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How Do Gravity Cat Feeders Work? Pros, Cons & Price Guide

Pet care has gotten more involved and complicated as time goes on, and as we learn more about how to optimally care for our pets.

Cats are naturally more independent than dogs and able to go longer periods without their human than their canine counterparts. Because of this, people began developing different types of automatic feeders for when pet owners are kept away from their favorite feline by long work hours or days of travel. These feeders can come in handy, but should only be used as an adjunct to human interaction and care—not as a substitute.

Gravity feeders are one type of automatic feeder that has attracted a number of users. Gravity feeders automatically refill the food bowl from a storage container above whenever there is space for food to drop down.  This article will further explain how they work, what the advantages and disadvantages of gravity feeders are, as well as compare them to other types of automatic feeders.

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How Do Gravity Feeders Work?

Gravity feeders are a popular type of automatic feeder used for cats. They are budget-friendly and widely available both online and in stores. Gravity feeders take advantage of, you guessed it, gravity to automatically refill a bowl from a storage container whenever space is made in the bowl. As your cat eats, gravity feeders automatically replace the kibble.

Gravity feeders offer convenience and reassurance for busy cat owners who may work long hours or travel regularly, but they have some drawbacks as well. Gravity feeders are usually made of plastic, making them easy to keep clean, and hold between one and three pounds of food.

There are also gravity water dispensers that work in the same way. Gravity feeders do not need to be plugged in, nor do they use batteries—making them useful both indoors and outdoors.

cat with an automatic feeder
Image Credit: Chewy

What Are Some Different Types of Feeders Besides Gravity Feeders?

If you’re looking for something beyond the basic utility of a gravity feeder, there are a range of power-based options available to meet your cat’s needs.

  • Electronic Feeders: These feeders have programmable timers that can dispense a predetermined amount of food at set times of the day or night. Some models can dispense both dry, moist, and wet food and allow for portion control. Many electronic feeders are controlled using apps, so you can make changes to the programming anywhere you have your phone.
  • Microchip Feeders: These feeders are designed to work with microchip technology and are especially useful for multi-cat households. These feeders use your cat’s microchip (worn on a collar) to identify them and dispense food only to that specific cat. This helps prevent curb overeating and ensures that each cat gets the right amount of food that they need.
  • Slow Feeders: These feeders are designed to slow down your cat’s eating speed. Some cats will wolf down their meal with gusto and end up with gastrointestinal distress. Slow feeders often have obstacles or ridges inside the bowl that force your cat to eat more slowly, which can help prevent vomiting, bloating, and other digestive issues.
  • Wet Food Dispensers: These feeders are specifically designed to dispense wet food. They typically use ice packs or other cooling mechanisms to keep the food fresh for longer.
  • Combination Feeders: These feeders combine different types of feeders. For example, they may have a gravity feeder for dry food and an electronic feeder for wet food.

Where Are Gravity Cat Feeders Used?

Gravity feeders are particularly useful and popular because they can be used in houses, apartments, or even outside on a deck or a balcony. They do not need to be plugged in, nor do they need batteries. Gravity feeders are a great option for multi-cat households, as they feed continuously throughout the day. However, be mindful of keeping them out of reach of any dogs or other pets that live in the home, as cat food may upset their stomach!

Cat eating on SureFeed Microchip Cat Feeder
Image Credit: Chewy

Advantages of Gravity Feeders

If you need a low-cost way to ensure your cat gets their meals on time, look no further than a basic gravity feeder. They’re easy to clean, require no set-up, and only take up a small amount of space. If you work long hours or are going out of town, and just want to ensure your cat has access to food at all times, a gravity feeder should meet your needs.

Disadvantages of Gravity Feeders

The biggest drawback to using an automatic feeder is that the amount of food your cat has access to cannot be controlled. Some cats will happily eat whenever food is available—they are opportunistic eaters! A gravity feeder is a poor match for cats who tend to overeat, as obesity is linked to several health problems in cats. They’re also a poor match for cats who eat too quickly and end up with stomach pains or vomiting up their food.

Gravity feeders can become easy to rely on as an everyday feeding system, which is not at all how they were intended to be used. According to Wirecutter/NYT, no type of automatic feeder should substitute for human interaction and in-person care for your cat. Your cat wants to be connected and in a relationship with their humans, and meal times can be something that is a bonding experience for you and your cat.

And of course, if you are going out of town, there should be a trusted person or professional providing your cat the kind of care a gravity feeder simply can’t. They should never be used as a fill-in pet sitter.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Gravity Feeders Appropriate for Multiple Cats?

Yes, but with some caveats. If your cats eat peaceably together, and mealtime doesn’t devolve into a turf war, your cats will be fine sharing a feeder. Be sure to buy one with a hopper big enough to hold enough kibble for all your furry friends.

My Budget Is Tight. Aren’t Automatic Feeders Really Expensive?

If you’re pinching pennies, a gravity feeder is the best choice from the available options. With a price point of around $20 USD, they are affordable, durable, easy to clean and you don’t have to worry about buying a replacement due to a technology malfunction.

My Cat Has Some Health Problems. Can I Still Use A Gravity Feeder?

The ultimate resource to address this concern would be your vet, who can better assess your cat’s particular health issues. As gravity feeders do not control portions, if your vet recommended specific portion sizes for your kitty, you should probably not use a gravity feeder. They also won’t work well for cats who get overly excited about their food and gorge themselves; you may come home to some vomit to clean up!

yellow sad sick cat
Image Credit: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock


A Quick Reference Guide to Automatic Feeders

Gravity Feeders Power-Based (Plug-In or Battery Operated) Feeders
Budget-friendly (typically $15–$30) More expensive (typically $55–$350)
Cannot be programmed, bowl automatically refills as food is consumed Amount of food and when it is dispensed is programmable and can be monitored
Cat can overeat Cat cannot overeat
No technology needed/used Often controlled with apps
Only dispenses dry food Some models can dispense dry, moist, or wet food
Can be kept outdoors Better kept indoors

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Gravity feeders are an inexpensive and handy device that automatically dispenses kibble for cats. They can be very useful in certain situations and, like anything, they have both advantages and disadvantages.

Be sure to research the different kinds of automatic feeders out there before making the best choice for you and your cat(s). And keep in mind that no automatic feeder should be a substitute for hands-on care and attention from you and other trusted people.

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Featured Image Credit: Kylbabka, Shutterstock