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Cats prefer their mealtimes to be prompt. That can mean early morning nudges waking you up so you can serve breakfast. It can also mean cats feeling frustration or stress at meals that run behind schedule. An automatic feeder, which can be programmed to serve food at set times, can resolve these issues. Automatic feeders also come in handy if you’ll be away for a day or so, and need to provide food for your cat.
We researched the best automatic feeders on the market to find you the best pick for you and your pets.
Best Overall: WOPET Automatic Pet Feeder Food Dispenser for Cats and Dogs
You can program this automatic feeder—which holds more than three pounds of dry food—to provide your cat with four scheduled meals per day. This feeder also gives you the flexibility to program meals that include different amounts of food (in case you want your cat to have a hearty breakfast and light dinner, for instance). You can even record a message for your cat using the voice recorder, so you can call them to the bowl when it's feeding time.
The feeder has a futuristic look—it’s white, made from environmentally friendly materials, and wouldn’t feel out of place in a Pixar movie. Assembly and programming are relatively easy, and the food container is cat-proof, so clever pets can’t break in and overeat.
Best Budget: PetSafe Eatwell 5-Meal Automatic Pet Feeder
Sometimes simple is best. If a gravity feeder isn’t appropriate for your cat, this battery-operated automatic feeder is a great option. It's sturdy and tamper-proof, although it does have a large footprint in whatever room your feed your cat.
The feeder holds five servings of food (each tray holds up to one cup of dry food), with one bowl always exposed. You can program the feeder to rotate so that a new bowl of food is available at your cat’s mealtime. The rotation sound is distinctive—for cats, it’s the equivalent of a dinner bell, so your cat will learn to come when they hear it.
Best for Multiple Cats: SureFlap Microchip Pet Feeder
Have multiple pets on different diets? Or want one of your cats to be unable to have a second meal courtesy of another cat’s dinner? This SureFeed Microchip feeder can help—you can program it to open only when a cat’s specific RFID collar tag or microchip is in front of it. Note: The feeder comes with one RFID collar tag, but can be programmed for up to 32 pets, according to the manufacturer. You can either order a different bowl for each cat, or—for cats who eat the same food—use it to keep other animals, like your dog, out of the cat food.
This pick has a bit of a learning curve for cats, who will have to get used to it—some pets may take some time to warm up to it. Once the training is behind the cat, this feeder works well to help cats with different diets and feeding habits coexist.
Best Gravity: PetSafe Healthy Pet Gravity Feeder
Some cats will gorge themselves on any food that’s available. But if your cat eats only when hungry, a gravity feeder can be a simple, budget-friendly way to provide your pet with food continuously.
Here’s how it works: The food is suspended above so that food only enters the bowl as it empties. Your cat will eat out of a stainless steel bowl, which can be removed to wash. The PetSafe Healthy Pet Gravity Feeder has a small footprint, so that you can squeeze it into a discrete corner without blocking walkways. Reviewers praise the design and note that the feeder is great for long weekends, storing enough food (four pounds) to feed cats for several days.
Best Compact: Bergan Gourmet Combo Pack
Automatic feeders can be space hogs. Makes sense: They have to store a whole bunch of food. Still, if your home is cozy, it won’t easily accommodate a massive automatic feeder. This petite option from Bergan Gourmet is ideal for small spaces. It’s 12.5 x 9 inches, and under a foot in height, but holds six pounds of food. It also comes with a water feeder.
This automatic feeder will keep refilling the bowl as it emptied, so it's appropriate only for cats who will eat only until they’re no longer hungry. Cats that will voraciously and endlessly eat will need a different feeding set-up or you risk weight gain.
Best for Wet Food: Cat Mate C500 Digital 5 Meal Dog & Cat Feeder
Not all cats are satisfied with dry kibble. If yours craves wet food—or needs it for medical reasons—you’ll need a feeder that can accommodate this diet. With the Cat Mate C500, you can schedule five meals and keep food appropriately chilled with small ice packs (which are provided along with the feeder).
Like some other automatic feeders, this one spins to reveal individual bowls of food. The manufacturer notes that the lid to the feeder is tamper-proof, so pets won’t be able to access the food when they shouldn’t.
Best Battery Operated: PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Feeder
Some pet owners may worry about a power outage, WiFi going down, or even their pets unplugging the automatic feeder. A battery-operated automatic feeder is a good solution for those scenarios. This one requires four D-cell batteries. It can be programmed to schedule 12 meals, ranging from 1/8 to 1/4 cup in size.
Pet parents with cats that get into everything will appreciate that the jam-free dispenser is set up to keep food securely locked away. Both the food dispenser and stainless steel serving bowl can be washed in the dishwasher.
Best Voice Recording: Arf Pets Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder
Cats can be finicky creatures. For some, having their owners away can cause stress. That’s where this Arf Pets feeder comes in handy—not only does it dispense food but you can record your voice, so that your cats can hear your voice at mealtime!
With this automatic feeder, you can schedule up to four meals in a day. It stores 1.4 gallons of dry food. You can opt to plug it into a wall outlet or use batteries, depending on where you feed your pet. Both the food tray and food compartment can be removed and cleaned.
Cats love the voice feature, which is easy to program once you've read the instructions. If your pet in inquisitive, keep in mind that knocking this feeder can sometimes result in spills, so it's not for cats who may bat at or knock into it.
This roundup was written by Madeleine Burry, whose cat regularly eats from the PetSafe Eatwell 5-Meal Automatic Pet Feeder. Burry’s written about pets for PetCareRx, Via (AAA’s online magazine), and other online outlets.
When it comes to selecting a cat feeder, you want one that fits your space and meets your cat’s (or cats’) needs. If you have limited room, select a smaller feeder but size up if you have multiple cats.
Automatic cat feeders range from basic models that simply feed your cat to those with some seriously fancy features. For example, some will let you schedule multiple feedings ahead of time, while others will play your pet a personal message from you.
Ease of use
Some cat feeders are easier to use than others. High-tech options allow you to feed your cat via an app on your phone, while others don’t require much more than you loading food into it. Don’t forget to also consider how easy a feeder may (or may not) be to clean. Your comfort level with technology as well as your lifestyle should drive your choices when selecting a feeder.