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Are you looking for the best automatic pet feeder to keep your dog or cat fed and watered while you’re out?
You’ve come to the right place.
In this buying guide, we review the best automatic pet feeders for dogs and cats. We also include a couple of automatic water dispensers to go along with your choice of feeder. We look at the best features of each and warn you of any issues you should watch out for.
Side note: If you’re struggling to keep your home free of pet hair and dander, take a look at our popular list of the best robotic vacuums for pet hair. Or, if you need a self-cleaning litter box for your cat, then check out our litter robot buying guide here.
What’s In This Guide[toc]
Best Automatic Pet Feeders 2023
- Best Automatic Cat Feeder: Pet Feedster PF-10
- Best Automatic Dog Feeder: PetSafe Healthy Pet
- Best Automatic Pet Feeder for Overnight Trips: PetSafe Smart Feed
- Best Combination Feeder + Water Dispenser: Meleg Otthon Pet Water Feeder & Dispenser
- Best Budget Automatic Pet Feeder: PetSafe 5 Meal Pet Feeder
- Best Automatic Cat Feeder for Early Morning Feeds: PetSafe Digital 2 Meal Pet Feeder
- Best for Homes With Multiple Pets: Sure Petcare SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder
- Best Automatic Pet Feeder with Camera: LeeKooLuu Q01 HD Camera WiFi Smart Feeder
- Best Water Fountain for Cats: Kastty Automatic Water Dispenser Fountain
- Best Water Dispenser for Dogs: Petmate Replendish Gravity Waterer
Pet Feedster PF-10
Best for cats
Max meals a day:
1 tbsp to 6 cups
⅛” to ¾”
Battery & AC
PetSafe Healthy Pet
Best for dogs
Max meals a day:
⅛ cup to 4 cups
up to ¾”
Battery & AC
PetSafe Smart Feed
Best for overnight trips
Max meals a day:
⅛ cup to 4 cups
up to ¾”
Battery & AC
Best feeder & water dispenser combo
Max meals a day:
Continuous gravity feeding
PetSafe 5 Meal Feeder
Max meals a day:
1 cup or less
PetSafe 2 Meal Feeder
Best cat feeder for morning feeds
Max meals a day:
1.5 cups or less
Best for multiple pets
Max meals a day:
1.6 cups or less
Best with camera
Max meals a day:
10g to 100g
Battery & AC
Kastty Water Fountain
Best cat water fountain
Max meals a day:
Best water dispenser for dogs
Max meals a day:
1. Best Automatic Cat Feeder: Pet Feedster PF-10 PLUS CAT
The Pet Feedster (latest model) is our favorite automatic pet feeder for cats.
It’s easy to use, offer a wide range of portion control and scheduling options, and is tough enough to withstand those unavoidable shenanigans from your cat.
1. Adjustable flex feeder
The most important component of Pet Feedster is the flex feeder. It’s the part that measures precise amounts of food to be poured into the feeding bowl.
What I love most about this feeder is that you can set a wide range of portions from as much as 6 cups to as little as one spoon.
This is different than most automatic feeders that only allow specific measurements like 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup.
The wide range of portions makes it possible to meet the precise feeding needs of your cat.
If you are working to slim him down, for instance, you can give smaller portions. It also lets you put in different food sizes of various shapes and sizes. All you need to do is adjust the setting on the flex feeder.
The flex feeder also works as an auger. It rotates inside the feeder & stirs up the kibble, which prevents clumping and ensures the feeder doesn’t jam.
2. Flexible meal scheduling
The hopper – the part that holds the food – holds up to 10 lbs of pet food.
You can then program the timer to dispense up to 8 meals a day.
The scheduler gives you plenty of options and the timer is digital so you can set precise times such as 6:15 am or 1:43 pm.
You can also set how much food will be dispensed for each meal. For instance, set a larger portion in the morning and decrease the portions as the day progresses.
There is a pause button that lets you stop the schedule whenever you want. No more food will be dispensed until you restart the schedule.
It takes time to get used to the settings and options in the beginning. But when you do, it’s easy.
3. Meal confirmation
One of the most intuitive features of the Pet Feedster is the meal confirmation display.
On the small screen, a line of 8 circles represents the maximum number of meals the feeder can dispense in a day. With each meal, one of the circles becomes dark.
So when you get home after work, you can simply look at the screen to know how many meals have been dispensed.
Ants are a major problem in many areas. To prevent ants from getting into the pet food in the hopper, the Feedstar uses a moat.
Underneath the main body, there is a hidden space that holds water. Ants that attempt to climb up into the food are trapped by the water.
This means you can use the pet feeder outside without worrying about an ant infestation.
The main complaint we have with this unit is that it takes time to get used to the settings and scheduling buttons. The interface is a bit complicated. You have to use some trial and error to get the exact meal setting you want.
