Last Updated on: November 27, 2020
Automatic cat feeders are devices you can set to dispense food to your cat. They consist of a bowl, a food reservoir, and a control system that puts a pre-programmed amount of food into the bowl.
Although they might seem like nothing more than gadgets for humans to save a little bit of time, these miracle inventions are helpful in all sorts of situations. If you’re away from home, automatic feeders keep your cat fed on schedule. It’s a lot better than what we used to do — leave all the food out at once, running the risk that our kitty would gorge herself and then go hungry.
Auto-feeders are also more precise than humans. If your cat needs to be on a specific diet, an automatic feeder will never forget and your cat will get food at the same healthy rate every day. Check out our reviews to learn which automatic cat feeder deserves your money in 2020.
A Quick Look at our Favorite Picks in 2021
|Best Overall||Cat Mate Programmable||
|Best Value||Van Ness||
|Premium Choice||SureFeed Microchip||
|PetSafe Eatwell 5-Meal||
The 10 Best Automatic Cat Feeders
1. Cat Mate C3000 Programmable Dry Food Feeder – Best Overall
The Cat Mate C3000 is our favorite all-around automatic cat feeder. Others might be cheaper or have more features, but the C3000 offers the best balance by far. It’s fully programmable for up to three meals per day, each of which can be served over the course of several hours using the “frequent feed” feature.
Programming happens through an LED control panel that’s no more complicated than a digital clock. You can adjust the mass of each meal individually, and advance meal times earlier whenever you need to. We tested a few different volumes and found that the C3000 was always accurate to within a quarter-teaspoon.
Ease of use doesn’t stop at the control panel, either. The entire system is dishwasher-safe, from the upper lid down to the bowl. The food hopper can hold enough kibble for an entire month. It’s also totally pet-proof, so your cat won’t be able to game the system to get more food. And did we mention it also works for small dogs?
The only issue with the pet-proof design is that the buttons are hard for humans to push as well. Dispensing is also a bit loud, which can be surprising for jumpier cats.
2. Van Ness Auto Feeder – Best Value
The Van Ness Auto Feeder, an extremely simple design that’s available in two sizes, is the best automatic cat feeder for the money.
Instead of being run on a computer-driven system like the Cat Mate C3000, the Van Ness feeder just has three parts: a bowl, a clear plastic hopper, and a removable lid. The hopper has a small hole in the bottom, just large enough to let through a trickle of dry food at a time. As your cat eats, more kibbles fall into the bowl to replace the ones consumed. When the level gets low, just remove the lid and pour in more.
This makes the Van Ness Auto Feeder useless in certain situations. If you’re worried about your cat’s weight, this won’t do anything to control their diet. Similarly, if your cat eats too fast and hurts themselves, nothing in this feeder will stop that behavior. There’s also no adjustability — the hole is one size, so there’s only one feeding rate.
However, if the only thing you need to do is make sure your cat’s food supply lasts throughout your long weekend out of town, this is easily the cheapest, most convenient solution on the market.
3. SureFeed Microchip Cat Feeder – Premium Choice
Let’s jump to the other end of the spectrum, and check out a high-priced, microchip-powered cat feeder that offers premium quality. If you’ve ever wondered how to make an automatic feeder work for multiple cats, the SureFeed Microchip Cat Feeder is the answer.
If you have two or more cats, and some of them like to steal food from the others, SureFeed’s technology puts a stop to that. The lock is keyed to a specific cat’s microchip, and will only open if it senses that cat coming. You can set it to recognize up to 32 different microchips, and decide whether it will open for each one.
Since it’s not a gravity feeder, it’s simple to fill with wet food, dry food, or a mixture. When closed, the lid forms an airtight seal that keeps food fresh.
While SureFeed is an awesome advancement in cat feeding technology, there are some loopholes in security. Thief cats can sometimes snag food through blind spots on the side of the bowl, and by approaching, can close the lid on the allowed cat while its head is still underneath. It’s not heavy or painful, but it makes mealtime obnoxious for the good-guy cat.
4. PetSafe Eatwell 5-Meal Automatic Pet Feeder
The PetSafe 5-Meal auto-feeder takes an interesting design approach. It consists of five wedge-shaped bowls arranged to form a complete circle. The circular serving dish is sealed under a lid with one hole, which is exactly the size of a single bowl. At the appointed time, the dish rotates to reveal the next meal.
Of course, this means you can only fill the bowls with five meals at a time, but with twice-daily feedings, that’s enough for a long weekend. It’s also simple to program. Since you control the meal sizes manually, all you have to do is plug in the feeding times, and you’re ready to go.
We really like the consistency this feeder introduces into a cat’s life. With mealtimes more certain, they’re likely to spend much less time bothering you for food. But there are also some downsides.
