The 3 best automatic cat feeders in 2021 for wet and dry food

  • With the ability to dispense multiple meals per day, large-capacity automatic feeders take the work out of feeding a cat.
  • We tested seven automatic cat feeders including large-capacity kibble dispensers and small-capacity devices for wet food.
  • The best automatic cat feeder is the large-capacity Feeder Robot, which has a user-friendly control panel and smart capabilities.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Sorin McKnight, DVM, a veterinarian at Wellborn Road Veterinary Medical Center in College Station, Texas. The purpose of this medical review is to ensure accuracy and does not imply any product endorsements or recommendations.

Cats may not be as food-obsessed as dogs, but anyone who’s ever lived with one knows that mealtime is serious business. If you’re running late or forget to put out dinner, most cats won’t hesitate to inform you — loudly.

Whether your pet wakes you up at the crack of dawn for breakfast, prefers to eat multiple small meals a day, or is in need of stricter monitoring of their food intake, automatic pet feeders can take the work out of feeding a cat. And if you need to be away overnight, they’ll keep your loved one from going hungry.

There is quite a bit of variation in automatic cat feeders. Most large-capacity feeders are fitted with an internal hopper that turns to dispense dry or semi-moist kibble into a dish below. Others feature a tray that rotates or a lid that pops open to reveal kibble or wet food at designated times or for designated pets. We tested seven automatic feeders with two cats to determine which were easiest for both human and feline to navigate. Read more about our testing methodology at the end of this guide.

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Here are the best automatic feeders for cats

  • Best automatic cat feeder overall: Litter-Robot Feeder-Robot
  • Best automatic cat feeder on a budget: Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Feeder
  • Best automatic cat feeder for wet food: Sure Petcare Surefeed Connect Microchip Feeder

Updated on 03/05/2021: We rewrote this guide after extensive research, interviews with veterinarians, and product testing.

The best automatic cat feeder overall

The WiFi-enabled Litter-Robot Feeder-Robot is super easy to program and its app can be used to set and track multiple feedings daily.

Pros: WiFi-enabled, large capacity, programmable via control panel or app, money-back guarantee, warranty

Cons: Less than 24 hours of backup battery life, WiFi and power outages prevent data tracking via app

Capacity: 32 cups

Power source: AC power source or backup battery

WiFi enabled: Yes

Control panel on device: Yes

Compatible foods: Dry and semi-moist kibble

Meals per day: Up to 4 or free feed

Dimensions: 13 inches wide, 15 inches high, 12.5 deep; footprint is 9 inches wide, 11.25 deep

Warranty: 90-day money back guarantee, 18-month warranty, extended 3-year warranty ($30)

The large-capacity Feeder-Robot ranked highest in ease of use and functionality. It can be programmed to dispense scheduled feedings or keep the dish full at all times.

This device required little assembly and was easy to connect to WiFi. With the built-in control panel, you can program meals and portion sizes and send a snack. The same functions can be controlled via the app, which also let’s you change the feeding schedule for different days of the week and track how much your pet eats on average per day.

My cats ate from the Feeder-Robot without any trouble and it didn’t jam during testing. Because the dish is wide and shallow, there’s no risk of whisker fatigue. The mechanical whir of the hopper and cascade of kibble that followed were audible from other rooms but weren’t so loud that they startled me.

If the WiFi goes out, the feeder continues to dispense food, but the app stops tracking the meals and snacks dispensed. Unfortunately, I did not receive a push notification when the connection was lost. I had to open the app or look at the feeder’s control panel to see it was offline. When I turned the WiFi back on, the feeder reconnected to the internet within seconds.

A backup battery steps in during power outages. In my test, the battery lasted 21.5 hours instead of the advertised 24 hours. The app also did not notify me when the power went out, so this feeder isn’t a good option if you plan to be away for a long weekend.

Although the Feeder-Robot holds the second largest volume of food of the machines we tested, its footprint is relatively small. It comes with a hand-washable plastic food dish, but a dishwasher-safe glass dish is available for an additional $25.

The best budget automatic cat feeder

The affordable Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Feeder works reliably to dispense up to three programmed meals per day.