We suggest spending some time with the manual and check online for videos if you need help operating the pet feeder.
The first version of the flex feeder used to be too weak and broke quickly – you’ll see some bad reviews about this from years ago. Today’s updated version of the Feedster has a stronger, more durable body and flex feeder.
One addition that would be nice is the ability to wash the hopper. Currently, it not removable and you cannot pour water into it. The only way to wash it is by wiping it with a moist cloth.
The Pet Feedster for cats is a bit more expensive than other automatic pet feeders, but it’s one of the most flexible and easiest to live with, in the real world.
Once you get the hang of setting the timer, it is a breeze to use. It works like a charm and will last for years without any issues.
2. Best Automatic Dog Feeder: PetSafe Healthy Pet (non-WiFi)
The PetSafe automatic feeder is fairly easy to configure, holds plenty of food (up to 24 cups) and can dispense both dry and semi-moist foods.
This PetSafe model also comes with unique features such as slow feed (for voracious dogs) and pauses.
1. Easy meal planning
The programming is straightforward, and you get a lot of flexibility to set specific meal times and portions.
The hopper holds 24 cups of food while the bowl can hold up to 5 cups at a time.
You can set the pet feeder to dispense up to 12 meals a day. Set a specific time for each meal and how much food will be dispensed for each meal time. Portion sizes range from 1/4 cup to 4 cups.
The buttons are easy to operate, and there’s a small display to show you what’s happening.
2. Jam-proof conveyor belt
The PetSafe automatic feeder uses a conveyor belt mechanism to deliver kibble portions to the stainless steel bowl. It can dispense dry and semi-moist foods of different shapes and sizes.
The mechanism is designed to prevent jamming which can prevent food from getting dispensed.
3. Multiple feeding modes
Using the buttons on the control panel, there are several feeding modes you can set.
My favorite is the slow feed mode. If your pup is the type to greedily eat up all the food in less than a minute and then get a stomach upset shortly after, you’ll appreciate this feature.
When you activate slow feed (by pressing the button with the turtle image), the conveyor dispenses the food a little at a time. A single portion will be dispensed over 15 minutes to force the dog to eat more slowly to prevent bloating and vomiting.
Another mode – the Immediate Feed mode –allows you to dispense a set portion of food instantly outside of the schedule. This is handy if you want to reward your pup with a snack or give them an extra meal.
Another mode – Pause – lets you pause the scheduling with just the press of a button.
4. Easy cleaning
This pet feeder comes with a stainless steel feeding bowl. It’s more hygienic, it’s easier to clean, and you can even put it in the dishwasher.
The rest of the feeder is also easy to disassemble and clean.
5. Uses batteries or AC adaptor
The PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Feeder uses four D batteries (not included) which last roughly one year. You can also connect it to an outlet though you’ll need to buy an AC Adaptor separately.
The pet feeder has so many functions, yet the control buttons have five buttons only. So it takes some time to figure your way around the various settings. You’ll have to keep the user manual close the first few times you configure the feeder.
But once you get used to it, it’s really easy to use.
There is also the issue of portions. The least amount of food it can dispense is 1/8 of a cup. For elderly cats or kittens which need smaller portions, there’s nothing you can do.
If you are looking for the most reliable and easiest-to-use automatic dog feeder, you can’t go wrong with the PetSafe automatic pet feeder. It’s easy to use, serves food without jamming and is a breeze to clean.
3. Best Pet Feeder for Overnight Trips: PetSafe Smart Feed
If you are planning to be away overnight, you need an automatic pet feeder that can hold enough food to last 24 hours or more and lets you monitor your pet’s food situation on your smartphone.
The PetSafe WiFi automatic dog and cat feeder is our top choice for pet owners who like to take overnight trips.
It’s the same unit as the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Feeder above, but with WiFi connectivity and a companion app included for remote monitoring.
1. Customizable programming
The hopper holds up to 24 cups of food. You can set specific meal times (12 meals maximum) and the portions to be dispensed at each time.
Portion size ranges between 1/8 of a cup to 4 cups.
It takes some time to learn how to work the buttons and set a schedule, but the manual has simple detailed instructions you can follow. Not that big a deal.
2. Multiple feeding modes
This smarter version of the original PetSafe automatic feeder offers the same feeding modes as the non-smart option.
There’s a Slow Feed mode that releases food slowly over 15 minutes; a Feed Now mode for immediate feeding outside of the set schedule and a Pause mode to temporarily interrupt the feeding schedule.
You can disable the Feed Now button to prevent your dog or child from pressing it, too.
3. Remote control and monitoring (smartphone app)
If you want to control the pet feeder remotely, you’ll need to connect it to your home WiFi network.
