Last updated: August 5, 2021
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A weekend trip, coming home late from work or a meeting with friends that lasts a little longer than planned. Having pets fills the heart with joy and makes every homecoming special. But plans can vary and delay your arrival time at home. If you don't want your pet to wait forever for their food, an automatic feeder is just the solution for you. With our big automatic feeder test 2022 we want to help you with your purchase decision to find the best automatic feeder for you and your pet(s). We have compared different automatic feeders with each other and listed different advantages and disadvantages as well as possible features for you. This way you are sure to find the right automatic feeder.




Summary

  • Automatic feeders are available for many different types of animals. Electric versions can be found especially for dogs & cats or fish. For small animals or birds, there are variants in a wide range of materials.
  • Features like the audio signal, automatic portioning and control via an app can make your life even easier.
  • Automatic feeders can be very useful when you are away from home for a while. However, they cannot replace the attention your pet needs from you.

Best Automatic Feeder: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a feeder

This section answers a wide range of questions. Important background information is summarised and explained in the next paragraphs.

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There are also various automatic feeders for fish.
(Photo source: 123rf.com / Jakuš )

For which animals are there automatic feeders?

Feeders are actually available for many different animals. In this article, we will look at the most commonly purchased products. These are purchased for dogs and cats, small animals, birds or fish. If you own one of these animals, you have come to the right place.

For whom is an automatic feeder suitable?

There are many different reasons why you should buy an automatic feeder. From time to routine reasons, such a feeder can make your life easier. If your pet always needs to be fed at the same time, if you come home from work later than planned, if you have a short holiday planned or if you simply want to leave this work to an automatic feeder for other reasons, then the automatic feeder is certainly a sensible investment.

Which feed is suitable for an automatic feeder?

Again, it depends on the type of feeder. The following table gives you an overview of which feeds are compatible with automatic feeders.
Automatic feeder for animal species food
dog and cat dry food, wet food
Small animals dry food
Fish fish food such as flakes or pellets
Birds sunflower seeds, nuts, bird food mix

How does a chip feeder work?

The chip is simply attached to the animal's collar. This way, the feeder recognises which animal is in front of it.

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If you have several cats, it can happen that they eat each other's food. An automatic feeder with a chip prevents this.
(Image source: 123rf.com / - -)

An automatic feeder with a chip is primarily suitable for automatic feeders for cats and dogs. This variant is advantageous for dog and cat owners who have more than one animal roaming around at home.

For cat and dog owners who have to deal with food envy or even stealing food, the integrated chip is a sensible solution.

The chip can also be a great advantage for animals with special diets, as the flap over the food only opens when the specific animal is also in front of it.

What are the alternatives to an automatic feeder?

Self-feeding is probably the most common method. If you are on holiday for a longer period of time, it makes sense to ask a neighbour, good acquaintance or relative for help. Various fish can manage without feeding for a few days, but this is not recommended and we strongly advise against not feeding. For birds, you can make very simple feeders yourself. In the following article you will find instructions on how to make a feeder for your feathered friends.

How do I get my pet used to the feeder?

With fish, small animals or birds, getting used to the feeder is almost automatic. Dogs and cats, however, need a little more help. The following tips can help you get your dog or cat used to an automatic feeder:

  1. Patience is an important keyword. You cannot assume that your pet will eat from the feeder right from the start.
  2. Audio recordings can help your pet to hear the familiar signal before the food is given and thus feel comfortable more quickly.
  3. Giving treats is very helpful in the beginning to get your pet used to the feeder and slowly introduce him to it.
  4. It is a good idea to place the automatic feeder in your pet's usual feeding place.
  5. Only rely on the automatic feeder when the pet eats from it as a matter of course.

How do I clean my feeder properly?

Automatic feeders should be cleaned regularly. Some have dishwasher-safe parts, others should be cleaned by hand.

Vending machines for dogs and cats often have removable bowl parts, which can be dishwasher safe depending on the model.

For the rest of the machine, cleaning by hand with a damp cloth is best. Especially for models with a sensor, it is important to keep it clean so that it recognises your pet. Wire brushes can also be a good tool to get into all the corners.

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Wire brushes can be useful for getting into all corners of feeders for small animals.
(Image source: 123rf.com / Torres)

Decision: What types of feeders are there and which one is right for you?

If you want to buy an automatic feeder, there are different ones to choose from depending on the breed of animal.

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Automatic feeder with chip Special diets of the animals possible, no stealing of food possible, food is accessible at all times, several chips can be connected to the automatic feeder No rationing, animal must be trained - otherwise it can come to overeating, high battery or accumulator consumption
Automatic feeder with timer rationing possible, several animals can be fed, overeating is prevented by rationing special diets not possible, miss feeding time possible, access to food not possible at all times
Automatic feeder for small animals Sufficient for several days, access to food possible at any time, inexpensive, needs neither battery nor rechargeable battery No rationing possible, overeating possible, food envy with several small animals
Automatic feeder for fish automatic rationing, supply for several days, simple programming dosage not always exact, battery or rechargeable battery consumption, overfeeding possible
Automatic feeder for birds inexpensive, without battery or accumulator, access to food possible at any time no rationing possible, possibly more to clean up, acclimatisation time can take a while

For each of these types you will find different sub-types of the products. These are explained in the following paragraphs.