With no gravity mechanism, you’d think you could fill the bowls with wet food, but that’s not the case: the lid doesn’t form a complete seal, so wet food dries out before it’s served. Also, the motor that turns the wheel occasionally doesn’t work — make sure you test it before you leave your pet alone with this feeder.
5. Arf Pets Automatic Cat Feeder
The Arf Pets Automatic Feeder is a high-end product with a detachable, washable bowl. Its sleek food hopper locks with a pet-proof seal and can hold up to 1.14 gallons of dry food. This is another feeder you program using an LED display, but it adds a lot of options that haven’t appeared so far on this list.
For example, while most other powered auto-feeders require batteries, the Arf Pets feeder can be plugged in. It has an alarm that beeps when you need to refill the food reservoir and even gives you the option to record a message calling your cat to dinner (not that you’ll need it after they hear the kibbles clattering).
You can schedule up to 4 feedings per day, though there’s not an option to spread out individual meals for diabetic cats. Meal sizes are programmed in 24 mL portions, which you can have between 1 and 10 of per meal.
We wish this feeder was see-through. A bigger problem, though, is that it doesn’t work well in the long term. The longer you use it, the shakier the trapdoor becomes until it becomes easy for cats to dispense food just by bumping it.
6. PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Programmable Pet Feeder
PetSafe, creators of our number four pick, score a more mixed success with the Healthy Pet Simply Feed. This programmable, electric-powered feeder uses a conveyer belt to achieve near-exact portion sizes and allows you to schedule up to 12 meals every day.
The Simply Feed is a clear pack leader in terms of features and flexibility. Portion sizes can range from 1/8 of a cup to 4 cups. If your cat suffers digestive trouble from eating too quickly, you can make any meal a “slow feed,” dispensing the portion over 15 minutes.
The included bowl isn’t attached, which is a double-edged sword: you can put it in the dishwasher, but your cat can also nudge it wherever they feel like. The translucent hopper is also a mixed bag — it looks nice, but it’s hard to get a clear view through the black tint.
Some flaws are clearer. All the options are crammed into an unclear user interface that makes setup a hassle. Also, neither power source is included, requiring you to buy batteries or an adapter on top of this feeder’s already-steep price. Finally, cats might be scared by the loud sound of kibble falling on the tin bowl.
7. Frisco Gravity Refill Pet Feeder
The Frisco Gravity Refill Pet Feeder is another no-frills auto-feeder without any moving parts. Like the Van Ness Auto Feeder, our number two pick, the Frisco is just a hopper, a slot, and a bowl. Such a simple product earns its value pretty much entirely through low price, and since this one is more expensive than it needs to be, we’ve ranked it several places lower.
It’s definitely user-friendly. Just fill the tank with your desired amount of food, then top it up as it gets low. With built-in handles, you can move this feeder around your house even when it’s full. The wide slot helps you access every part of the reservoir for easy cleaning.
It’s also watertight, so you can use it to give your cat a fresh water supply. We like that it’s made out of recycled materials in the USA. A trade-off we don’t like — food frequently gets stuck in the opening.
No amount of American-made quality can overcome the fact that gravity pet feeders just aren’t that useful. If your cat overeats, or always finishes what’s in the bowl no matter how much is there, this feeder won’t change anything for either you or them.
8. Aspen Pet LeBistro Programmable Pet Feeder
The Aspen Pet LeBistro cat feeder uses design cues similar to our top pick, the Cat Mate C3000. It also consists of a container of food that falls through a trapdoor, at a frequency programmed through a digital control panel. It likewise has a dishwasher-safe removable bowl, though none of the other parts are easily washed.
So why have we put the LeBistro at number eight, and the C3000 at number one? We praised the C3000 for its ability to finely control portion sizes down to the grain. To put it bluntly, the Aspen LeBistro can’t do that. We tried it out by setting two LeBistros next to each other, and found that when set to dispense the same amount of kibble, they differed by as much as half a cup.
Another issue is that the LeBistro can be manipulated by determined cats. Whereas the C3000 rebuffed kitties who stuck their paws up the delivery chute, the LeBistro spills extra kibble right away. As if that wasn’t enough, we also discovered that it dispenses food randomly at non-programmed times.
The LeBistro is a popular automatic feeder that does satisfy some cats, but it’s far too flawed for us to recommend. Save your money.
9. Cat Mate C20 2-Bowl Automatic Pet Feeder
Cat Mate is responsible for our top pick this time around, but the C20 doesn’t live up to the potential of the C3000. It strips away the C3000’s best functions without significantly lowering the price. It has two large bowls that can hold wet or dry food, each which have their own programmable lids, meaning you can stagger mealtimes for one cat or feed two at once.
