something I’d use now. But it really saved my bacon years ago.

    Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

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    1. dexterkelly Post author

      Hi Jean, thank you for the comment. In researching the post I read of a few situations where some people were greeted some extra sleep because of it. This again for the feedback!

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      Reply

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