Automatic feeder for cats and dogs

There is a large variety of automatic feeders for dogs and cats. The automatic feeders are electronic and are available with a chip, control via a timer or control via an app. These variants naturally have a wide range of advantages and disadvantages. Automatic feeder with chip

Advantages
  • Special diets of the animals possible
  • No food theft possible
  • Food is accessible at all times
  • Several chips can be connected to the machine
Disadvantages
  • No rationing
  • animal must be trained - otherwise it may overeat
  • high battery consumption

Automatic feeder with timer

Advantages
  • Rationing possible
  • Several animals can be fed
  • Overeating is prevented by rationing
Disadvantages
  • Special diets not possible
  • Missing feeding time possible
  • Access to food not possible at all times

Automatic feeder for small animals

You can also buy an automatic feeder for hamsters, mice or other small animals. These models are not electronic and are therefore smaller and cheaper than the version for cats and/or dogs.

Advantages
  • Enough for several days
  • Access to food possible at any time
  • Inexpensive
  • Requires neither battery nor rechargeable battery
Disadvantages
  • No rationing possible
  • Overeating possible
  • Food envy with several small animals

Automatic feeder for fish

With the automatic feeder for fish we are again in the electronic field. The automatic feeders are attached to the top edge of the aquarium and drop food into the water depending on the setting of the timer.

Advantages
  • Automatic rationing
  • Supply for several days
  • Easy programming
Disadvantages
  • Dosage not always accurate
  • battery consumption
  • overfeeding possible

Automatic feeder for birds

For our feathered friends there are feed houses, feed dispensers and feed columns. With some feeders and feed houses, the feed slides down when a lot is eaten. With others, such as feeding columns, the birds have access to the food at various points.

Advantages
  • Inexpensive
  • no battery or rechargeable battery
  • access to food possible at any time
Disadvantages
  • No rationing possible
  • Possibly more to clean up
  • Acclimatisation time can take a while

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate automatic feeders

In the following, we will explain which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible automatic feeders. The criteria you can use to compare the different feeders include:

These criteria are increasingly limited to electronic feeders (models for cats and dogs or fish), as you can judge these on the basis of several. Models for small animals and birds can also be judged on the basis of materials. For example, there are models made of plastic, wood or metal. In the following paragraphs, we will explain what the individual criteria are.

Capacity

The capacity of the different models varies greatly. Feeders can contain food for several rations, but there are also some with smaller capacities that have other advantages.

  • Automatic feedersfor cats and dogs: There are automatic feeders for cats and dogs, which contain only 2 meals up to automatic feeders where 80 portions of dry food can be contained. Larger models can hold up to 6.5 litres.
  • Automatic feedersfor fish: Most models contain about 100-200 ml of food and can feed your fish for several days.
  • Automatic feederfor small animals and birds: As these animals are usually somewhat smaller and require less food, the filling quantity is also rather small. On average, they have a food quantity of 1 to several cups of food.

Timer

The timer is an important feature of automatic feeders, so your animals are fed several times a day at the usual times.

Feed several times a day with timer.

Thanks to the timer, your pet can only be given access to food at certain times. This prevents your pet from overeating. Another advantage of the timer is that your pets are fed regularly.

Dry or wet food

This purchase criterion mainly concerns automatic feeders for cats or dogs. Models for wet food contain fewer rations than automatic feeders for dry food. The shelf life of wet food is shorter than that of dry food, which is why models that can contain wet food are usually only intended for one or two rations. Nevertheless, such models can be very practical if you want to feed your pet wet food once a day and are not at home at the time.

Automatic portioning

This feature, as well as the timer, helps to prevent your pet from overeating. The automatic portioning system only releases a certain amount of food.

Automatic portioning is standard on automatic feeders for fish.

However, it is not always available in models for dogs or cats, which can lead to problems such as overeating. With automatic portioning, you have an exact overview of how much food is contained and for how many rations it will be enough.

Display

A display is not always integrated, but can give you more precise information about the food level. Information such as the timer until the next feeding time, remaining rations or the quantity of a ration can be communicated to you via a display.

Audio signal

This feature is only integrated in some automatic feeders for cats and dogs. As soon as the food is made accessible, an audio signal is played.

Audio signal can help your pet to get used to the automatic feeder.

The audio signal played informs your pet that the food is now accessible. On some models, an audio signal can even be recorded to tell your pet in a familiar voice that food is now available.

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