Pros: Large capacity, long battery life, 3-year warranty 

Cons: Assembly and programming can be confusing, not WiFi enabled, cats may be able to get into the hopper

Capacity: 26 cups

Power source: 4 C-batteries, not included

WiFi enabled: No

Control panel on device: Yes

Compatible foods: Dry

Meals per day: Up to 3 or on demand

Dimensions: 8 inches wide, 13.5 inches high, 14 inches deep

Warranty: 3 years

If you’re looking for an inexpensive large-capacity feeder, the Cat Mate C3000 is an excellent choice. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it reliably dispenses meals and has an on-demand feeding button. Because it runs on batteries, it also won’t miss a beat if the power goes out.

Of the feeders we tested, this one required the most assembly. Although the instructions were relatively straightforward, I struggled to get the two main pieces in place. My assistant immediately figured out the problem, however, and had the machine ready to go in less than two minutes. Programming the machine wasn’t intuitive either, but the instructions helped.

The smallest meal this machine dispenses is two teaspoons, or a “feed unit.” To increase a meal’s size, you can program additional units. The feeder hummed along day after day reliably dispensing meals without jamming and my tester cats comfortably snarfed up their food.

Thanks to the wide and shallow food dish, sensitive cats won’t experience whisker fatigue. The falling kibble and whirring machine was audible in other rooms of my home but not so loud that it made me jump.

The Cat Mate C3000 is BPA free and everything but the base is dishwasher safe. The batteries will last for six to nine months of continuous use and an indicator flashes when power is running low. Be warned: Unless you change the batteries within a minute, the feeder must be reprogrammed.

Compared to our best overall pick, the Cat Mate C3000 is less sturdy and a curious, problem-solving cat may be able to unlock the lid. However, the feeder performed its job just as well as its competitors. Whether you plan to use it daily or just for long weekends away, the Cat Mate C3000 is a great deal.

The best automatic cat feeder for wet food

The Surefeed Connect Microchip Feeder tracks an individual cat’s eating habits while protecting food from unauthorized household pets.

Pros: Tracks portions and feeding frequency; prevents unauthorized pets from stealing food; holds wet food, semi-moist food, or kibble; battery-operated; comes with a 3-year warranty

Cons: Automatic lid may startle some cats, hub must be connected via ethernet cable and placed within 30 feet of feeder to enable WiFi, batteries not included

Capacity: 1.6 cups

Power source: Feeder requires 4 C-batteries, not included. Hub requires AC power source.

WiFi enabled: Yes

Control panel on device: Yes

Compatible foods: Dry, wet, and semi-moist

Meals per day: On demand

Dimensions: 9 inches wide, 11 inches high, 12.5 inches deep

Warranty: 3 years

The cleverly designed Surefeed Connect Microchip Feeder doesn’t hold a lot of food, but its genius lies in how it prevents unauthorized pets from stealing what’s there while monitoring how much authorized pets eat.

By synching with a cat’s existing microchip or the included RFID collar tag, the feeder only lifts its lid when an authorized pet approaches, then closes when they walk away. The device can store up to 32 different identities so you can track food intake for multiple cats.

The Surefeed’s basic functions are controlled with buttons on the device and it also operates in concert with an ethernet-connected hub and app. The app is not as useful as those of other feeders: It primarily tracks how frequently and how much a pet eats, but you cannot program additional pets or open and close the device.

When disconnected from WiFi, the only thing that stops working is the tracking. Although the app sends a notification each time a pet eats, it did not inform me when the connection was lost. The feeder has a battery life of approximately six months and there’s a low battery indicator light.

Because of the way the lid rises, sensitive cats may struggle with the Surefeed. It is nearly silent, but the lid’s sudden lift and folding motion startled my tester cat. Fortunately, there is a training mode for acclimating hesitant cats.

It’s important to note that pets without a microchip who cannot wear a collar to hang the RFID tag will not be able to use this machine. If the tag is lost, which my cat accomplished in just a month, you can buy a two-pack of replacement tags.

The Surefeed comes with two hand-wash only BPA-free plastic bowls and a mat. The bowls and mat are available in additional colors and the bowls also come in stainless steel.

If you don’t need to monitor your pet’s consumption, Surefeed sells a less expensive machine, the Surefeed Microchip Feeder, that lacks the weighing and tracking functionality provided by the Connect.

For more on the Surefeed Connect Microchip Feeder, read our full review.

