Automatic cat feeders are a very good solution for feeding our pets when we are not home or when we are too busy to take care of that task on a daily basis. They are great for us and our pets but buying an automatic cat feeder for the first time can be challenging and a big headache if you ignore some important factors before making any purchase. Believe me; some people have learned this lesson the hard way by buying several automatic feeders, one after another to find out that none of them were a good solution for their cats.
You can avoid wasting time and money by keeping the following factors in mind before buying any automatic pet feeder:
1. Price is not a good indicator of high quality
Some high-priced automatic cat feeders are excellent and are worth the money you pay for them, but on the other hand you can find expensive automatic feeders on the market that are cheap made and not a solution at all for you and your cat. If you want to do a good buy try not to consider the price as a buying criterion. It is recommended to investigate customer reviews and quality of the materials as well. Sometimes "All that glitters is not gold".
2. Automatic pet feeders perform differently depending on pellet sizes
If you feed your cat with small pellet size (1/4" diameter) and you need your cat to eat small portions of food at a time you have to keep in mind that not all automatic pet feeders will accomplish this. Some devices perform better with small kibbles because they are designed with a roller and baffle system which allows them to push the food out in small amounts of food at a time. However, there are other types of automatic feeders that work with a screw system to dispense the food and they perform better with big pellet sizes (1/2" diameter) to release small and specific amounts of food at a time to make a feeding schedule for your cat.
3. It is not a good idea to buy the automatic pet feeder just days before you leave on a trip
Automatic cat feeders were created for us to feed our pets when not being home so it makes sense to buy one if we want to go on a trip, but in order to leave our cat alone with an automatic solution we must go through a learning curve experience before. This is very important because as you use this new device you learn eventually some fails, how to fix them, how your cat behaves with it, etc. And this process takes longer than just a few days, this takes at least 3 weeks before you can leave your pet alone at home and being confident it will get fed on time. Several issues could happen if you don't test the new device enough, some of them are:
Batteries not lasting as they suppose to and the unit might stop working.
If it works with an AC adapter, your cat might unplug it while walking around.
The first week could go smoothly but the following days your cat could break into the feeder and tip it over or figure out a way to gorge itself eating all the food at once.
The automatic feeder might jump one feeding cycle while you are away because you missed some instruction when programming it.
Incidents like this could happen when your experience with the new automatic feeder is not long enough to detect them on time and fix them.
4. Cats are very versatile animals
With some good exceptions, it seems like human being cannot keep up with cat's versatility when it comes to create automatic feeders. You can buy the best one on the market but there is not foolproof automatic cat feeder if your cat is smart enough or very determined to get extra food from it.
Before buying an automatic feeder for your pet, keep in mind that there is a real risk of your cat trying to break into the feeder. Usually, cats are very obsessed with food and you will have to teach your pet to respect the automatic feeder from the outset and discourage it from trying to break into it.
There are breeds like the Bengal or Siamese that could more likely try to manipulate the unit to get extra food from it, but this isn't 100% true either because all cats have their individual personalities. You better than anyone knows how your cat is. To give you an idea, if your cat is smart enough to open doors or manipulate things in general with its paws, then you need to get an automatic feeder with extra protection. Fortunately, there is one brand on the market that is foolproof for very smart and versatile cats.
5. Some automatic pet feeders do not offer good warranty
This is the last factor and the most important. Some automatic feeders offer very limited warranties that are not long enough. Make sure the automatic feeder has at least a one-year warranty before buying it.
Finally, it is highly recommended to ask a friend to check on your cat every other day or so to make sure your pet will be OK.