From the best dog leashes to the best poop bags, here at Reviewed, we're really committed to testing our favorite pet products. So after focusing on what happens outside your home, we're turning our attention inside. Up first: The best way to feed your pooch or feline friend. While we all recognize the importance of eating dinner together as a family, work commitments, last minute obligations and extended vacations often throw a wrench in our schedules. But where does that leave your pup? If you’re running late for supper, he can’t exactly stick a square of last night’s lasagna in the microwave.
That’s where automatic and smart pet feeders come in. By digitally configuring mealtimes (or when it comes to smart models, using a dedicated app), Fido will receive perfectly portioned amounts of his favorite wet food or kibble at the exact days and times you choose—whether or not you’re around to manually open a can or scoop from a bag.
And when it comes to top makers of smart and automatic feeders, we found that WOpet really delivers. With its battery-operated dial and easy-to-clean feeding tray, the WOpet Automatic Pet Feeder(available at WOPet for $39.99) is practical and intuitive. If you're looking to remotely adjust feeding times and amounts from your smartphone, the WOpet SmartFeeder is a great high-tech option. But they’re not the only worthwhile options on the market.
These are the best automatic pet feeders we tested ranked, in order:
WOpet Automatic Pet Feeder
Cat Mate C500
PetSafe 5-Meal Pet Feeder
Arf Pets Automatic Pet Feeder
PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed
Qpets Automatic Pet Feeder
PETKIT Fresh Element Smart Pet Feeder
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We loved how intuitive WOpet’s Automatic Feeder was to use. Instead of setting clocks or navigating apps, all you have to do is position a battery-activated dial, to schedule meals up to 48 hours in advance. The timer will immediately begin counting down the number of hours until the next meal, and when it reaches zero, a locking lid (which is otherwise impenetrable to hungry, motivated pets), will pop open immediately.
Two small, rectangular, interlocking canisters provide up to two meals a day consisting of up to 1.5 cups of food each (included ice packs keep wet food fresh for long periods of time) and are easy to access for a pet while taking up a bare minimum of space on the floor. In general, they’re entirely unobtrusive, being very lightweight, portable, and simple to store. And they’re just as easy to clean; just remove the dishwasher-safe feeding tray.
The WOpet Automatic Feeder is also one of the most inexpensive models we tested, averaging at only $19.95. The only caveats are capacity (accommodating only two meals at a time), and the fact that there are no audible signals for your pet, to let them know their kibble has been served.
Admittedly, the WOpet automatic feeder is as low-tech as it gets. Yet when it comes to smart models, WOpet’s version ably demonstrates the benefits of having a WiFi-connected machine. Slim, shiny, and attractive, the 17-cup capacity hopper can be fitted with either a small or large food dispenser tray (both of which can be easily removed for refilling or cleaning), so you can accommodate the amount of kibble for any sized pet.
And the common sense app really sticks to the basics. While other models we tried confused the issue by including social media features unrelated to food, WOpet’s sole focus is scheduling regimented meals for your furry friend. Up to six feedings per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) ranging from 1 to 39 portions can be remotely set or modified, meaning you have control over your pet’s mealtimes from anywhere.
You can record a message to let them know it’s feeding time, while the app will inform you precisely when and if they’ve been fed. The WOpet also has battery backup, in case you lose power to your home. Perhaps the most beneficial extra feature, though, is a night vision capable HD camera with two-way audio, which allows you to view and record video of your pet, as well as listen to or talk with your pet.
While you’ll want to go with a hopper-type model for larger dogs, wheeled feeders like the Cat Mate are ideal for pint-sized creatures. And the C500 has all the features needed for felines and friends on a wet food diet. Ice packs can be fitted under three separate compartments, holding up to 11.5 ounces of wet or dry food each.
The machine is easy to put together or take apart and clean (with a dishwasher safe lid and bowl). It's also really simple to use thanks to a battery-charged digital timer, intuitive dials, the ability to make a voice recording for your pet, and an LCD display that showcases all programmed feeds.
I’m Sarah Zorn and I’ve reviewed dog products, developed pet-friendly recipes, and written animal rescue stories for outlets like Rachael Ray Every Day and Animal Fair magazine for almost 10 years. My husband is a professional dog trainer, which means our 8-year-old hound mix, Rowdy, is truly living his best life. Not only is he gainfully employed as a trainer too (being that the best model for an unstable dog is a stable one), he also frequently assists his mom, as official house recipe taster and product tester.
We assembled each feeder, taking note of how easy (or difficult) they were to put together and scheduled two timed meals for each feeder. One for an hour after setup using dry food and the other for 6 hours after setup using provided ice packs and wet food where applicable. If the feeder was smart, we set up the app and evaluated how easy it was to load and operate, and if it effectively worked both in the house and far away from home. We operated the smart feeders both manually and with the app. We looked at whether or not the feeders dispensed the correct amount of food at the proper time, whether they provided any audible notifications to pets during feeding time, whether our pets were able to easily access their food, and if the feeders seemed like they could withstand a bit of knocking around from motivated critters. We evaluated extra features on both automatic and smart models to determine how useful they actually were, as well as how portable and attractive each model was and, after dissembling, how easy they were (or weren’t) to clean.
