This new smart pet feeder blows away the competition
Be prepared for sticker shock, though
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A few years ago, my cat, Nugget, decided that breakfast should be served promptly at 6 a.m. As someone who generally sleeps in, I didn’t take kindly to this decision, and it led to a several-month battle of the wills—him sitting next to my head meowing at the crack of dawn, and me yelling at him to go away.
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that he won. I caved and bought him an automatic pet feeder, which dispenses his breakfast bright and early every morning so he can eat and I can sleep. We’ve been using an automatic feeder for around two years now, but the thing is, most of them aren’t great. The first model we used was the Petnet SmartFeeder, which had connectivity issues and eventually stopped working when the company went out of business. The second product I bought was the HoneyGuaridan Automatic Pet Feeder, which is nearly impossible to program and so loud that it wakes me up in the morning.
What is the Feeder-Robot?
The Feeder-Robot is a new smart pet feeder from the company that makes the Litter Robot. Because of its WiFi-connectivity, you can control the feeder from your phone, but it also has manual buttons on the front.
Either way, you can use it to schedule automatic feedings for your pet, which is great if:
- You want to be able to feed your pet while away from home.
- You travel a lot.
- Your pet wakes you up early for breakfast.
- Your pet regularly cons your family into feeding them multiple times.
- You want to monitor how much your pet is eating.
And so on!
How much does the Feeder-Robot cost?
The Feeder-Robot was released November 9 and retails for $249. For this review, we tested an early model the company sent us prior to launch.
To give you some perspective, this price tag is definitely on the high end. In our Best Automatic Pet Feeder round-up, the best smart feeder we tested was around $170, so the Feeder-Robot is setting the bar high for itself right off the bat.
How does it work?
Like any automatic pet feeder, the Feeder-Robot allows you to set scheduled meals for your cat or dog, and they’ll automatically be dispensed without you having to lift a finger. With the Feeder-Robot, you can either set up a feeding schedule from your phone or by manually using the control pad on the front of the unit, and you can schedule up to eight meals per day using the app, or four per day when programming manually.
The unit has a secure locking hopper to hold your pet’s food, and you can use it with either dry or semi-moist kibble that's less than 5/8-inch in diameter. The Feeder-Robot has anti-jam technology to prevent kibble from getting stuck, and it can dispense ¼-, ½-, ¾-, or 1-cup meals. If you’re using the app, it will alert you when the hopper is low on food, and the brand recommends cleaning the unit once a month or so—it’s typically convenient to do when the bowl and hopper are already empty.
Here’s what we like about the Feeder-Robot
To get a sense for how the Feeder-Robot performed, Nugget and I used it over the course of several weeks. It just so happened that I had a short vacation scheduled while we were testing, so we even got to use it while I was away for a few days!
It’s simple to set up
One of my main complaints about other automatic pet feeders is that they’re difficult to set up, so I was extremely happy to find that the Feeder-Robot’s setup process is quick and intuitive. I set it up using the iOS app, and it paired with the unit and connected to my WiFi network on the first try.
I created a schedule that would feed Nugget ¼ cup of food at 7 a.m. every day, and just like that, it was ready to go! I also like that you have the option to create different feeding schedules—so when we went on vacation, I was able to add a new “Vacation” schedule instead of editing our everyday one.
It’s really versatile
Another major benefit that we found with the Feeder-Robot is its versatility. As soon as I opened the box, I was excited to find that it comes with two different feeding bowls—plastic and metal (plus you can buy a glass one for an extra $25). I can see this being great for fussy cats, and personally, I just liked having extra bowls to swap in when one gets dirty.
In addition to scheduled feedings, the Feeder-Robot can also be used as a “gravity feeder,” which I thought was a cool option. Basically, if you free-feed your cat, the Feeder-Robot will keep the bowl full by checking the level every six hours and dispensing additional kibble as needed. (We didn’t test this feature, as Nugget cannot be trusted with an endless supply of food.)
I also liked that you can give your cat a ¼-cup “snack” either by pushing a button on the front of the unit or through the app. (If your pet is particularly crafty, there’s also an option to lock the buttons on the machine, so they can’t give themselves endless snacks.)
It’s reliable and accurate
Over the course of several weeks, the Feeder-Robot delivered on-time feedings according to its schedule. It sends a push notification to let you know food has been dispensed, and I loved that the alerts came instantly. When we were on vacation, I would log into our “pet cam” at feeding time to ensure Nugget received his meal, and he was always happily chowing down. Plus, if for some reason food isn’t dispensed, you’ll get a notification saying as much.
I also measured the amount of food dispensed to see how accurate it was, and just like I programmed, the machine drops exactly ¼ cup of food.
And here’s what we didn’t like about the Feeder-Robot
All in all, I was really impressed with the Feeder-Robot’s performance, but there were a few small items that I thought could be improved.
More serving sizes would be nice
I think one of the main areas where the Feeder-Robot falls a little short is its serving size options. You only have four serving size choices, and for Nugget, ¼ cup isn’t quite enough but ½ cup is too much. If I could change one thing about the machine, I would have liked to see it dispense ⅛-cup increments.
There’s no “call to meal” notification
Many automatic feeders play some sort of tone or allow you to record a custom message to call your pet to their meal, but the Feeder-Robot doesn’t have this option. For us it’s not a big deal, as our apartment is small enough that Nugget can hear the food being dispensed, but if you live in a larger home or have an older pet who can’t hear well, this would have been a nice feature.
Should you buy the Feeder-Robot?
The Feeder-Robot is undeniably a great product, but it’s also priced significantly higher than other comparable options. Most automatic pet feeders (without WiFi-connectivity) are in the $50 to $100 range, and even the fanciest smart feeders still max out at around $170. So for the Feeder-Robot to come in at $250 is quite the jump in price—the company is already known for it’s extremely high-end pet products, however, as the Litter Robot starts at $450.
Similar to how I feel about the Litter Robot, I love the Feeder-Robot, but its price gives me pause. The technology worked flawlessly over the course of our testing, and I love the unit’s versatility and reliability. So far, it’s worked way better than the other automatic feeders I’ve purchased, but at the same time, I’ve been burned before and would hate to drop $250 on a gadget that might stop working if, say, the company goes out of business.
At the end of the day, I can’t tell you whether to buy the Feeder-Robot. All I can say is that it’s better than many other models out there today, but its price reflects the advanced technology and the brand’s high-end reputation.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.