I’ve had the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feeder for over a month now, and I have to say, I’m loving it. I’ve got two cats at home, and bought this automatic feeder intending to solve a number of different problems. Spoiler alert: in my household, it’s been amazing for solving pretty nearly all the issues I’ve wanted it to.
There are ways I can feel it could be improved, but none of them are deal-breakers, not even close. They don’t even deserve a section of their own, so I’ll list them here: I wish it was more intuitive to configure, that you could get even smaller portion sizes than 1/8th of a cup (though this is not bad at all for my use), that it came with a little tube at the front so you could angle the direction you want the food to drop (in case you don’t want it to just fall down into the bowl they provide. That’s about it. The PetSafe Simply Feeder is not perfect – no pet product is – but it’s high up there on the list of near-perfect pet products that are, in my opinion, really worth the money. A couple others that fit this bill? The Catit Design Senses Food Maze & the Amazon Basics Large Cat Tree. Amazing deals those two.
I’m going to do my best to outline what I originally bought the PetSafe Simply Feed to fix, why it works so well for me, where I feel it’s a little lacking, and where I feel you may not want to grab this particular automatic feeder. Yes there absolutely are cases I can think of off the top of my head where this isn’t likely the best option for you, or is overkill in terms of price point. Then I’d love it if you took a second and left a comment with your thoughts – either about this automatic feeder, about timed feeders in general, or about another feeder you do or don’t recommend. Any and all experiences you have would be so welcome here, and I’m sure a lot of pet parents would appreciate you sharing them.
Let’s start with the issues with my furries I was trying to fix when I grabbed the PetSafe Simply Feed. We adopted our second cat, Bjorn, a few months back. A stray/feral cat who wouldn’t leave our garden until we eventually realized he had no home and took him in, he came with his own set of problems, the last of which I had to resolve was that he sometimes vomited on an empty stomach. I had dealt with this issue before with Avery after we moved to the UK and switched his kibble. To resolve it, I switched him over to a sensitive stomach cat food – the Royal Canin’s Sensible Digestion 33 in particular. I also fed Avery much smaller meals more frequently throughout the day until the problem sorted itself out. The reason I couldn’t do the same for Bjorn? Avery learned to pace himself with eating kibble over the years he’d been with us (he was a feral cat when we took him in originally, too), and Bjorn still needed quite a lot of time before he learned he didn’t need to scarf down meals – if he ever did learn.
So the idea of grabbing a timed feeder was a bit of a necessity in my mind. It would have to be a feeder he couldn’t pry into (Avery wouldn’t bother to try to get more food out, but I knew Bjorn would), and I’d heard conveyor belt automatic pet feeders were the best at preventing extra nibbles from falling out if you had a really clever cat. So this was at the top of my list. I also liked the fact that the portion sizes could be relatively small – 1/8th of a cup – as I didn’t know how often I’d need to make it go off to prevent stomach sensitivity issues from resurfacing (turns out – every 4 or 5 hours is perfect, and this needed to continue throughout the day and night, but more on this later).
The PetSafe also struck me as a great option because of the plethora of reviews, which allowed me to figure out a few things I might have trouble with before I even made the purchase:
- I should be getting my husband, Thomas, to set it up, as it’s not exactly intuitive, but it is possible to do pretty much whatever you need if you figure things out, like setting up times and re-setting them, double checking them. I asked Thomas to do all this for me, and he managed in around 5 minutes – much faster than what I could’ve done trying to figure things out for myself.
- It didn’t come with a wall charger/power adapter, which you can either buy separately, or buy as part of a different package, and you have to buy batteries for it, but the batteries take ages to run out (one person said over two years they were still running), and that was ideal for me due to concern over Bjorn trying to chew on the cord if it had been flavoured accidentally with stray kibble that had fallen on the cord.
- It’s possible to get the feeder dispensing food on the first day, but there’s a trick to it. One helpful reviewer pointed out the prepare the conveyor with food works like this: “You have to cycle the conveyor. You do this by holding down Enter and Left until food starts to drop out. After that, I found it works just fine!” A lot of people just end up letting the feeder fill the conveyor belt over the first day and let it start dispensing food on the second, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to wait.
- It’s hard to get the pet bowl holder off if you put it on – so if you eventually won’t want it on (my situation) resist the urge to tack it on when unboxing.
I grabbed the PetSafe Simply Feed and eventually this was the set up we decided on –
Placed it on top of an IKEA BEKVAM wooden stool, placed a non-slip silicone cat food mat just beneath the stool, tied a Catit Senses Food Tree, centered right beneath the feeder’s dispenser hole, and tied the food toy in place with the outer shell (took out the inner string) of paracord.
