Automatic feeders for pets

Busy schedule? Automatic feeders ensure your animals stay fed and hydrated while you’re out.

Dogs and cats like routine. They like to eat at the same times every day. Trouble is, life often gets in the way, our schedules get disrupted, and meals don’t always happen when they’re supposed to. If you’re like a lot of busy pet parents, you worry when you can’t get home to feed your dog or cat on time. Investing in an automatic food dispenser and water fountain is one way to help eliminate that worry. Automatic feeders are designed to dispense preset quantities of food at certain times, while fountains offer a continuous supply of fresh aerated water.

A variety of excellent automatic feeders and water fountains are available, but they’re not all made the same. Along with ensuring you’re getting a quality system, you also have to consider your companion’s needs. Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking for a unit.

• Choose a product made from high quality durable materials. Avoid models made from cheap plastics. Plastic scratches easily, harbors bacteria and can cause allergic reactions in many animals, especially cats.

• Look for models that encase moving parts so inquisitive paws aren’t caught and injured.

• Make sure the unit is easy to clean.

• It should include a fail-safe back-up system. This is a very important consideration in case of power failure.

• Many feeders accommodate dry food only. Be sure to avoid cheap commercial kibble and choose a premium product made from high quality meat-based ingredients.

• The 8 Day Autopetfeeder from Ergo Systems is one unit that can be used for dry and/or canned food. The unit comes with ice packs that sit between the base and bowl to keep canned food fresh for up to 12 hours.

• Animals are smart, especially where food is concerned, so look for a product that isn’t easy for paws to open. Animal lover Scott McIlomaarky was inspired to create the Perfect Petfeeder when his two cats became expert at opening the compartments of other feeders. They would quickly deplete the entire food source and that didn’t do much for their waistlines. “There was an acute need to get our beloved cats to a reasonable, healthy weight,” says Scott. The Perfect Petfeeder is especially designed to prevent animals from opening it up and accessing the reservoir of food.

• If you have a multi-animal household, you’ll want a system that can feed more than one at a time. Another of Scott’s motivations for designing his own system was that he needed a unit that would feed both his kitties; the Perfect Petfeeder can be configured to feed two dogs or cats at the same time. “We have a lot of customers who choose to purchase multiple units when one of their animals is on a special diet or they simply do not get along eating side-by-side.”

• Find out how many feedings a day the system can dispense and how it can be timed and programmed. “We set out to develop a system that could dispense very small portions, allowing us to spread out our cats’ daily allowance throughout the day,” says Scott. If your animal is diabetic and must eat controlled amounts of food every few hours, you’ll need to invest in a system that can be programmed as needed. Furry Feeder makes an electronic feeder that will dispense small measured food portions up to 14 times a day.

• Some units offer additional features. For example, the Perfect Petfeeder has a sensor that will sound when the food chamber is low.

• Many veterinarians recommend investing in a fountain, especially for cats. Notorious for their low thirst drive, cats are very picky about the freshness of their water. Water that sits in a bowl quickly becomes stagnant and cats are easily turned off. The goal is to encourage cats to drink so they are adequately hydrated. Petmate’s Fresh Flow Pet Fountain and the Catit Drinking Fountain by Hagen for Pets both have a large reservoir that enhances water oxygenation and continually circulates the water to keep it fresh. The level of water in the Fresh Flow can be adjusted to suit a cat’s comfort level. The water runs down a little slide into the reservoir, creating an additional source of interest for many cats.

• Good quality feeders and fountains range between $80 to over $100.

A busy lifestyle means your schedule can be unpredictable. An automatic feeder and water fountain ensure your dog or cat won’t be left waiting for his meals when you can’t get home on time. And it can save his life if a crisis hits and you’re unexpectedly kept away for a few days. Knowing your beloved companion has access to food and water, no matter what, means one big worry off your plate!