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Published Apr. 6, 2022

The best pet feeders on the market leverage the latest technology to dispense meals automatically at set times. While they are in no way a substitute for quality engagement with your pet, they can make it easier to live with a furry friend who demands breakfast and dinner (or second breakfast and second dinner) on an exacting schedule. 

In their simplest form, automated pet feeders are containers with a timer you can set to make sure your pup gets his kibbles at 6 p.m. sharp. Higher-end models may include the ability to program portion sizes, adjust dispensing schedules with an app, and automatically put in an order for more food when your supply is low. The best pet feeders will give you peace of mind that your four-legged pal won’t go hungry if you are running late on your evening commute. Here are our top choices. 

How We Selected These Products

Methodology

I’m a pet parent with two cats who have regular vet visits, pet insurance, and twice-daily care from a pet sitter when I’m out of town. When I evaluate pet products, I value the overall experience of our furry friends over convenience for humans. 

Brands: Even with my budget pick, I stuck to top brands sold at major pet retailers that consumers rated highly. 

Portion Control: The latest data from the Pet Obesity Prevention Society shows that over half of dogs and cats are obese. I only selected pet feeders that allow users to control portion sizes, though it’s important to check with your vet about using an automated feeder if your pet has health issues.
Extra Features: I looked at higher end models with interactive features like voice recordings and smartphone connectivity, but these features aren’t necessary for every pet parent. Keep in mind that automatic feeders are a complement to regular pet care and should never replace a pet sitter.

The Best Pet Feeders: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed

PetSafe

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Why It Made The Cut: In addition to ample storage and pet-friendly materials, we like the slow food mode option for pups and kitties with a tendency to snarf their meals in seconds.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 24 cups
  • Type of Food: Dry or semi moist
  • WiFi-Enabled: No

Pros:

  • Slow feed mode
  • Optional meal splitter
  • Battery-powered with optional AC adapter

Cons:

  • Cannot be controlled remotely

Unlike a gravity feeder, which will keep food flowing as long as your pet’s bowl has space (to the detriment of your pet’s health), the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed uses a conveyor belt system to give you greater control over portion size. With a capacity of up to 24 cups and the option to program up to twelve meals a day, this model can meet the needs of a wide variety of dogs and cats.

The food bowl is stainless steel, and all parts that come into contact with food are free of BPA (bisphenol A). If you purchase the optional splitter, this feeder can dispense into two separate bowls so your pets can share mealtime without competing for their dinner.

If you would like to control the feeder remotely using WiFi and an app on your smartphone, check out the PetSafe Smart Feed Automatic Pet Feeder, which is also compatible with Alexa. We didn’t feature it as one of our picks because of its high price point and the fact that it can only be controlled via the app, but some smartphone users may find it of interest.

Best Budget: Cat Mate Timed Automatic Two-Bowl Feeder

Cat Mate

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Why It Made The Cut: We think this affordable timed feeder is a good value pick because it comes with an ice pack to help keep wet food at cool temperatures.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 14 ounces (1.75 cups)
  • Type of Food: Dry or wet
  • WiFi-Enabled: No

Pros:

  • Low price point
  • Can be used with wet food
  • Removable bowls

Cons:

  • Analog mechanism
  • Ticking sound

Many pet parents prefer to feed their cats and dogs wet food or a mixture of both wet and dry. However, most pet feeders are designed for dry food since wet food can be messy and often requires refrigeration. The Cat Mate C200 is an affordable solution for people who want to experience the convenience of an automated feeder without compromising on the food they’ve selected for their furry friend.

We make no bones about it — this feeder is a low-tech device with two compartments that spring open when their respective manually-set timers go off. It comes with an ice pack that fits underneath the compartments (buy a second one to have at-the-ready for swapping), and depending on the temperature in your home, it can keep wet food cold for hours. 

This is not a feeder you’ll want to use every day. The bowls are plastic and the feeder only has the capacity for two meals. However, it’s a great way to ensure anxious or finicky pets get their wet food as planned if you have to step out unexpectedly for a few hours. Each timer can be set at an interval of up to 48 hours ahead, so if you are using dry food you can dispense kibbles over a longer period. Just make sure someone is still checking on your pet regularly to ensure that they receive cuddles, playtime, trips outdoors to do their business, and/or a fresh litter box.

Best Smart Feeder: Petlibro Automatic Cat Feeder

PETLIBRO

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Why It Made The Cut: Pet parents can control this feeder with their smartphone, without losing the option to manually press the feed button on the machine for an impromptu meal. 

Specs:

  • Capacity: 4L or 6L (about 17 or 25 cups)
  • Type of Food: Dry
  • WiFi-Enabled: Yes

Pros:

  • Backup battery power (batteries not included)
  • Pet can hear your voice when food is dispensed
  • Program wide range of portions

Cons:

  • WiFi connectivity can be unreliable

Petlibro products are carried at top retailers including Chewy and Walmart. The Petlibro WiFi Automatic Cat Feeder comes in two sizes suitable for both cats and small to medium-sized dogs.

The biggest advantage of this smart feeder over other digital feeders is the ability to program a feeding schedule and trigger a one-time meal from within the Petlibro app (available on Android and iOS). You can even record a 10-second clip of your voice to play when the food is dispensed. Pet parents will also value the stainless steel bowl to protect dogs and cats from acne caused by eating from plastic containers. 

