Kitty's on a diet!
June 23, 2015 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Is there an automatic feeder for cats that will dispense a very small amount of food six times a day?

Sorry for the lack of kitty pictures, but I'm at work right now. One of my cats has gotten rather... round over the past year. I've put her on the fancy diet food and stopped free-feeding her, but that's where the difficulty comes in. She is NOT a fan of this diet, and she is definitely NOT a fan of only getting her food at certain times, because she is SO HUNGRY when it comes to be time to feed her. This means that she wolfs down her food super fast and then throws up. To prevent this, I've been splitting her food (1/3 cup at breakfast and 1/3 cup at dinner) into thirds each time I feed her, so she will have to slow down. But it's super annoying to have to sit around and wait to give her the rest of her food (feeding her is now a 20 minute affair), plus I'm also about to go out of town for a few days, and asking a friend to feed your cats is one thing; but this is a bit much.

Luckily, we live in the future and automatic cat feeders exist. Problem solved, right? But all of the automatic feeders I've found seem to have a minimum of 1/4 cup, and will only feed up to 3 times a day. 1/4 cup 3 times a day is too much food for right now, but 1/4 cup twice a day isn't enough. Any more than 1/4 cup at a time and she'll probably throw up. I need something that can feed at least 1/6 cup 4 times a day, though really 1/9 cup six times a day would be ideal. Does this unicorn exist? And if so, does it work as advertised? Her dry food is pretty small pellets, and a lot of the other reviews say that portion control is trickier with smaller pellets.

If it doesn't exist, I'm happy to take other suggestions as to how to control her food portions while also slowing down her eating. Thanks!
posted by Weeping_angel to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What about something like this?
posted by miratime at 11:58 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know about an auto-feeder, but there are slow feeder bowls that are designed to stop pets from inhaling their food. I have never used one, but here is an example:

Slow feeder

posted by zyxwvut at 12:00 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's been a few years since I last looked, but when I did, there did not seem to be a feeder that worked well to measure out such small doses of small pellets.

I hope someone will come along with a newer excellent feeder, but if not, I would suggest you look into the types of cat feeders that force the cat to slow down - something like this or this or this or this.
posted by Stacey at 12:00 PM on June 23, 2015

More for when you're back in town, but have you tried a food dispenser ball? You fill it with kibble and the car has to whack it around to get the food out, providing exercise and slowing eating down.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:01 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Super Feeder is the go to for something like this. I've had one for years, super adjustable for any portion size or frequency needed. Biggest knock is the cost but they are well built to last.
posted by firetruckred at 12:04 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: would something like this work?

The Auto Pet Feeder consists of a storage container, a feeding bowl and an 8-setting programmable digital timer. The digital timer can be programmed to feed pets up to 8 times a day, all through the week and throughout the year. The unit can be programmed to release small quantiuties such 4 to 5 kibbles of food if necessary. This is very convenient to feed diabetic pets and pets with eating disorders.

You could set it to feed at 9, 9:05, 9:10 and then again at 5, 5:05, 5:10 (or whatever hours work).
posted by bowmaniac at 12:04 PM on June 23, 2015

I also used the Super Feeder firetruckred linked to, after a ton of searching. It definitely seemed the best for the job. And it did really phenomenally most of the time, but every now and then I'd discover that the cat food got packed together in such a way that only a small fraction of the amount I wanted would come out, leading to a very hungry and annoyed cat. We were also switching between many dry food brands at the time, so there was a lot of experimenting with different food shapes but it didn't matter in the end.

This all led me to believe that when you're looking to give out that small of an amount at a time, you're better off with one of those feeders that have an automatic lid set to a timer. (Unfortunately my cat at the time was too clever for these - even after literally nailing it down to a wooden plank - and we gave up the battle.)
posted by erratic meatsack at 12:26 PM on June 23, 2015

My overweight cat is finally slimming down using one of these non-mechanized slow bowls. She has the dog sized one, the spikes of which are far enough apart to keep even large kibble from jamming but are too close together for an adult cat to plunge her face into the food. She has to fish the kibble out with her paw one at a time which is a slow enough process that a portion of food lasts all day and half the night.

The above bowl is the end result of trying so many different portion control devices: an array of mechanized auto-feeders, food balls, and other slow bowls. My big cat isn't the brightest (she never figured out how to use the ball, for example, while other cats in the house understood it immediately) and finding the best fit for her took a lot of experimenting so if there's any advice I can offer: I wish I tried the least expensive solutions first.
posted by jamaro at 1:01 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I bought my overweight cat a feeder ball (put the kibble in, he bats it around and kibble comes out the holes) and that helped slow his eating down a lot. Might not work in a multi pet household though.
posted by patheral at 2:42 PM on June 23, 2015

I have this one,

It only has 5 sections though, but one of those rotating ones is the kind of recommend :)
posted by theRussian at 3:12 PM on June 23, 2015

Since you're feeding her dry food, one option to slow her down is to scatter the food around an entire room so she has to walk around and eat it (and thus can't scarf it all down immediately). It does depend on the cat being motivated to eat all of it so that you don't have kibble lying around on the floor constantly, but it sounds like your cat would manage that! If you aren't comfortable having kibble on the floor, you could try having 3-4 different bowls in different places and divide the food between those, so at least she needs to pause and walk to the next bowl to keep eating.

This wouldn't solve the out-of-town issue - you'd still need someone to come scatter kibble once or twice a day - but at least it would reduce the feeding time for you if it works (and if it doesn't, at least it's free to try!).
posted by insectosaurus at 3:24 PM on June 23, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! It does exist! But gosh, it's expensive. I marked several options as best answer. Oh, and now that I'm home, here's Bianca , the fatcat in question. And this is Caleb, who is not amused by the camera at all.
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:32 PM on June 23, 2015

Sometimes two of the cheaper feeders are actually cheaper than one of the stupid expensive ones. If you get two of the round kind with the lids that pop open, you could feed her up to ten times a day with hand measured portions, no worrying about the feeder jamming up and releasing too much or two little.
posted by anaelith at 6:56 AM on June 27, 2015

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