Coffee Talk: Our pets and a 3 or 6 day automatic feeder for 3-6 day getaways

This morning over coffee, I was thinking about what to chat about and my thoughts went to pet feeders.  The automatic pet feeders that are battery (or electric) run that dish out portions over a few days so you can leave for a weekend.  We own an automatic pet dish I bought online I believe, around, December of 2003; and I wondered if it was still available and being sold.

It is.

This is the actual style and brand we bought about 8 years ago.  It's the Lentek  Automatic Pet Dish.

Here is the description they give - and I'll add my thoughts after.

  • Automatic six-day pet dish ideal during week-long vacations 
  • Selectable feeding intervals of 6, 12 or 24 hours 
  • Each compartment holds 2/3 cup dry or 5-1/2 ounces wet food 
  • Accurate timer; lid rotation stops if resistance is felt 
  • Includes removable lid and two inserts; uses one 9-volt battery
Although it says 6 days, that is only accurate if your pet eats just once a day.  What it has is six slots for food.  If your pet eats twice a day, it will be a 3 day feeder.  It has ice packs you can freeze and insert in the bottom to help cool the food for a couple hours, but our cats won't touch wet or canned food so that is an option we never used.

The first thing to point out is this really only works for cats or very, very small dogs.  Even a large, intelligent cat will probably be able to break into it at first and because it is so light weight, most dogs will be able to get into it and eat all the food at once.  I would only use it for cats or tiny toy sized dogs.  I'll touch more on the topic of being easy to break into in a moment

The timer can be set for 6, 12 or 24 hours.  At that point it will hum and the top will rotate to the next full opening, allowing your pet to eat that portion.  The hum of the motor may startle them at first.   In order to get our cats ready for us to go away for the weekend and be accustomed to it, I used it as their pet dish for the first week.  By the 2nd day the cats had grown used to the hum of the motor, weren't scared of it and actually knew that the humming noise meant it was time to eat - and they would come running!  By the time we used it for the weekend it worked perfect.

As I mentioned above, your cat or small dog may try to get into it and pull it apart.  In general, for an average cat or small dog, it will be fine.  The human trick is to make sure it's put together exactly right.  There is a small slot on the inside timer and it's very easy to not completely click it firmly into place.  It seems like it is, but it isn't.  If you don't press firmly and make sure it is locked down tight, your cat will be able to spin the top around or push the pieces apart.  By making sure to line up the slot and press firmly, this makes it more secure.

The second tip for your pet not breaking into it is by getting them used to it as I mentioned above, they are no longer interested in it.  They ignore it until they hear the hum, come running to eat, and then go on their way again until they hear the hum.  Our cats get to the point of knowing when it's going to go off again and will run and sit and watch and wait for it to hum and spin to the next opening for their next meal.  Kind of neat how they instinctively know 12 hours have passed!  (We set ours on 12 - to eat at 6:am and 6:pm). 

We have used this about 3 times a year for the past 8 years and generally found it to be great for our needs.  When we leave for a week at a time I have a pet sitter come to the house every 3 days to refill the feeder and clean the litter box.  This has worked out great!  Just be sure to have your pet sitter practice putting together the pet feeder a couple times in front of you to be sure they firmly press that center timer!

In general I give this a thumbs up.  This morning I did find a few other versions available (that weren't on the market 8 or 9 years ago when we originally bought ours) and I may look into them in the future, but for an average price of about $30-$35, the one we have is an affordable option that I'm happy with and our cats are comfortable with.

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