Our Top Pick for 2018: Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed
Read our full review.
Automated feeders are not only a great way to feed your pet while you’re away, they can also improve your cat’s health. In the wild, cats hunt multiple times a day, and they’re built for eating mouse-sized portions of food frequently. For very young or very old cats, or cats with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, these frequent small meals are a must. Since few of us are able to dish out meals for our feline friends three or four times a day, an automatic cat feeder is a wonderful way to provide the small, frequent meals cats prefer.
#1. Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed
For its sturdy design and the ability to offer amazingly flexible feeding schedules, the Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed comes out on top.
• Measures 9” W x 19” L x 12.5” H
• Hopper holds 24 cups of dry food
• Bowl holds 5 cups of food
• Dispenses up to 12 meals per day
• Meal size: 1/8 cup to 4 cups
• Power: 4 ‘D’ batteries OR wall power (cord not included)
This programmable feeder can schedule up to 12 meals a day, with meal sizes set anywhere from a tiny 1/8 cup to a whopping 4 cups. Best of all, different-sized portions can be dispensed at different times of the day, providing maximum flexibility sure to meet any pet’s needs.
Using the ‘Pause Feed Mode’, you can also temporarily suspend feeding without losing the programmed feeding schedule. An ‘Immediate Feed’ option will dispense the next set meal instantly, making it easy to adjust the schedule for a hungry pet without having to re-enter the program.
For pets prone to wolfing down their food, or those with health problems that require a gradual feeding, this unit also offers a “Slow Feed” mode where meals are gradually dispensed over a 15-minute period. Note that this feature only works with larger portions, however. Since the feeder can only dispense as little as 1/8 cup at a time, the smallest portions will be dispensed in only one or two rounds. For pets who need extremely small portions frequently, you can just program several 1/8 cup meals in a short time span.
Food measurement is very accurate, and the feeder can be adjusted to accommodate different sizes of kibble. Unlike most other programmable feeders, the Petsafe Simply Feed can also dispense semi-moist food accurately, providing additional options for your pet’s diet.
An LCD screen and 5 buttons are used to set feeding amounts and schedules. With so many options, it can take some time to enter settings for the desired amount, frequency, and feeding speed. Chances are, you’ll want to pick a schedule and stick to it when using this unit, rather than adjusting your pet’s feeding routine frequently. That will probably be fine by your cat, since most felines prefer a routine feeding schedule anyway.
The Petsafe Simply Feed uses a unique conveyor belt system to distribute the food, making it nearly impossible for clever cats to stick their paws up the chute for extra goodies between meals. The hopper lid locks in place, keeping even the strongest felines out of the main stash.
Out of the box, the Petsafe Simply Feed runs on four ‘D’ batteries (not included), or you can choose to purchase an optional wall adapter. Battery life is very long – around a year – so it’s excellent if you prefer a cord-free setup. For those who travel frequently or are otherwise worried about batteries running out, this feeder can also be plugged into the wall with an adapter cord (sold separately, about $13 on the manufacturer website).
Currently, the Simply Feed dispenser is only available in black. While the angular styling of this dispenser may not match everyone’s décor, the squat shape is sturdy and makes it very difficult for a pet to knock over. The semi-transparent hopper allows you to see how much food is stored without calling attention to the feeder’s presence in your kitchen.
This feeder comes with a stainless steel feeding bowl, a real plus for cats as plastic dishes can promote feline acne (a much more serious condition in cats than in humans.) For cleaning, the stainless steel bowl, bowl holder, hopper lid, and hopper can be easily removed, and are all dishwasher safe. The conveyor belt can also be removed for cleaning, but requires hand-washing with soap and warm water.
With its extremely flexible programming, sturdy design, and ease of cleaning, the Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed is sure to meet even the most finicky feline’s needs.
#2. Aspen Pet LeBistro Portion Control Automatic Feeder
With extremely easy programming and attractive design, the Aspen Pet LeBistro feeder will keep your pet satisfied in style.
• Measures 13.7in x 9.8in x 14in.
• Hopper holds 5lbs of dry food, also available in a 10-lb model if more storage is desired
• Dispenses up to 3 meals per day
• Meal size: 1/4 cup to 3 cups
• Power: Three ‘D’ batteries
The Aspen Pet LeBistro feeder will serve up to 3 meals a day, with meal sizes ranging from ¼ cup to 3 cups per meal. The simple programming interface makes it quick and easy to get this feeder set up and working.
Food is dispensed using a flexible paddle-wheel, which prevents jamming and makes the unit surprisingly quiet. The unit will display a count of meals dispensed that day, so you can see that your pet has been fed even if you didn’t hear the food being dispensed.
While the large food chute and flexible wheel mean that jams are rarely a problem in this feeder, the design does mean that a particularly clever cat may be able to get their paw up inside the unit and pull out extra food. There is a flap in the chute to prevent this, and a cat would only be able to reach food that has been measured for the next feeding. If you have a particularly food-motivated cat, though, a design with a more difficult to reach mechanism may be a better choice.
