Auto-feeders for a clever cat
March 6, 2015 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Do you have a smart, food-motivated cat, and an auto-feeder that stands up to that cat?

Franklin really needs to lose some weight, and definitely can't be trusted to free-feed. I bought him this auto-feeder, but within 48 hours he figured out how to reach up into the mechanism and turn it by hand (er, by paw). Which is no good.

I don't care much about food capacity; as long as it'll hold a meal or two I'm fine. I just want something to feed him in the morning so he won't bother me at dawn. I do need good portion control. I'd be fine with something like this but I'm pretty certain he'd have it figured out in no time. The hopper-based ones with a dispenser would be great, but nothing I've found on Amazon so far looks like it'll stand up to reaching a paw up into the hopper to move it manually.

So: I have a smart, fat cat who needs to be fed by a machine that he can't defeat. Recommendations?
posted by Tomorrowful to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen this very similar question?

(And Franklin is super cute!)
posted by insectosaurus at 4:27 PM on March 6, 2015

Franklin is a cutie! My smart and constantly hungry Chaos likes to wake me at four to be fed, so I fill his bowl around 10 before I go to sleep. He pretty much did the same thing to his autofeeder that Franklin did. Sometimes night feeding will keep him at bay. Have you thought about that, or do you think he'd just eat it all and still ask for more?
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 4:52 PM on March 6, 2015

Have you thought about a feeder ball? A feeder ball will force a cat to be more active to get the food and keep them from scarfing down big mouthfuls without chewing. They worked for my previous furry glutton. You could keep one pre-filled and lock it in a box overnight and wake up just long enough to present it to your cat in the morning. I just spent some time looking for some sort of time-release box you could put the ball in so it would become part of the puzzle and you wouldn't have to get out of bed, but it seems that's something that doesn't exist as a consumer product. But if you've got robot-happy friends, it wouldn't be too difficult to make.
posted by Mizu at 5:14 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Somebody I knew in college had the same feeder and the same problem you have; he installed a piece of wire mesh in the opening of the feeder, so the kibble would fit through but the cat couldn't reach up into the feeder. If you can't find a better feeder it might be worth a try.
posted by cheesegrater at 5:35 PM on March 6, 2015

Best answer: Our food obsessed cat never bested the PetSafe. It would be my recommendation. At least on the model that's a few years old, the pivot can't be forced.
posted by arabelladragon at 6:53 PM on March 6, 2015

Best answer: Another vote for the Petsafe. I was doubtful but 9 months in my guy hasn't broken into it.
posted by Pleased_As_Punch at 7:05 PM on March 6, 2015

Best answer: My Kaylee has yet to defeat the PetSafe you linked. She can smell it is there, but can't get a paw in to force it to turn.
posted by weathergal at 7:28 PM on March 6, 2015

If cost isn't a big issue, the Cat Super Feeder is, I believe, fairly cat-proof. But also expensive for a cat feeder. It is a hopper with a dispenser and it allows very detailed adjustments to provide for whatever number of meals at whatever frequency, whatever portion size you want. Check out the website too, so retro, you will feel like you entered the 1990s again.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:35 PM on March 6, 2015

We solved this problem by not feeding our cat when we first got up. It drastically reduced the cat's "Get Up Get Up Get Up!" behaviour when we waited until at least half an hour later. I realize this is not viable for people who have tighter morning schedules though.
posted by srboisvert at 7:59 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

We deliberately feed our cat on an unpredictable schedule and sometimes will even skip feeding him. He's never hassled us about being fed.
posted by mchorn at 7:40 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have that exact same feeder, and my cat also figured out pretty quickly how to reach up into the mechanism and get food out. Similar to cheesegrater's college acquaintance, I solved it by taping a piece of cardboard over the opening, leaving just enough clearance below for the food to come out but not so much that my cat can get his paw underneath there. I used a piece cut from a cereal box, but you could use something thicker if you need something more tamper-proof. Maybe try that before you go out and buy a whole 'nuther feeder?
posted by zebra at 8:07 AM on March 7, 2015

I have the CatMate C20. The advantage here is that if the cat forces it open, which I sort of don't see happening, there's only 1 or 2 meals in there.

Feeding my cat on a schedule, with a feeder on a timer, made everything so much better. What you want is for the cat to stop associating YOU with food. Food happens magically as long as the feeder is set up. She's now more sensitive to the feeder being open and empty (because she's had all her food for the day) than she is to wanting to eat RIGHT NOW.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:17 PM on March 7, 2015

Best answer: I got the petsafe based off an answer I got on askme years ago. Despite being a persistent and clever little dude, he never managed to get to the next meal in the petsafe.

An unexpected side effect is that the petsafe motor sounds exactly like our shredder, so he'd also be very excited and very confused whenever we'd shred our old bills.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:03 PM on March 7, 2015

Came to nth the petsafe recommendation. No break ins from my kitties.
posted by theRussian at 3:31 PM on March 10, 2015

Response by poster: Update: Got the PetSafe and, lo and behold, now I get to sleep in until a semi-reasonable hour! Protip to anyone viewing this later: When I had the feeding times set for times I fed him "by hand" he was so focused on demanding food he didn't notice that there was food available. I shifted the auto-feeding times to be while I was still asleep and still at work, and within a couple of days he'd learned that humans != food. One downside is that I have to remember to reload the feeder regularly, and without flipping up the lid I can't easily check that it's set up properly for the next day. Still, I was happy to find a good solution that didn't require shelling out for the (admittedly very impressive) overengineering of the Super Feeder.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:26 AM on March 19, 2015

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