If you are rudely torn from your slumber each morning by a hangry meow, or you’re worried about your faithful canine’s rumbling belly when you have to work overtime, you may appreciate the benefits of an automatic pet feeder. Petsafe’s second-generation Smart Feed Automatic Dog and Cat Feeder costs nearly $200, but it’s packed with features, including smartphone connectivity, and it offers a fairly versatile set of scheduling options. I tested it out for a week with my cat, Bodhi, to see how well it works.
Easy set up
This is a fairly bulky device, so you’re going to need a suitable space in your kitchen for it — and your chosen spot also needs to be within reach of a power outlet.
The Petsafe feeder was a breeze to set up: Take it apart, wash and dry the components, put them back, and plug it in. You open the lid and pour kibble into the hopper, and there’s a kind of conveyor belt with sections for individual portions. You can dump a portion into the stainless steel bowl that’s provided by pressing the button on the top.
To take advantage of the smart features, you need to install the Smart Feed app for Android or iOS. It requires an Android phone running Android 6.0 or later or an iPhone running iOS 9 or later. It prompts you to connect to the feeder and then give it internet access through your Wi-Fi network. I used a Pixel 3 and had it up and running in a couple of minutes. I also tested it with an iPhone X, and was able to connect to the feeder without issues.
The SmartFeed app
It’s a bare-bones piece of software, but the Smart Feed app seems to work as promised. It opens to a big feed button you can tap to dump a portion of kibble into the bowl whenever you like. What’s even more interesting is the scheduling feature, which allows you to set up as many as 12 meal times. You also specify the amount of food in each meal, from one-eighth of a cup, all the way up to four cups. The feeder holds a maximum of 24 cups of dry food.
There’s also a slow feed option in the app, which allows meals larger than one eighth of a cup to be portioned out over 15 minutes. It’s ideal for cats or dogs who are in the habit of wolfing their dinner down so quickly that it comes straight back up. The app also offers a child lock option that disables the button on the top of the feeder.
You can review all the meals that have been delivered, so you can work out exactly how much your pet is eating. The app notifies you when the food level is running low and when the hopper is empty.
Using the feeder
In typical cat style, Bodhi was instantly curious about the feeder and had a good sniff at it. When the first portion of food tumbled into the bowl, he jumped in shock, but his trepidation was soon overcome by the need to eat and he’s been using it quite happily. I scheduled two meals a day, one at 7 a.m. and one at 5 p.m., but Bodhi is used to grazing and we generally keep his kibble topped up. The feeder frees us from the need to do that, and if the bowl is ever empty, we can always tap the button on the top or in the app. While it’s nice not to have to keep topping off his bowl, it hardly justifies the purchase price of nearly $200.
The disappointing thing about the Petsafe feeder, and the reason that I still wake up to finger and elbow nibbling every morning, is that it doesn’t deal with wet food. Petsafe suggests that the feeder’s “food conveyor dispenses most shapes and sizes of dry and semi-moist food,” but I’m not clear on what “semi-moist food” is exactly. I definitely wouldn’t put wet cat food in it, as I’m sure it would clog and get dirty.
Bodhi is on a mixed diet. If your pet is on a dry food only diet, then I can see the Petsafe feeder being a lot more useful. It is also nice as a fallback for when you’re running late, and you may even choose to use it when you’re away overnight to ensure your pet is fed.
The stainless bowl is quite large and it sits in a special holder that ensures your pet doesn’t move the bowl away from the dispenser. Cats aren’t liable to do this, and I’m sure it’s fine with small or even medium-size dogs, but if you have a large dog, I wouldn’t be massively surprised if it managed to tip the feeder over and get at the goodies within. Indeed, Petsafe says it works best with cats or medium-size dogs.
All the components inside are dishwasher safe, which is a bonus, and it’s very easy to take apart and put back together again. There’s also a battery backup, so you can put four D-cell batteries in to ensure it still works even if there’s a power outage.
There’s mention of Alexa support, so you can ask your Amazon Echo to feed your pet, but I searched for an Alexa skill in vain, only to discover that this feature is coming soon — perhaps they shouldn’t advertise it yet then?
Alexa aside, the Petsafe Smart Feeder seems to do exactly what it sets out to do and I haven’t experienced any issues with it yet. I personally wouldn’t spend as much as $200 on a feeder like this, but I can see it being worth the investment for some people. Now, if Petsafe can create a feeder that copes with wet food, that’s a different matter.
You can buy the Petsafe Smart Feed Automatic Dog and Cat Feeder at Amazon for $190 right now.