Portion control sizes are flexible, but if your pet requires very carefully controlled amounts of food (especially in amounts less than ½ cup), you may find that this unit dispenses a little too much. The feeder is designed to handle most sizes and shapes of dry food, but smaller kibbles may result in more being dispensed than desired. Be sure to experiment to find the right settings for your pet. If you change foods, make sure you re-test the amount dispensed to ensure that you’re getting what you expect.
Programming the Aspen Pet LeBistro is extremely easy, thanks to its LCD screen and 3 buttons. In fact, you can just load food and let it begin operating without changing the programming at all. The unit comes with default settings for breakfast (6am), lunch (12pm), and dinner (6pm), dispensing ½ cup of food at each. The simple programming interface doesn’t allow for different meal sizes at different times of the day, but is easy to update as needed.
The unit requires three ‘D’ size batteries (not included). It does not use a power plug, so be sure to check the batteries before leaving the unit for an extended period of time. Battery life is long, usually six months or more. Be aware that if the battery power gets low or even if the batteries’ voltage is too low, the unit may stop dispensing food even if the LCD is still illuminated. The screen will flash the “meal” icon if this happens, indicating that the unit is clogged or doesn’t have enough power to dispense food.
The Aspen Pet LeBistro is currently available only in black with silver accents. It features an attractive design, resembling a trendy kitchen gadget like high-end coffee bean grinder. The food storage hopper is completely clear, so you can tell at a glance how much food is left. While the unit is sturdy enough to resist tampering from most cats, a very rambunctious pet could tip it over. If you have a very strong or high-energy pet, a heavier machine may be a better choice.
To clean the unit, the bowl, hopper, and lid may be removed and hand-washed. The rest of the machine cannot be disassembled, and must be wiped down with a cloth.
The Aspen Pet LeBistro Portion Control Automatic Feeder is wonderfully simple to operate, and provides a trouble-free solution to most pets’ feeding needs.
#3. Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Pet Feeder
Easy to use and easy to clean, the CatMate C3000 Automatic Feeder lets you set up a flexible feeding schedule for your cat at a reasonable price.
• Measures 8.3in x 8.3in x 14.5in.
• Hopper holds 6.5lbs of food
• Dispenses up to 3 meals per day
• Meal size: 10g (approx. 2tsp) or more
• Power: 4 ‘C’ batteries
The CatMate C3000 has a unique dispensing mechanism, with a nozzle-like chute that is attached to the unit rather than being built-in. Thanks to its innovative design, this feeder can dispense meals as small as 10g (1/3 oz, or about two teaspoons).
Rather than defining meal sizes in cups, this model uses “feed units”. One “feed unit” is around 10g, so it may take a little trial and error to determine the correct settings for your pet when programming this feeder. The ability to measure such small portions gives great flexibility, however, making it possible to tailor a program for your pet’s precise needs.
In addition to regular, timed feeding, the CatMate C3000 provides several customizable settings:
“Advance Feed” mode lets you dispense the next meal early. Since this cycles through the next programmed feeding, you won’t run the risk of providing more meals per day than planned.
“Manual Feed” mode allows you to feed your cat a set amount of food, without setting programmed meal times. This ensures that you’re feeding the correct amount to your pets, but on a flexible schedule.
“Extra Feed” provides an extra snack for your pet. This option has to be set manually every day.
“Frequent feed” dispenses small portions at regular intervals. This setting allows you to fix the total amount of food to be dispensed in a day, so it will be gradually released over a 24-hour period. These small, frequent feedings are perfect for cats that face health issues such as diabetes, and can help moderate food intake for cats who are overweight or those cats or who bolt their food.
The CatMate C3000 is currently available in white only, with a semi-transparent hopper. It features good battery life, running for 6-9 months on four ‘C’ batteries (not included.) As with other units, removing the batteries may reset the programming, but some users have reported that if you change them very quickly (in 60 seconds or less), it will retain its settings.
The hopper lid has a sturdy snap lock, and the unique dispenser design prevents most cats from reaching into the bin for additional food. Some energetic and food-motivated cats may learn to jostle or jump on the unit to shake out more food. To address this, the unit is designed to be mounted to a wooden board for extra stability if desired.
The unit is fairly loud when dispensing meals, which may frighten more timid cats, but most learn to associate the sound with their food and come running.
As with other automatic feeders, the CatMate C3000 works best with medium-sized kibble. If you’re feeding a dry food that is less than ¼” in diameter, it may be easier for your cat to reach up into the chute to pry out extra morsels, and the amount dispensed may not be accurate. Dry food with pieces ½” in diameter or greater works best.
Cleaning is a breeze for this model, since all food-dispensing parts are dishwasher safe. The feeding bowl, hopper, lid, nozzle, and feed dispensing screw may all be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher. The base unit may be wiped down with a cloth.
