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Are Automatic Cat Feeders and Fountains Helpful?

Pros and Cons to High-Tech Cat Feeders

By Mary Kearl. January 30, 2013 | See Comments

Are Automatic Cat Feeders and Fountains Helpful?

Automatic feeders and water fountains are great, but not always necessary for certain cats. Save yourself some headache, and a few dollars, and read this guide before making the leap to an automatic feeder.

Not all automatic feeders or water fountains are created equally, and, depending on your lifestyle and your cat’s behavior, it may not be a necessary purchase. If you do opt for one or both of these, be careful to choose one that meets your needs.

Automatic Feeders

Pros

  • These devices can be useful if you are going to be away from home for a long day or couple of days, as they can distribute meals while you’re away.
  • Food that has been sitting out usually becomes unappealing to cats, so dispensers are helpful because they will serve up fresh, appetizing food to your cat.
  • If your cat typically bugs you about when the next meal’s coming, getting an automatic food dispenser that you can set to release chow when you want may help habituate your cat into knowing what times of day the food is coming. Your cat may meow in front of the machine instead of pestering you.
  • Automatic feeding devices are also recommended by animal behaviorists because of their ability to help animals establish routines and transition to changes in their daily lives—specifically those involving eating—such as moving, getting a new addition to the family and more.
  • If your cat’s midnight cravings are starting to disrupt your sleep, setting small, portion-controlled meals to be dispensed while you’re asleep could help turn your pet’s attention away from you and to a reliable source of food. Note that not all feeders allow for such portion control.
  • Free range feeding has been found to be a contributing factor to weight gain and obesity in pets. As such, portion control is one method recommended for making sure pets maintain a healthy weight. Automatic food dispensers may be useful in making sure your cat gets the right sized meal—and no more. As mentioned above, not all machines do this.

Before Investing, Take Note

  • To combat obesity and weight gain, some experts recommend “timed feeding” or letting your pet have access to that food for a limited amount of time—20 to 30 minutes—and then taking away whatever food remains to prevent overeating. So, if automatic feeders are going to be used, an animal’s eating should still be monitored.
  • Some feeders dispense food as a cat eats, so this may contribute to your pet’s overeating.
  • If a feeder isn’t sturdy enough, a cat may be able to get into the part of the dispenser containing all the food, cancelling out the benefits of the device’s ability to dole out controlled portions.

Water Fountains

Water is essential to the well-being of cats. Is it better for cats if it comes out of a water fountain or will straight from the regular tap and into your commonplace bowl be just fine? That may depend entirely on your cat’s preferences.

Pros

  • One suggested tactic for preventing problems of dehydration in cats is to have a water fountain in the home to encourage cats to drink enough water. Some cats may prefer this method of obtaining water, given the tempting way the water swirls around in the machine, to a traditional bowl.
  • It’s also important to keep plenty of fresh, clean water on hand for felines, and depending on your lifestyle, a water fountain may help make sure this happens as it provides a steady stream of filtered water for your pet.

Before Investing, Take Note

  • If the cost, noise, energy used by the machine or other factor means a water fountain doesn’t fit your lifestyle, leaving plenty of water out in multiple bowls around the house is another option.
  • These machines do need to be washed once a week, so you won’t get out of cleaning!
  • If your pet is prone to spilling, you may need to purchase a mat to place under the machine.
More on Caring for Cats

The Cat Brush Buying Guide
How to Choose a Litter Box and Kitty Litter
Why Cats Eat Grass and Other Self Medicating Habits

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