How we tested

We tested each of the seven automatic pet feeders in this guide for a minimum of three weeks. One, the Surefeed Connect Microchip Feeder, went through a six-week testing period that resulted in a full-length review. In addition to monitoring the reliability of each feeder, I also considered the following:

Ease of assembly: Some of the feeders arrived almost fully assembled while others required some effort to put together. I assessed how quickly and easily I was able to set up each feeder, including whether I had to purchase batteries. For the smart-enabled devices, I determined how quickly and easily the feeder connected to WiFi and its mobile app.

Ease of programming: The control panels on each device varied significantly. I considered how complicated they were to use by programming each to dispense three meals per day. I also looked at whether the size of a meal could be adjusted from feeding to feeding.

Capacity: Although the automatic feeders we tested have different functions, I measured how much food each machine could hold. For the large-capacity feeders, I also determined whether the machine or, in the case of smart feeders, the app, notified me when the food was running low.

Noise: When the machine dispensed a meal, I evaluated whether just the cats could hear it or if the humans could, too. Some of the feeders were louder than others and some even triggered a startle response in the cats. I also considered whether a feeder could be programmed to play a personalized voice-recording to call my cats to their dinner.

Power and WiFi: Since it’s essential that a feeder reliably dispenses meals even when you’re out of town, I looked at the power supply for each. While some feeders run solely on batteries, others rely on an outlet and have a limited backup battery, if any. I also wanted to know if the smart feeders would continue to work if the WiFi went down and how long it took a feeder to come back online. I tested this by turning off the WiFi several times for anywhere from 5 minutes to 24 hours.

Cat accessibility: A cat needs to feel comfortable eating from an automatic feeder in order for it to do its job. I monitored my two cats to see how easily they were able to access food and whether the machine or its dispensing nozzle got in the way. I also considered the size and shape of each dish, favoring those that were wide and shallow enough to prevent whisker fatigue.

Mobile app: The mobile app for an automatic feeder should be straightforward and easy to use for even the least technologically savvy. I played around in the apps of each smart feeder to determine how challenging it was to schedule meals, send a snack, and/or track my cats’ eating habits. Because an app will not connect to the smart feeder when the WiFi is out, I also looked at whether a feeder had a control panel that could be set and adjusted without internet access.

Ease of cleaning: After testing the machines, I gave each a thorough cleaning, noting which had parts that could be thrown in the dishwasher and which had to be washed by hand or wiped down with a moist cloth.

What else we considered

Petsafe Eatwell 5-Meal Automatic Feeder: While this feeder functioned reliably, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was worth the bother. Because I feed my cats at least three times daily, I had to refill this machine every other day. I’d only recommend it to those who regularly miss mealtimes or plan to be away overnight.

Petsafe Automatic 2-Meal Feeder: This small feeder is a decent budget option for brief trips away from home, but because it can only hold two meals, it’s not a good option for a cat that requires multiple feedings a day or for longer trips away. With no rotating parts or dropping food, it’s much quieter than the other feeders.

Petsafe Smart Feed 2.0 Automatic Feeder: Like the Feeder-Robot, the Smart Feed 2.0 is WiFi-enabled and can be programmed for multiple meals of any size via an app. The biggest problem with this 24-cup feeder is that besides a single on-demand snack button it can only be controlled via app. The machine has no LCD display or other programmable features.

Arf Pets Automatic Feeder: This reasonably priced 16-cup feeder was the only machine that allowed me to record a message calling my kitties to eat. My biggest issue is the way it dispenses the kibble. My cats had no trouble reaching it immediately after dispensing, but when down to the last of the kibble in the dish, they struggled with access, unable to get their bulbous heads up close enough to the well of the machine to eat the food.

What we look forward to testing

New automatic cat feeder models hit the market regularly. We look forward to testing the following recent releases:

Petmate Gamma 2 Nano Automatic Pet Feeder: This large-capacity feeder can be programmed to dispense up to six meals of varying sizes per day. A precision portion control feature weighs the kibble to dispense the correct meal size every time and it has a jam-proof food flow system that automatically fixes any blockages that could cause your cat to miss a meal. 

Pawbo Crunchy Smartphone Controlled Feeder: This space-age looking feeder by Pawbo is WiFi-enabled and holds up to 25 cups of kibble. The Pawbo app allows you to create a customized feeding plan and keeps track of how much and how often your cat eats.

