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Automatic Pet Food Dispensers for Wet And Dry Food: Top Cat and Dog Feeder Picks from a Pet-sitter

Updated on May 10, 2012
The automatic pet food dispenser can cut down on unwanted begging behavior!  Flickr, Neeta Lind
The automatic pet food dispenser can cut down on unwanted begging behavior! Flickr, Neeta Lind

As many pet owners can attest to, an automatic pet food dispensers can be an absolute gift, even a life-saver for some owners.

As a family with three cats and two dogs (oh yeah, and three kids to boot), finding pet products to make my life (and theirs) better is a top priority. We all have crazy schedules and unforeseen obstacles that may necessitate late arrivals home. Now, I don’t know about you, but my pets expect to eat at certain times of the day or we’re going to hear about it. In fact, they don't seem overly concerned about whether or not this fits into my schedule! I have 2 Labrador Retrievers that are incredibly food-obsessed and basically live and breathe to eat.

In the past I’ve also had cats with some pretty serious health problems that required special foods at specified times of the day. I practically had to live my life around my cat in kidney failure and our diabetic cat. I finally decided there had to be a better way.

A few years ago I ran a successful petsitting business. One of my clients used an automatic pet food dispenser, one of the earlier models on the market at the time. Now, I really didn’t know what to make of this thing, all I knew was that I didn’t trust it. I was paranoid this kitty wouldn’t be getting fed under my watch. Sure enough, over the course of the week the owners were gone, I spent more time trying to fix the dispenser than I did playing with and entertaining the poor cat. She kept knocking it over, it kept making odd beeping sounds, and worst of all, she was afraid of the device. Ugh. I pretty much dismissed these automatic cat feeder as a viable solution to the absent pet owner.

Over the course of a few years, the automatic pet food dispenser made remarkable improvements. I began to worry about my job security in fact! I was in the prime position for my own product testing since I had the opportunity to use a LOT of these dispensers. I came to discover what makes one superior to another. A few improvements have been made over time, but most quality models all have similar characteristics and functions. Let’s take a look….

What to AVOID in Pet Food Dispensers

Avoid any automatic pet food dispenser that is too top heavy or light, trust me Fido or Princess Kitty can and will knock it over in the quest for food.

Avoid ones that your pets can successfully poke their paws into the dispenser. Some require electricity and this can actually be dangerous. Additionally, you don’t want them to “work the system: and successfully self-dispense treats throughout the day, kinda defeats the purpose, huh? Along the same lines, avoid ones that have numerous moving parts that may unnecessarily peek your pet’s interest. And, make sure those parts are internally housed for safety purposes.

Avoid ones that make an unnecessary amount of noise. Some make grinding and beeping sounds that can actually scare your pet(s). Consequently, there are some animals that won’t get NEAR these noisy devices.

Avoid ones that are highly fixed in their feeding intervals. Some will only open after certain predetermined times that don’t necessarily mesh with the needs of your pet.

Look for ones with generous return policies. We all know animals can be unpredictable, there is no guarantee your pet will want to have anything to do with the new feeder you’ve hand chosen for him or her.

They need an automatic cat feeder:  Feed me!!!  Courtesy Flickr, Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi
They need an automatic cat feeder: Feed me!!! Courtesy Flickr, Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi

What to Look for

Bear in mind you need to choose one with adequate capacity for your pet(s). A Great Dane will need a larger one than a miniature poodle, of course. Automatic cat feeders just won't be as large.

Look for ones that have timers or flexible intervals for the days you might be running late.

This is very important: look for ones that are easy to clean and have dishwasher-safe bowls. Some are a nightmare to clean, you really don’t need that.
Look for ones that are on battery back-up. Relying on a feeder that fails due to a power outage can be disastrous! Make sure to constantly check and change your batteries.

Some can hold wet food, make sure to get ones that hold cold packs or freezable inserts if you plan to be gone for too long.

Kibble size can matter. Some of the dispensers will specify the minimum kibble size you should use to avoid over or under-feeding your pet, so heed the recommendations.

Le Bistro Electronic Pet Feeder

Cat Mate C20

Best Automatic Pet Food Dispensers- Ones That Fulfill the Above Criteria

Petmate Le Bistro Portion-Control

This dispenser works for both cats and dogs. It’s a relatively simple design, which in this case is good. It is highly programmable, only holds dry food, but it’s a sold automatic pet food dispenser. With a little programming, it can dispense food up to three times per day, and up to three cups of food per serving. Either the five pound or the ten pound model is available, depending upon your food capacity needs. Make sure you securely attach the lid onto the container or you could have an ugly “overeating” episode. I know, our Labrador did this when I first got ours. Other than that, it’s been a solid and dependable device.

PetSafe Electronic Pet Feeder: Automatic Cat Feeders and Automatic Dog Feeders

The design on this is quite ingenious, no tipping is ever going to happen with this one, with a cat or dog. It’s also great for those who need to feed their pets wet food. It is available in two different versions: the five meal or two meal feeder. The five meal feeder has a lot of leeway in terms of the frequency with which you can feed your pets, as frequently as 1 hour increments. The five meal feeder compartments each hold one cup. The two meal feeders compartments each hold one and a half cups and is programmable to open any time you please within 48 hours. The five meal feeder was a God send with my diabetic cat as he needed frequent, small meals to avoid low blood sugar.

Cat Mate C20: Automatic Cat Feeders (but works for dogs)

This was the very first one I bought many years ago and it’s still going strong, it is also among the most affordable of all. It holds dry or wet food for cats or small dogs. It’s nice for the multiple pet owner since the two compartments can be programmed to open simultaneously. It has a built-in ice pack to keep wet or fresh food cold. I definitely recommend this one over the Cat Mate C50 feeder. I’ve seen cats break into the C50 and the construction is a bit shoddy in my book. It’s wound on a timer and more often than is acceptable, the lids just fail to open.


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