Note that like many WiFi-enabled appliances, you will need to connect with your home WiFi’s 2.4 GHz band, not 5 GHz.

Best Portion Control: PetSafe 6 Meal Programmable Pet Food Dispenser

PetSafe

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Why It Made The Cut: Unlike conveyor-belt style feeders, this six-compartment rotating feeder ensures your pet gets exactly what they require to help them stay healthy.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 6 cups
  • Type of Food: Dry or semi-moist
  • WiFi-Enabled: No

Pros:

  • Get portions right every time
  • Easy to see if compartments need refilling
  • Dishwasher safe parts

Cons:

  • Bowl is plastic

If your cat or dog has an illness that requires careful monitoring of food intake or is on a vet-recommended weight loss protocol, portion control is essential. However, pet feeders that allow programmable portion control may vary in accuracy when using conveyor-belt mechanisms to divide and dispense food. They also may have limited options for choosing portion size. The PetSafe 6 Meal Programmable Pet Food Dispenser addresses this problem by using a digital timer to rotate individual pre-filled compartments and release food from each according to your choice of schedule. 

There are only six compartments, but you can program the feeder to empty more than one at a given time. This means you’ll need to calculate how much your pet usually eats during the time period in which you want to use the feeder and how many compartments are required per meal. Then, factor in whether you want to reserve a compartment or two for treats. Just keep in mind that each compartment can only hold up to a cup of dry or semi-moist pet food.

The digital clock on the LCD screen is a nice touch if you’re hanging around to witness the feeder do its magic, but your pet’s internal clock is likely all they need to get them to show up at the appointed time. 

Best for Tired Cat Owners: Cat Mate C100

Cat Mate

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Why It Made The Cut: You can’t get any simpler than this bowl and timer mechanism, but for some pet parents, it’s all you need to get invaluable extra snooze time. 

Specs:

  • Capacity: 14 ounces (a little less than 2 cups)
  • Type of Food: Dry
  • WiFi-Enabled: No

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Cats may figure out how to open it
  • Cats may still demand food a half hour later

With four other compelling choices on our list, it may seem surprising that we included the Cat Mate C100, a low-capacity analog feeder without any bells or whistles. However, this minimalist marvel may just help solve one of the biggest problems cat owners face: caterwauling, scratching, pawing, and other mayhem at five, or four, or three — in the morning. Every morning. 

If your cat is reasonable enough all other hours of the day and you aren’t interested in investing in an automated pet feeder for heavy use, this device just might allow you the extra sleep you crave. Keep in mind that this model, unlike the Cat Mate C200, does not come with an ice pack, so it should not be filled with perishable wet food and left overnight.  

Things to Consider When Buying the Best Pet Feeder

Put yourself in your pet’s shoes (or rain booties or kitten mittens) to find the right pet feeder for their temperament, habits, and overall well-being.

Behavior

If your dog is extra gregarious or your cat extra crafty, look for sturdy and secure pet feeders that won’t yield a bonanza of kibble when your pet knocks it over or gnaws at the container. If your pet is skittish, look for quieter models and consider whether models that play a recording of your voice at feeding time will scare or soothe.

Health

Always check with your vet to make sure an automated feeder is right for your pet’s diet, age, activity level, and other factors.

Portion Size

Check the specifications on the feeder you are considering to make sure it can support the portion size you want to dispense. Keep in mind that some machines allow you to choose multiple portions per meal, so if the maximum portion size is smaller than your pet requires you can do a little math to see if the feeder will dispense enough portions at a time to fulfill their needs.

Cleaning

Your pet may have good manners, but they likely aren’t going to be up to human standards. Look for feeders that can easily be taken apart for regular cleaning, and if you have a dishwasher make sure that materials are dishwasher safe.

FAQs

Q: Can I save money on a pet sitter if I buy a pet feeder?

No. Automatic pet feeders do not replace pet sitters. Your dog still has to go outside regularly, your cat’s litter box needs frequent changes, and both domesticated dogs and cats require play, petting, and human companionship to thrive. Plus, pet sitters have expert knowledge on pet habits — and the habits of your pet in particular — and can notice if your furry pal might need to go to the vet, or if an automated feeder has malfunctioned or needs refilling.

Q: Are automatic feeders good for cats?

Automatic feeders with portion control can be good to maintain a cat’s preferred routine that includes middle-of-the-night feedings, or to hasten a meal when you are unexpectedly delayed in returning home. However, whether or not an automated feeder is good for your individual cat depends on their overall health and personality traits.

Q: Do automatic feeders work with wet food?

Most automatic feeders are designed for dry food (sometimes called kibble), but some models can dispense wet food. Keep in mind that wet food is more perishable so you’ll have to refill the feeder more frequently and pay careful attention to cleaning. Many pet parents feel strongly that wet food is healthier for dogs and cats for a multitude of reasons including hydration, so be sure to check with your vet before choosing an automatic feeder.

Final Thoughts

For cat and dog owners who want to keep their pets on a regular meal schedule of dry food, the PetSafe Healthy Pet offers convenience and ample storage. Technology can never replace the bonding experience of setting a tasty meal in front of your beloved furry friend and receiving a tail wag or a contented purr in return. However, it can make your time apart a little more comfortable for everyone.

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