How to shop for an automatic cat feeder

Both of the veterinarians we interviewed agreed that automatic pet feeders are a good option for many families with cats. “Automatic feeders are great for people that work long hours and cannot free feed because the cat overeats or for people that go on short business trips,” said Megan Wilson, a veterinarian at Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia. “It’s also a useful tool to help with portion control if we are trying to maintain and/or lose weight.”

When shopping for an automatic feeder, the first thing to consider is its primary use in your household. If you plan to use an automatic feeder to provide small meals throughout the day or to keep kitty fed during short overnight trips away from home, you’ll need a large-capacity feeder that can hold several meals at a time. If you plan to use an auto-feeder to better monitor your cat’s food intake or help them lose weight, both large- and small-capacity feeders can get the job done.

The capacity of the feeder you choose also depends on the type of food you want to dispense. Large-capacity feeders that release meals from a hopper only work with kibble or soft dry food whereas flat feeders with multiple preportioned compartments, such as the Petsafe Eatwell 5-Meal Feeder, can work with any type of food, including wet options.

With large-capacity kibble feeders, look for a machine that has the ability to dispense multiple small meals daily, which is the preference of most cats, according to Ana Hodgson, a veterinarian at Maryland SPCA in Baltimore. “In the wild, cats are known to eat 10 to 20 small meals a day,” she said.

A good large-capacity feeder should also have some, if not all, of the following features:

  •  A power cord plus a battery in case of power outages
  • A programmable console on the machine
  • Little to no assembly required upon arrival
  • A wide, shallow food dish that slopes toward the cat for easy access and the prevention of whisker fatigue
  • An easy-to-remove washable food dish

A good wet food-capable feeder should have some, if not all, of the following features:

  • A power cord plus a battery in case of power outages
  • The ability to program when each meal will become accessible
  • Little to no assembly upon arrival
  • A wide, shallow food dish that slopes toward the cat for easy access and the prevention of whisker fatigue
  • An easy-to-remove washable food dish

Smart options exist for both large- and small-capacity feeders. WiFi-enabled and mobile app-controlled feeders should have some, if not all, of the following the features:

  • A range of functionality in the app, including the option to schedule multiple daily meals of different sizes
  • The ability to notify you when the food level is low or the machine is offline
  • A control panel on the feeder that can be used if the WiFi connection is lost
  • The ability to track how often and how much your cat eats
  • The ability to send a snack on demand
  • A wide, shallow food dish that slopes toward the cat for easy access and the prevention of whisker fatigue
  • An easy-to-remove washable food dish

Smart automatic feeders vs. dumb automatic feeders

Smart feeders are relatively new to the automatic feeder game. Whereas dumb feeders allow you to program the frequency and size of meals on a control panel embedded in the machine, WiFi-enabled devices pair with a mobile app that allows you to remotely set mealtime, portion size, and feeding frequency. In some cases, like the Surefeed Connect Microchip Feeder, auto-feeders also measure how often and how much a pet consumes per day.

All of the dumb feeders we tested for this guide were either 100% battery operated or had an option to operate the machine with either batteries or a power cord. The three smart feeders we tested also had both battery and power cord options, but smart feeders don’t just need electricity, they need WiFi, too, which presents a problem when one or both go out.

In testing our smart feeders, we found they were able to get back online quickly after power outages of different lengths. During outages, tracking data in the app is disrupted, but it resumes without a hitch when the connection returns.

In most cases, a power and/or WiFi outage is not likely to cause any major problems. Your cat may be miffed if they miss a meal, but no matter how much they claim otherwise, they’ll be just fine. However, if you happen to be out of town for a few days, a long power outage or a machine that fails to come back online following a shorter outage could have serious consequences. The battery on the Feeder-Robot, for example, lasted only 21.5 hours before the machine shut down. Worse yet, depending on the smart feeder you’ve selected, even if you’ve turned on notifications you may not even know something is wrong unless you enter the app. The Feeder-Robot failed to notify me when either the WiFi or power went out.

In light of these issues, if you plan to use your automatic feeder frequently during short overnight trips away from home, you may be better off choosing one that operates solely on batteries to avoid the potential snafu power outages may present. Otherwise, be sure to have a trusted human being ready to take over feeding if duty calls.

Who we consulted

Megan Wilson, a veterinarian at Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ana Hodgson, a veterinarian at Maryland SPCA in Baltimore, Maryland

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