Then use the companion app which is available for Android and iOS devices.
The app lets you to set a feeding schedule, change your settings and monitor how much your pet is feeding. You can also access the feed now button and receive alerts on your phone.
4. Easy cleaning
The stainless steel bowl is great for hygiene and is easy to clean.
The bowl, hopper and bowl holder are all dishwasher safe, too. The conveyor belt can be removed but must be hand washed.
There are little arrows and markings to show you how to disassemble the unit and put it back together after cleaning, so if you need someone else to help while you are away on a long trip, it’s not that hard to figure out.
As with the non-smart PetSafe feeder, the portion size choices could be more versatile to allow for smaller feedings for certain pets.
It also takes time to learn your way around the myriad of functions and settings. This unit takes some time to setup, too, because you have to connect it to your router and download the app.
But it’s not that hard – and once you get used to it, using it is easy.
If you want to be able to feed your pet and set a schedule from the office or while traveling, then get this smart PetSafe automatic feeder.
Despite being ‘smart,’ it is surprisingly easy to use – from anywhere.
4. Best Combination Feeder + Water Dispenser: Meleg Otthon
Unlike most of the other choices reviewed here, the Meleg Otthon automatic feeder and watering station is a gravity pet feeder.
It does not use electricity, instead it lets food & water fall into the bowl slowly, using gravity.
The Meleg Otthon is a great choice if you don’t want to worry about loss of power, and it’s perfect for outdoor use since you don’t have to plug it in.
Meleg Otthon also costs considerably less than a powered feeder.
And it works great!
1. Large capacity
The pet feeder containers are really big. They are two separate feeders; one for the food and one for water.
Each has a capacity of 3.8 liters (1 gallon). They’ll hold enough food and water to feed your pet for 3-5 days.
2. Secure and sturdy
The feeders are very well built. The plastic is food-grade and BPA-free. You can rest assured it’s safe for your pets.
The base is sturdy to hold the weight of the food and prevent pets from knocking it over. The base has a non-skid pad that ensures the feeders cannot be pushed even by a large dog.
The water dispenser has a spiral barrel mouth and a spring valve to ensure water doesn’t leak. Only a little is dispensed at a time. The food feeder also dispenses just a little food at a time. It won’t fill the bowl to overflowing.
3. Easy to clean
Most of the components can be disassembled and cleaned. This includes the base and the barrels that hold the food and water.
The seller recommends cleaning them once a week.
4. Easy to use
One upside of having a very simple design is that the pet feeders are incredibly easy to operate.
For the food feeder, open the lid at the top and add food. That’s it.
You don’t have to set a timer or worry about portion sizes. As for the water feeder, it works a lot like a kitchen water dispenser. Take the large container out of the base and add water from the tap. Screw the lid on and put it back over the base.
The main problem with gravity feeders like these is that you cannot control or meter-out portions over time.This is a big disadvantage for pets that lack the discipline to control their food intake.
Another issue is that there’s no lid for the food bowls, since pets must be able to access the food at all times. With food always feeding into the bowl, the pets can cause quite a mess and drain away all of their reserves if they play around too much. Ants and other critters can also get into the food or water especially if you leave the feeders outdoors.
If you are looking for an inexpensive and really simply automatic food and water feeder and you don’t need to control portion sizes or frequency that much, then this is a great choice.
5. Best Budget Automatic Pet Feeder: PetSafe 5 Meal Pet Feeder
If you are shopping on a budget, we recommend the PetSafe 5-meal pet feeder. It’s a basic automatic feeder consisting of a tray with five compartments. You set a timer for when your pet can access each compartment.
It’s simple but it works great, and costs a lot less than other automatic pet feeders.
1. Automatically Rotating Tray
The PetSafe 5-meal pet feeder doesn’t rely on a conveyor system or a gravity feeding system. Instead, it uses a rotating tray.
This simplifies the design of the feeder and makes it much smaller than other types of feeders. There’s also no risk of the kibble jamming the system. Similar to a conveyor system, you can portion out your pet’s food to prevent overfeeding.
2. 5 Servings With Digital Timer
The tray is split into five compartments, allowing up to five portions of feeding a day. Each compartment holds one cup of kibble.
At any one time, only one compartment is accessible to your pet. You set a digital timer to determine after how long the next compartment rotates into place.
3. Additional Options
In addition to the timer, the control panel has two other options. One is a feed now button that gives the pet access to one portion of the food immediately. The other is a suspend button that stops the automatic feeding schedule.
4. Battery Powered
The PetSafe 5-meal pet feeder is powered by four D batteries (not included). Normally, we prefer pet feeders that are both AC and battery powered.
But the batteries on the PetSafe feeder last so long (at least two years), that you don’t need the plug-in option.