What You Should Know About Automatic Pet Feeders
The primary purpose of automatic feeders is to ensure your pets receive their meals on schedule, whether you’re simply running late from work, or intend to be away for extended periods of time. As such, flexibility and reliability are the most important factors—models should allow you to set regular meals at precise portions and periods that work for you and your pet. Meaning, avoid feeders with pre-set modes, that you have no opportunity to tweak, or that don’t allow for the use of wet food if that’s what Fifi is used to. Larger dogs will be better served by models with hoppers that store lots of food at a time and are fitted with bowls that accommodate their sizable portions and snouts. On the flip side, compartmentalized, carousel-style models are generally preferable for cats and non-kibble eaters, as they can accommodate wet food, and often come with ice packs for keeping it fresh.
Feeders should also provide the peace of mind that they’ll operate consistently and effectively. An upside of smart models is that they’ll inform you via the app that they’ve successfully completed a feeding, or if their stores of food are running low. For machines that run on electricity, you’ll also want a backup battery option, in the event of some sort of power failure while you’re gone. And of course, functionality is key. What good is a feeder if you can’t figure out how to set it up? Or operate the app? Or has loads of special features, but none of them actually achieve the number one mission—keeping your pet regularly fed? Finally, sturdiness is an important factor in evaluating pet feeders. Not only is it vital that mechanisms remain operational in your absence, but you also need to know that your pup can’t break in, smash the thing to bits, consume 5 days of food in a single sitting, then get sick or go hungry until you return.
Other Pet Feeders We Tested
PetSafe 5-Meal Automatic Pet Feeder
Encased in BPA-free camo-colored plastic, this certainly isn’t the sexiest model on the market. But it gets the job done, being seamless to set up, effortless to wash and totally intuitive to use. It accommodates five pre-portioned meals at up to 1 cup each, which is a generous amount for a feeder intended for cats and small dogs. A built-in digital clock with LCD display is simple to operate and always dispensed food for us at the exact time requested.
The model runs on batteries, which means you don’t have to worry about electric malfunctions, and a carousel tray can be quickly removed and popped in the dishwasher for seriously easy cleaning. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with ice packs or any other options for keeping wet food cool. So if you plan to actually run it for five days straight, it’s best to stick to kibble.
Arf Pets Automatic Pet Feeder Food Dispenser for Dogs & Cats
With its sleek black and white build, the Arf is surprisingly attractive for a machine not generally known for its looks. Holding 1.14 gallons of food at a time, you can schedule up to four meals a day with customized portion sizes (each amounts to 24ml and you can request up to 10 portions at a time). You can record 10-second personal messages on the Arf to play during mealtimes, so not only are pets are notified when food is dispensed, they get the hear the sound of your voice.
The feeder runs on electricity or batteries, which provides an important backup system. It also has a magnetic lock lid, making it tricky for pets to break in. Like all hopper models, it works with kibble only, so this isn't ideal for animals on a wet food diet. And some of the features were a bit of a struggle to figure out, as it took time for us to determine how to dispense food manually or trigger a reset.
PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed 12-Meal Automatic Pet Feeder
Another versatile option for any sized pet, the Simply Feed holds up to 24 cups of dry kibble at a time and can be dispensed in a ⅛ cup to 4 cup increments. Special features include a “slow feed” option, which releases portions of your pet’s meal a little bit at a time over a 15 minute period—a benefit for quick-gobble animals that are prone to vomiting and bloat. A conveyor belt design accommodates kibble of all shape and sizes and helps prevent jams while a locking lid prevents pets from breaking into it. Downsides are that set-up isn’t all that intuitive and even after playing around with portion settings, it regularly dispensed less food than we asked.
The Qpet boasts a 6 compartment capacity, which means you can offer your pet multiple small meals throughout the day or assure they’re fed over many days time. And it’s suitable for both wet and dry food. That said, there’s no cooling mechanism to ensure that wet food stays fresh. There’s also an option to record a 6-second message to your pet, which, besides being sweet, is a helpful way to let them know it’s dinner time.
Looking sort of like a teal blue UFO (in the best way possible), the feeder is light and portable, although the round design prevents it from sitting flush in a corner. A locking top prevents pet break-ins, although it’s equally forboding to humans—we often struggled hard to remove it, as we were afraid we’d snap the latches.
This feature-rich model is easy to program. And not only does the app let you determine the day, time, and amount of each feeding—and change it remotely at will—it offers portion size suggestions and dietary info based on FAQ’s you plug in about your pet (such as breed, age, activity level, and their preferred brand of food). It also lets you know if the hopper is running low, so if you intend to stock your machine to run over long periods of time, you’ll know when to refill. That said, the Petnet didn’t always dispense the accurate amount asked.
It also doesn’t let you record a message or provide an audible cue when it’s mealtime, which is surprising for an otherwise smart machine. And there’s no question the Petnet is heavy and bulky, so while you can bring it with you on a trip if need be, it’s a bit of a pain to have to lug around and store.
With a 6-pound storage capacity, silicone sealing, a desiccant box for keeping kibble fresh, and a locking lid, the build is nothing short of impressive. It can also dispense up to 20 portions four meals a day, and there are stress-tested mechanisms designed to prevent food from clogging and catching in the machine. And it’s a real looker to boot.
Between the modern lines and a baby blue and powder white finish, it's gorgeous. Making use of all those features is headache-inducing, though. Instead of the focus being on feeding, the app is obsessed with social media options. This is fun if you’re keen on amassing follows and fans amongst PETKIT owners or taking pics and videos to share. But if you’re being held late at the office and anxious to ensure that your pup receives dinner, it’s potentially frustrating to deal with such a sidetracked app.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.