An ice pack keeps the food from going bad if you’ll be leaving it overnight. Beware, though, that in tests, the ice pack only stayed cold for around 8 hours. If you need a short-term solution — for example, if your cat whines to be fed at dawn every morning — the C20 will work fine. However, having only two bowls severely limits what it can do.
That restricted functionality is compounded by the often-faulty mechanism. Much of the time, the timer ticks down, but then fails to open the door. Sometimes only one of the doors opens, and sometimes neither. You might have to open the doors yourself, which defeats the purpose of having an auto-feeder at all.
Cat Mate can do better. Don’t trust your kitties’ happiness to this.
10. DOGNESS Automatic Cat Smart Feeder
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Why can’t my cat’s food bowl connect to my WiFi?” You haven’t? Good, neither have we. Or anybody else we’ve met, except the good folks at DOGNESS.
This “smart feeder” uses WiFi to connect with an app on your phone, which you can use to dispense food remotely from anywhere with a signal. It comes with a night-vision camera that you can use to keep an eye on your cat through the app, and a voice recorder so you can speak to them from a distance while they eat. Instead of using the app, you can also program mealtimes, as in a more traditional feeder.
Sounds awesome, right? It is, until you realize the feeder is useless without a connection to both your phone and your home WiFi network. You’d expect an auto-feeder that costs this much to connect to both without incident, but in reality, the DOGNESS smart feeder fails to connect with phones and WiFi on a regular basis.
If it doesn’t connect, your cat doesn’t eat. Moreover, the app is a slapped-together mess: it often shows that it dispensed food when it didn’t. And customer service is unreachable.
As you can see from the list above, there are a lot of products called “automatic cat feeders,” and lots of them don’t have much in common. To determine what sort of automatic cat feeder you need, always ask the following questions.
1. How long do you need your cat to be fed?
Some automatic cat feeders can hold up to a month’s worth of food, while others hold as little as two meals’ worth. The former is good for if you plan to be away for a long time, while the latter is good for either days or nights — say, if your cat wakes you up too early by meowing at the bedroom door.
Of course, long-term feeders can be used for shorter than the maximum time, but only if you’re comfortable with your cat having free access to unlimited food.
2. What health needs does your cat have?
If your cat eats too much and is getting overweight, or if they eat too fast and have digestive troubles, you’ll want a feeder that controls how much they can get, and when. Conversely, if your cat is diabetic, get a feeder that lets them eat at frequent, vet-recommended intervals.
3. What food does your cat like?
Most automatic feeders can only hold dry food. If your cats turn up their noses at kibble, look for a feeder like the SureFeed Microchip that can serve wet food.
4. How many cats do you own?
If you have more than one cat, chances are one of them likes to steal everybody’s food. If that’s true, consider a microchip feeder, which will only open for the cats you choose.
5. Do you really need all the fancy features?
Feed and Go pioneered the automatic pet feeders when they introduced Wifi, webcam functionality, and an app for your phone. However, before you buy a smart feeder, determine if you really need these features. Are they crucial for you and your cat’s needs, or is it just a fancy gimmick?
We take pride in having actual pets help us conduct our reviews. When we tell you a product is worth buying, it’s not just because it will solve your problems, but because it will make your best friends happy.
The Cat Mate C3000 is that kind of product. This automatic feeder has all the features you’ll ever need. Multiple meals, slow feeds, easy dishwashing — it’s all here. And nobody was able to beat their precise portion sizes.
If the C3000 is too pricy, however, we recommend the Van Ness Auto Feeder as our best-value pick. It’s not fancy or technologically advanced, but it’s the best way we know of to portion out food for your cat over several days.
If you’ve bought one of these feeders and loved or hated it, tell us the story in the comments below!
Check out more of our reviews on cat products:
Roland has been an animal lover all his life, with cats holding a special place in his heart. He is owned by three felines: Wheely, KitzKitz, and Nugget (all rescues) who bring all the laughter and mischievousness one can expect from the feline master race. As the creator of ExcitedCats, his mission is to assist in the search for the best gear to help improve the health and wellbeing of cats everywhere.
- A Quick Look at our Favorite Picks in 2021
- The 10 Best Automatic Cat Feeders
- 1. Cat Mate C3000 Programmable Dry Food Feeder – Best Overall
- 2. Van Ness Auto Feeder – Best Value
- 3. SureFeed Microchip Cat Feeder – Premium Choice
- 4. PetSafe Eatwell 5-Meal Automatic Pet Feeder
- 5. Arf Pets Automatic Cat Feeder
- 6. PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Programmable Pet Feeder
- 7. Frisco Gravity Refill Pet Feeder
- 8. Aspen Pet LeBistro Programmable Pet Feeder
- 9. Cat Mate C20 2-Bowl Automatic Pet Feeder
- 10. DOGNESS Automatic Cat Smart Feeder
- Buyer’s Guide