5. Dishwasher Safe
It’s easy to keep the feeder clean. Just remove the tray and put it in your dishwasher’s top rack.
The main downside of a tray system like the one in the PetSafe 5-meal pet feeder is the limited capacity. Unlike gravity and conveyor feeders that have large hoppers that can hold several days worth of kibble, the PetSafe feeder holds enough portions for just a day or two.
The PetSafe 5-meal pet feeder is perfect if you come home everyday. You can refill it in the evening. But if you often take overnight trips or go away for several days, we don’t recommend it.
We also don’t recommend the PetSafe 5-meal pet feeder for big dogs. It’s small and lightweight design makes it vulnerable to tampering. A large dog can break it or force it to rotate to access other food compartments. It works best for cats and small dogs.
The PetSafe 5-meal pet feeder is an excellent choice for pet owners looking for an affordable automatic pet feeder.
It’s super easy to use and, most importantly, it’s reliable. Many pet owners have had theirs for years and it still works perfectly.
6. Best Automatic Cat Feeder for Early Morning Feeds: PetSafe Digital 2 Meal Pet Feeder
Almost all cat owners have a similar story: “My cat wakes me up every morning meowing for food”.
If all you need is an automatic pet feeder that feeds your cat (or cats) every morning and lets you sleep peacefully, get the PetSafe 2-meal pet feeder.
It’s a cheap pet feeder with just two compartments and a digital timer. Although it can work for dogs, it’s more suitable for cats.
1. Two-meal Feeder and Digital Timer
Cats easily get used to being fed at a particular time. So if you feed your cat at 6am every morning, they’ll awaken you everyday at that time with endless cries.
The PetSafe 2-meal feeder saves you the trouble of waking up early to feed the cat. It has just two compartments. So you can set up to two meals a day for your cat, which is enough for most adult cats.
Each compartment is locked with a lid that opens automatically at the set time.
The digital timer lets you set the number of hours until each lid opens. You can set a separate timer for each lid or set them to open at the same time if you have two cats.
The timer and opening mechanism are battery powered. The batteries usually last over a year.
2. Reliable and Cat-proof
What we love most about simple pet feeders like this one, other than their low price, is their reliability. Without so many fancy features, the feeder is less likely to fail.
Most pet owners have had their PetSafe 2-meal feeder for years without any issues. Most also say their cats have given up trying to break into the closed compartments.
The way the compartments are designed, there’s no space for cats to get their paw in to try and lift the lid.
3. Suitable for One or Multiple Cats
The PetSafe 2-meal feeder works great for a single cat. You can portion out two meals at a time such as breakfast and dinner. Each compartment holds up to 1½ cups of kibble. Simply set one compartment to open several hours after the first compartment.
It’s also great for two cats. Each cat gets its own compartment. Just make sure you set both lids to open at the same time.
If you have multiple cats that don’t have a problem sharing food, you can also use the PetSafe 2-meal feeder. Each compartment holds enough kibble for 4-5 cats.
4. Dishwasher Safe
You can remove the feeding trays and clean them in the dishwasher.
The most common issue cat owners complain about is the timer. Unlike other automatic pet feeders, you cannot set a specific time like 6.00am. Instead, you set the number of hours after which the compartment will open.
The worst bit is that you have to reset the timer every evening. And because you can only set the timer in hourly increments (no minutes settings), you cannot always set a precise time.
If for instance it is 10.17pm and your cat eats at 6am, you have to decide whether to set the timer for 5.17am or 6.17am. Alternatively, wait until it’s precisely 11.00pm so that you can set a timer for 6 o’clock.
Cat owners recommend setting a timer on your phone to remind you to set the feeder timer at the precise time each day.
The timer thing is a bit frustrating, but once you get used to it, it’s no biggie. And many cat owners say it’s worth the low price and simplicity of the PetSafe 2-meal feeder.
Once your cat learns to listen for the click of the lid opening, signaling breakfast is ready, it’ll no longer bother you in the morning.
7. Best for Homes With Multiple Pets: Sure Petcare SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder
If you have multiple pets that fight at mealtimes, we recommend the SureFeed microchip pet feeder. It only opens for a particular pet, ensuring other pets don’t steal the food.
The feeder recognizes the microchip already in your pet. You can also use the RFID collar included with the feeder.
1. Great for Multi-pet Homes
If among your cats or small dogs you have one that likes to take its time with its food, it can easily starve as other cats eat up everything.
The SureFeed microchip feeder is the best solution. You buy one feeder for each cat. Then you program each feeder to a specific cat’s microchip or RFID tag. That way, the feeder only opens when the right cat approaches.
The feeder bowl holds about 13.5 ounces or about one and a half cups of kibble (wet or dry). That’s enough for a single cat for a full day.