For easy cleaning and its ability to dispense fine-tuned portions, the CatMate C3000 makes a great choice, especially for cats that need custom feeding schedules.
#4. Petmate Pet Cafe Feeder
If carefully timed meals aren’t a concern, the Petmate Pet Café Feeder is an affordable solution for keeping your pet fed while you’re away.
• Available in small (6.8 x 10.4 x 9.7 inches), medium (8.6 x 12.9 x 10.9 inches), and large (10.7 x 16.2 x 15.1 inches) sizes
• Hopper holds 3-12lbs of food, depending on model
• Power: None
While this unit isn’t programmable, it’s a simple and affordable way to make sure your pet is well-fed while you’re away. The Pet Café Feeder’s gravity-fed design means that there aren’t any motorized parts that may malfunction or batteries that may run low, so your pet will always have access to their food.
This feeder won’t allow you to set feeding times or portion sizes throughout the day, so it’s not ideal for pets with health issues that require multiple, smaller meals. This Petmate feeder is also available in a range of sizes, with a reservoir holding from 3-12lbs of food, depending on the model. The range of sizes also makes it easy to find a setup that will meet the needs of both dogs and cats.
Be sure to test the feeder with the brand of food you prefer before leaving your cat for an extended period. The chute where food is dispensed from the hopper to the dish is a bit narrow, and large or round kibbles may get stuck at this point. Shaking the dish can clear the jam. You may be able to prevent jams by raising the back of the feeder a little, and the feeder can be mounted to a board for extra stability.
The Pet Café Feeder is available in a range of colors (pink, blue, tan, or white), to blend in with any kitchen décor. The clear reservoir makes it easy to see how much food is left. The base and lid are dishwasher safe, while the clear hopper can be washed by hand.
Matching gravity-fed watering dishes are also available, so you can ensure that your pet has plenty to drink while you’re away.
If you need to make sure your pet is well-fed while you travel, or just want to keep their feeding area tidy during the day, the Petmate Pet Café feeder is a solid and affordable choice.
Portion control flexibility
Does your cat have any health issues that require smaller, more frequent meals? If so, choose a model that can be set to dispense multiple meals in amounts small enough for your cat. If your pet needs to lose weight, a dispenser that offers multiple pre-measured feedings is best.
The Petsafe Simply Feed lets you set a number of feedings throughout the day, and its ability to adjust portion sizes to the time of feeding makes it the most flexible option. For multi-cat households, plenty of smaller feedings may help prevent crowding at the feeder. Knowing that another meal is coming may also keep one cat from dominating the food source, and allow others time to eat.
For pets that need to be fed a small amount at a time throughout the course of the day, the CatMate C3000’s “Frequent Feed” mode lets you keep your cat happy without over-feeding.
If you just want to prevent the early-morning “wake up calls” from your hungry feline friend, setting any of these programmable units for an automated breakfast should let you catch up on some sleep.
Ease of programming
Are you interested in spending the time to construct a fine-tuned feeding schedule for your pet, or would you prefer a model that is more plug-and-play?
If you would prefer to set it and forget it, consider investing in a model that lets you set a schedule quickly without a lot of options. The Aspen Pet LeBistro Feeder’s easy interface can be programmed in moments, and is a great choice for those who want a straightforward feeding schedule.
If your daily schedule is subject to change, you may want to look at options for advance feedings, extra snacks, and the ability to pause the programming as desired.
For frequent travel, the Petsafe Simply Feed with a wall plug may be the best choice. While all of the units recommended here have great battery life, plugging the unit in will prevent potential dead battery problems.
If your cat is happy to graze throughout the day, our budget pick will make sure their food is available at all times without worrying about power outages or setting a program.
Will you be changing types or brands of food frequently? Some units require re-calibration when the size or shape of kibbles change, and some are more accurate when larger kibbles are used. If you’ll be altering your pet’s food frequently, a highly-accurate model like the Petsafe Simply Feed will allow you to swap foods without spending time re-programming.
Most feeders work with dry food only, so if your pet prefers a semi-moist diet, our gold winner from Petsafe is definitely your best bet.
Ease of cleaning
While automated feeders are a time-saver, they will eventually need to be emptied and washed. If you prefer a unit that can be tossed in a dishwasher, look for one that has as many removable, dishwasher-safe parts as possible.
Both the CatMate C3000 and the Petsafe Simply Feed units have dishwasher-safe parts. While the Aspen Pet LeBistro feeder doesn’t contain dishwasher safe parts, the bowl could be replaced for ease of cleaning.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
Automated pet feeders can save you time, and ensure your feline friend gets the right-size portions whenever they need them. Whether you need to ensure your pet is fed while you’re away, feed your cat on a schedule for their health, or you just want to sleep in past your cat’s preferred 4am breakfast time, there’s a feeder to match your needs and budget.