Should I Get My Cat an Automatic Feeder?

Find yourself staying late at the office more so than not? Have a cat that's on a strict eating schedule that doesn't exactly work with your own? Or, honestly, just don't feel like scooping food into your cat's dish every day? If any of these sounds like you, an automatic cat feeder may be just what you need to make life a little more manageable. But which type of feeder would be best for your needs, and will your cat even benefit from having one?

Cute tabby cat looking to the camera and waiting for food. High angle view with copy space.
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What are automatic cat feeders?

An automatic cat feeder is just that — a device that dispenses food automatically for your cat to eat. While there are hundreds of different cat feeders to choose from out there on the market, automatic feeders generally come in two different delivery styles: programmable, and gravity. Gravity feeders come with a food tray for your cat to eat out of, and a container of food that dispenses the kibble into the dish. Using gravity, these feeders add more food to the dish once some has been removed from it, essentially providing an endless amount of food for your cat to enjoy.

The other style of automatic cat feeders is a bit more advanced. Programmable feeders dispense a specific amount of food at certain times of the day. Some programmable feeders rely on a timer that you set to release food on your cat's feeding schedule, much like setting your coffee maker to be ready before you are in the morning. Other feeders use more advanced technology to dispense cat food, from an app on your cell phone to your cat's own microchip, according to a handy breakdown of the best automatic cat feeders from Mashable. Most feeders only dispense dry food, but there are some out there that make feeding your cat wet food while you're away possible as well.

automatic pet feeder isolated on white background with Clipping Path
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Is an automatic feeder right for you?

These days, we can have our food ready before we arrive to pick it up, heat our cars from inside of our homes so they're warm when we get in them and have just about anything under the sun delivered to our doorstep. Why are these things so appealing? Convenience! And for many, that's the name of the game when it comes to adding an automatic feeder to your cat care routine. Having a preset feeder can limit the number of times you have to feed your cat from once or twice a day to once a week, or even longer, depending on the size.

Additionally, automatic cat feeders can come in handy for anyone who simply isn't home often enough to feed their cat on a regular basis — be that because you have things to do right after work, or you tend to be out of town quite a bit. While an automatic feeder definitely needs it's own maintenance and refiling, having one will require less effort on a daily basis and can offer more flexibility while still making sure your cat's dietary needs are being met.

Which cats would benefit from an automatic feeder?

Almost any cat that eats a diet consisting of processed dry food will benefit from an automatic feeder, however, certain cats will do better with varieties suited toward them. A gravity feeder is a fine choice for cats who tend to self-regulate their own diets, but if you have a cat who will overeat if given the opportunity, these types of feeders may not be for you. Because gravity feeders automatically refill a dish when it's empty, your cat could end up eating more than he needs to, which can lead to health complications such as obesity or diabetes. Overeaters and cats on strict diets, for whatever reason, would do better with a programmable feeder, which can dispense only the amount you measure for your cat to consume at certain times of the day.

Grey tabby cat eat food from bowl on white
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In addition to overeaters, some other cats may not benefit much from an automatic feeder. According to Business Insider, who listed some of the top feeders along with the pros and cons of each, kittens, skittish cats, and felines on a wet diet may do better with standard bowls. Smaller cats, kittens, or any cats with physical limitations may find the feeding trays on most feeders to large to reach, and anxious cats or cats who are easily scared by loud noises may not take to the whirrs, hums, and motorized sounds of such contraptions. Additionally, some feeders won't support certain sizes of kibble, but with enough out there to choose from you should be able to find your match, just keep this detail in mind when shopping for yours.