Note that the SureFeed microchip feeder doesn’t have a timer.
2. Works with Microchips or RFID Tags
If your pet already has a microchip, you are ready to go. If it doesn’t, you can use an RFID tag. The feeder already comes with one tag, but you can buy additional ones for other pets.
3. Easy to Program
It’s easy to program the feeder to identify particular microchips or RFID tags. You can program the feeder to recognize just one pet. If you have several cats that eat well together, you can program one feeder to open for them all.
Each feeder stores up to 32 IDs.
By the way, the feeder runs on four C batteries that last several months.
If you have a particularly persistent cat, SureFeed is probably not the right choice. A common issue cat owners experience is the aggressive cat stealing food when the feeder opens for the right cat. They approach from the rear or side.
The manufacturer sells an optional rear cover to solve this problem. But many pet owners say persistent cats will still find a way to steal food, usually by forcing the lid open.
The other major limitation of the SureFeed feeder is the lack of a timer. Unlike other automatic feeders, you cannot set feeding times.
This is not an issue if your cat needs to feed just once a day. Just put the right amount of food in the feeder and they can eat it all at once or come back as they want.
But if your cat is on a diet that requires several small feedings at specific times, the SureFeed feeder won’t work.
Though it does have some serious limitations, we think the SureFeed microchip feeder is the best solution for homes with multiple cats (or small dogs) that fight for food.
We highly recommend buying the rear cover to completely prevent food theft.
8. Best Automatic Pet Feeder with Camera: LeeKooLuu Q01 HD Camera WiFi Smart Feeder
Want to check in on your pet while at work or on vacation? We recommend the LeeKooLuu Q01 smart feeder.
It comes with WiFi connectivity plus a live camera that lets you check in on your pet wherever you are. It also has 2-way audio. Unlike most smart pet feeders, LeeKooLuu Q01 has an easy to use app.
1. WiFi Connectivity with Camera and 2-Way Audio
Once you connect the LeeKooLuu Q01 to your home network (2.4 GHz only), you can access the live streaming feature.
Video quality is really good thanks to the HD 1080p camera. The camera is positioned low enough that you get a nice clear view of your cat or dog.
You can take pics and videos and store them in a memory card (memory card not included).
By the way, the camera has a night vision mode, so you can still keep an eye on your pets at night.
As you check in on your pet, you can use the 2-way audio to interact with them. You can also record up to 10 seconds of audio the feeder will play to indicate meal time.
2. Motion Detector
Another cool feature we love is the motion detector. You can set the feeder to alert you when it detects motion and send you a pic of your pet.
You can adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor to prevent nuisance alerts.
3. Flexible Programming Options
The programming on the app is very flexible, letting you set up portions and feeding times precisely the way you want.
The hopper holds up to 24 cups of dry food and you can schedule between 1 and 10 feedings per day. For each feeding, you can set up to 10 portions, with each portion being about 10g.
You can schedule custom feeding times and portions for each day. For instance, you can have a slightly different routine on the weekends.
The app also provides a manual feeding option.
Note that you have to use the app to access a majority of settings. Thankfully, the app is super easy to use and works smoothly.
4. Dual Power Supply
The LeeKooLuu Q01 smart feeder comes with an AC adapter. You can also install three D batteries (not included) in case of a power loss to ensure it keeps dispensing.
Note that camera and WiFi features work only when plugged into an AC outlet.
If you are shopping on a budget, the LeeKooLuu Q01 smart feeder is probably not the right choice. It is pricey.
The other gripe we have with the feeder is the lack of a proper control panel. You have to use the smartphone app to access almost all the features including scheduling.
If the company ever goes out of business, the feeder turns into an expensive paperweight. This has already happened with several WiFi pet feeders.
Keep that in mind when purchasing the LeeKooLuu Q01.
If you can’t stand not seeing or hearing your pet for a whole day, the LeeKooLuu Q01 camera WiFi feeder is a great choice.
You can customize your pet’s feeding schedule and check in on them whenever you want, wherever you are.
9. Best Water Fountain for Cats: Kastty Automatic Water Dispenser Fountain
Cats love drinking from water fountains, compared to a basic water bowl. A water fountain also keeps the water tasting fresh and keeps it from getting dirty.
The best water fountain for cats is the Kastty automatic water dispenser fountain. The falling water streams and built-in LED light attract cats, ensuring they stay hydrated.
1. Two Flowing Modes
You can set the fountain to one of two modes to see which one your cat likes best. The first is a flower waterfall that’s great for playful cats. The other is a gentle low fountain.
2. Silent Pump
The pump operating the fountain is super quiet. In fact, the only thing you’ll hear is the gentle sound of water falling and the occasional slurping as your cat takes a drink.
3. 3L Capacity
The 3-litre capacity tank is perfect for several cats and even a couple small dogs. For one or two cats, the water lasts about 3-4 days.
The pump will automatically shut down if the water level falls below 150ml to prevent damage. The blue LED light will also conveniently turn red to let you know you need to top up the tank.
4. Produces Filtered Water
The Kastty cat fountain comes with a sponge filter as well as an activated coconut filter to remove most of the impurities from your cat’s drinking water.
You need to replace the filters once a month. The package includes spare filters, so you don’t have to worry about buying replacements for a while. We recommend buying a set of 8, 12 or 16 replacement filters and keeping them on hand.
Note that you don’t need to use the water filters if your tap water is okay or if you already have filtered water at home.
Another accessory that’s included with the fountain is a silicone mat that you place the fountain on. It keeps your floor from getting wet.
Our only concern is that the Kastty does not come with a battery backup option. You have to keep it plugged in all the time.
In case of a blackout, the fountain will not work. If you’ll be going away for several days, probably leave a bowl of water for your cats just in case.
If you are still putting your cat’s drinking water in a bowl, it’s time to upgrade. Not only does the Kastty fountain encourage cats to drink more water, it also keeps water fresher and cleaner.
10. Best Water Dispenser for Dogs: Petmate Replendish Gravity Waterer
Dogs drink lots of water. To avoid the tedious work of refilling water bowls several times a day, we recommend getting a dispenser with a large capacity.
Our favorite is the 4-gallon Petmate Replendish gravity dog waterer. It is tedious to lock into the base when full, but the water lasts for days.
1. Large Capacity
This 4-gallon behemoth is the biggest water dispenser Petmate sells, making it perfect for large dogs that drink lots of water, and homes with multiple dogs.
Depending on how much water your dogs drink and how many pets you have, a single refill lasts anywhere between 2 and 5 days. It’s great if you work long days or often take overnight trips.
The large capacity has another advantage. Because of the weight of the water, even a large dog can’t topple the dispenser over. If your dogs keep knocking over water bowls or smaller dispensers, try the 4-gallon Petmate waterer.
2. Antimicrobial Gravity Base
The Petmate dispenser uses an automatic gravity refilling base. As dogs lap up the water, more flows into the bowl.
The base has an antimicrobial treatment to prevent mould, mildew and bacteria from developing on it. So the water stays fresh for days.
3. Charcoal Filter
The Petmate waterer comes with a charcoal filter that eliminates a wide range of impurities from the water including chlorine, VOCs and various chemicals.
Having plenty of water is great and convenient, until it’s time to refill the bottle. The hardest bit turning it over and locking it into the base. It’s easy to end up with water all over the floor.
If your partner has stronger arms, definitely let them handle the refills.
As long as you are sure you can handle refilling and securing the heavy bottle – or have someone that can do it – the Petmate Replendish 4-gallon dispenser is the best choice for dogs.
Benefits of an Automatic Pet Food Dispenser
An automatic pet food dispenser is a deceptively awesome appliance for any pet owner. It can make you and your pet’s life better in many ways, including:
- Feeding your pets is a LOT easier – especially if you have a busy schedule. If your cat keeps waking you up at 5 am for food, then an automatic pet feeder will help you sleep while he gets his breakfast. When you leave for work, you don’t have to worry about coming back at a certain time to feed the pet. The feeder will automatically dispense food at specific times. You can even travel out of town for a few days without having to find a pet sitter.
- Gain control over your pet’s eating habits – and diet. Some pets need a strict feeding timetable.They have to eat specific portions at specific times. Sticking to such a schedule with an automatic feeder is easy. Normally you’d leave a bowl full of food before going to work. The problem is that your pet cannot regulate its feeding. Most pets will overeat and get overweight. An automatic pet feeder prevents this by dispensing only small food portions. It’s also a great way to help already overweight pets slim down.
- Monitor and interact with your pet from anywhere. If you get a smart feeder with remote app control, you can monitor your pet’s feeding behavior from wherever you are. Feeders with webcams and speakers let you see your pet and even talk to her. This can be really beneficial for pets suffering from separation anxiety or older or sick pets that need monitoring.
- Keeps rodents and insects out of your pet’s food.
Disadvantages of Automatic Pet Feeders
- It’s can be difficult to know when the feeder has malfunctioned or jammed which can leave your pet without food. That’s why it’s important to buy a reliable jam-proof pet feeder.
- They can be noisy as the kibble hits the feeding bowl. For pets that are scared of loud noises, this will be a problem and can even keep them from eating.
- Some feeders can be knocked over or moved by your pet. Make sure the feeder you buy is well-built for your pet’s size and behaviors and can’t be toppled over or pushed.
- Most automatic feeders do not serve wet food. If your pet is on a wet food diet, find a feeder that is specifically labeled for use with dry or wet food.
Two Types of Automatic Pet Feeders
There are only two types of automatic pet feeders: electronic pet feeders and gravity pet feeders.
Electronic automatic pet feeders are the most common. All but one of the pet feeders we’ve reviewed above are electronic. They can either be powered by an AC outlet or batteries and must be programmed to dispense a specific amount of food at specific times.
The biggest advantage of electronic pet feeders is that they give you total control over your pet’s feeding. You can set precise portions and decide exactly when they are going to eat. This is highly beneficial for a pet’s overall health.
On the downside, electronic pet feeders require more work to set up and configure. If your smart feeder also connects to WiFi, there is even more work to be done. But this is only in the beginning. Afterward, electronic feeders are typically very easy to operate.
Gravity automatic pet feeders operate using a simpler mechanism. Food is stored in a large container or hopper above the bowl. As the pet eats the food, more food automatically falls into the bowl via gravity. When the food reaches a certain level, it stops falling until the pet eats some more.
The biggest advantage of gravity pet feeders is their utter simplicity. You don’t have to program them or connect them to WiFi. Add food to the hopper, and that’s it. No power supply is needed, so they work outside or anywhere you want to keep your pet.
The downside is that you have no control over your pet’s portions or meal times. They can eat as much as they want, whenever they want. Also, because food is constantly exposed, rodents and insects are more attracted to gravity-style feeders.
If you can afford it, an electronic pet feeder is the best choice for most pet owners.
How to Choose the Best Automatic Feeder For Your Pet
Consider the following factors when choosing an automatic pet feeder.
Is it for Cats, Dogs or Both?
Automatic feeders designed for cats tend to be smaller and come with a smaller bowl. Those for dogs are larger. So it’s important to check whether the feeder you are about to buy is for cats or dogs.
There are also automatic feeders that can be used with both cats and dogs. However, there could be a limit as to the size of dogs that can use it.
Number of Pets
Most automatic pet feeders will have a limit on the number of pets who can use a single pet feeder.
If you have just 1 or 2 pets, you can usually use buy one pet feeder. Get a 2-way splitter that dispenses food to two separate bowls for each pet. If you have 3 or more pets, you may have to get more than one pet feeder.
If you have a lot of pets or run a shelter, consider just buying cheap gravity feeders.
Check whether the feeder works with small pets such as cats or large pets like adult dogs. This is important because the size of the bowl and hopper vary to accommodate different pet sizes.
A feeder for a large pet will store more food and use a larger bowl. It may also have a sturdier design to prevent toppling or pushing the pet.
Some feeders are specified for cats and small to medium dogs only, while larger units can feed cats + all dogs.
Amount of Food
How much do your pets eat in a day?
If your pet eats a lot, you need a feeder that stores enough food and can dispense more portions through the day. For larger hungry pets, look for feeders that dispense 8-12 meals a day.
For pets that eat just a few portions per day, you can make do with a smaller feeder that only allows 4-6 meals.
Feeder capacity often ranges between 5 lbs and 10 lbs. The ideal capacity will depend on how much your pet (or pets) eat and how long you are away from.
Get a large capacity feeder if your pet eats a lot or you often take overnight trips when you might be away for 24-48 hours.
To find out how much food you need for 24 hours, just multiply the size of each portion your pet eats with the number of portions that he normally eats from morning to evening.
Double that number to get the total food capacity needed when you’ll be away for 24 hours.
Timers and Scheduling Options
Any electronic automatic pet feeder should at the very least allow you to set the number of meals for the day, specific times for the meals and precise portions of each meal.
It should also come with an ‘instant feed’ option that lets you dispense food immediately at any time with just the press of a button.
Connectivity and Apps
Whether you need a WiFi-connected feeder depends on your needs.
If you’d like to update the feeding schedule and monitor your pet’s feeding when at work, then buy a WiFi pet feeder.
Some pets are more likely to eat if they hear their owner’s voice, so getting an interactive voice feeder makes sense for them – especially if your pet has separation anxiety.
Likewise, some pet owners get anxious if they can’t see their pets during the day.
For these pets and their owners, it makes sense to spend a little more to buy a WiFi feeder with an integrated camera, mic and speaker.
Questions to Ask Before Buying
Ask these questions before buying an automatic pet feeder. It will help you buy the best one for your needs rather than spending tons of money on something that will give you endless headaches.
Is my pet likely to break into a pet feeder or become too aggressive with it?
If your pet is on the aggressive side, get a sturdily built pet feeder that can’t be easily moved or toppled over. Also, make sure it is designed in such a way that the pet cannot get into the food hopper.
If there is a manual feed button on the feeder, check whether it can be disabled. Pets are smart and will soon figure out what the button does.
Are there kids around who might play with the pet feeder?
If you have young kids around, make sure the pet feeder is stable and can’t be moved.
Also, check that kids cannot open it or press any of the buttons. A child lock feature will prevent kids and pets from accidentally changing settings or releasing the food.
Is my pet a voracious eater?
If your pet eats too fast and gets stomach upsets because of it, find a pet feeder with a slow feed feature. This feature releases food in tiny portions to force the pet to eat more slowly.
Does my pet eat dry or wet food or both?
If your pet eats wet food, get a feeder that accepts both dry and wet food.
Will I be using the feeder inside or outside?
If you are going to use it outside, make sure it has some ant protection. Also, check that it can run on batteries.
A battery-powered feeder is also handy if you plan to travel with your pet.
Things to Watch Out For Common Problems
Watch out for these common problems that other pet feeder customers have encountered.
Your pet will try to break into the pet feeder. This is especially common if the food hopper is transparent. Make sure the pet feeder cannot be accidentally opened and that your cat or dog cannot stick their paw into the feeding tube to pull out kibble.
Your pet may need time to get used to the new gizmo. Some pets will be scared by the noise food makes as it hits the bowl and will be afraid to use the pet feeder. It may take a few days before you can be sure your cat or dog will eat from the feeder when you are not home.
If your pet is still bothered by the noise even after several days, consider getting a noise-free feeder such as the Feed and Go smart pet feeder.
You should also consider buying a smart feeder with voice recording. The sound of your voice might help make the cat or dog more comfortable approaching and using the automatic feeder.
The pet feeder might jam if you use the wrong food. Even if you get a guaranteed jam-proof feeder, it can still jam if you don’t put in the right type of food. Check the manufacturer instructions for the kibble size you can put in and don’t add wet food in a dry food-only feeder.
Ants and other critters might get into the food bowl or hopper. This is especially common if you put the feeder outside. Look for a feeder with an insect-proof design. For instance, the Pet Feedster feeder has a bowl of water underneath the base to trap any ants that try to climb into the food hopper.
A smart feeder might be more difficult to configure. Getting it to connect to your WiFi might take a few tries. Contact customer support if it fails to connect even after several attempts.
Tips on Using and Maintaining Your Automatic Pet Feeder
Read the Instructions
As with any other machine or device, do not start using your pet feeder before you’ve read the user manual.
Electronic pet feeders need to be set up in a specific way to work properly. In some, for instance, you have to set the kibble size you are using to ensure the food falls out.
Do not assume anything. One pet feeder does not work like the next. So even if you are replacing an existing pet feeder, read the instructions before using the new one.
Take Your Time
Be patient in the beginning. Pet feeders can be a bit frustrating to configure the first time especially if it’s a WiFi model. Take time to set up the timer and schedule properly. If it’s a smart feeder, follow the exact instructions in the manual.
If you encounter any problems contact customer support for help. If that doesn’t help, check online videos of people using the same pet feeder or ask for help in customer forums.
Check the manual for instructions on how to disassemble and clean different components of the feeder. Make sure a certain part is dishwasher-proof before washing it the dishwasher. Be careful not to wash what shouldn’t as you may damage electronic components.
Remember that a dirty feeder can affect your pet’s health.
Only Use the Recommended Pet Food
Do not add wet food if the feeder is for dry food only. Also, make sure you are using the right kibble size. Feeders will usually specify the accepted kibble size range.
This prevents the feeder from jamming.
Beware of Making Any Modifications
If you want to add a splitter or modify any other component, call the seller first. Modifying the feeder may void the warranty.
Frequently Asked Questions About Automatic Pet Feeders
Do I need an automatic pet feeder?
Only you can decide that. But if you have a busy schedule, frequently travel out of town or find it a lot of fo work to feed your pet, it’s a good idea to get an automatic pet feeder.
What should I do if my pet refuses to use the feeder?
Give it some time. Some pets will be spooked by the sight of a new thing on the floor, or the noise might scare them. Give them a few days to get acquainted with the new device.
Place the feeder in their usual feeding spot. You can also try using the manual feeding button several times to get the pet used to the sound of food dropping into the bowl.
Another idea is to get a smart feeder with voice recording. Hearing your voice might help them get more comfortable with using the feeder.
What kind of food can I put in the feeder?
Check the manual for recommendations. Some feeders accept dry food only while others can be used with both dry and wet food.
Is my feeder not working?
Check the troubleshooting section of the manual. It might be a small problem that you can solve on your own. If that doesn’t help, call the manufacturer. If the feeder is still under warranty, they might repair or replace it for free.
I hope this buying guide has helped you find the best automatic feeder for your pet. If you need more help or tips choosing an automatic pet feeder, leave a comment below.