The food falls into and around the Catit food maze. It actually comes out quite fast, and some of it will stay on the top, some of it will land on each and every platform, and some scatter around the floor. The kitties, upon hearing the sound of the food toy, will come running if they weren’t already camping out waiting for the food to come out, Bjorn will get on his hind legs and eat the kibble on the top, Avery grabbing bits that have fallen onto the mat and the base of the food toy, and then they’ll work their way to eating more and more. Usually takes between 5-10 minutes, sometimes up to 15 if they’re not the most hungry. Though they’re both pretty food motivated, so usually it takes less time rather than more.
I feel like I personally need the Catit food puzzle toy to be beneath for a few reasons. The first is that, as I’ve stated, Bjorn hovers down his food quite quickly, likely due to the fact that he was a stray/feral cat. Eating too quickly can cause regurgitation, indigestion, and upset stomach, which is not nice. Now this may not change in the future, as I know some cats never really lose that eat-too-quickly behaviour, and many were not even feral/stray cats ever in their lives, they just happen to eat quickly.
Regardless of whether or not Bjorn does slow down enough for him not to risk regurgitating his food immediately after eating, I still like the food toy because it creates more stimulation for him and for Avery while they’re getting their grub. Avery is a lazy cat, doesn’t play much at all, and while Bjorn is a highly playful fella, I prefer to have the stimulation if/when I can.
Finally, I like the fact that with the current set up, making it a bit challenging to get food out, it’s possible for my two cats to share the same automatic feeder. I didn’t want to get a second, and if I did what a lot of pet parents with two cats did – split the food into two seperate bowls with a DIY hack, Bjorn would simply finish his food in a hurry, then go steal the remainder of the food in the bowl from Avery. Same is true if I use the tray-beneath-the-feeder trick to “spread out” the food that falls from the timed feeder. Avery probably wouldn’t get much considering how aggressive an eater Bjorn is. Knowing this, in combination with all the mental stimulation benefits I feel having the food tree rigged underneath provide, I placed the feeder on the stool and got Thomas to tie it up securely with the outer shell of paracord for a temporary fix, until I could think up a more permanent solution.
Well, no more permanent solution was needed, because Bjorn hasn’t managed to topple this thing over, which based on what I’ve read is one of the only ways cats can get more food out of it. He’s stuck his arm up into the food dispenser hole and not been able to get food out (nor has he gotten his paw stuck in, though I’m not sure if this is easy to do; don’t seem to be many complaints about cats getting their paws stuck in the reviews). He hasn’t bitten at the paracord, really, which I’m happy about. I was concerned he might try to eat it at one point. My brother’s cat has pica so I’m always paranoid. Bjorn’s tried to bite this thing so many times to no avail. Now he’s given it a rest because he’s given up, but he’s taken to sitting on it before meals. Looks like a chicken waiting for an egg to pop out –
He’s pretty obsessed. Actually both he and Avery are. And while I still feed them two meals a day – once at 8 AM and once at 10 PM – they’re a lot less fussy before mealtime. To be fair, I have the Pet Safe Simply Feed scheduled to go off at 7 AM and at 9 PM, so they can’t be all that hungry by the time my meal for them comes around. But it brings peace (most of the time) until after their 7 AM and 9 PM Simply Feed snack has been eaten and a short nap has been taken.
In terms of schedule, I have things set up like this:
- Fed by automatic feeder:
1/8th of a cup at: 7 AM, 11 AM, 3 PM, 7 PM, 9 PM, 3 AM
- Fed by me:
1/8th of a cup at: 8 AM & 10 PM.
Each cat gets kibble mixed with 1/2 cup of water. Avery has to jump for kibble as a workout to get some exercise before he’s given the kibble “soup,” cause he’s so lazy (way more lazy than a regular cat) that he otherwise get constipation at times.
A few things about my scheduling:
Roughly 4-5 hours apart is enough to keep the boys from getting too hungry. I tried not having a 3 AM feeding, but Bjorn started throwing up right before his 7 AM automatic feeder snack, so I added the 3 AM time to prevent him getting too hungry and he’s stopped vomiting in the morning.
I have only two hours between the feeding times at night, at 7 PM & 9 PM – ’round the time we usually have dinner. I feel the boys both get more hungry when they see us eating dinner, which smells a lot better than lunch or breakfast since it’s a cooked meal. Bjorn has thrown up around this time before, when our meals have been particularly nice smelling (cooking steaks or fish, or something with minced beef particularly).
That was before the automatic feeder, when I was only feeding them meals twice a day and many very small snacks by hand between to keep him from throwing up, but still, I wanted to be on the safe side so I keep their bellies fuller at this time. Bonus outcome: they’re no longer obsessed with our dinners, especially, especially if it’s not amazing smelling. If it’s not a wonderfully potent smelling dinner, they don’t even come downstairs to inspect what we’re eating, just wait upstairs for their feeder to go off. If it is wonderful smelling, they check out what we’re eating, but definitely don’t get as jealous, hungry, or obsessive as they used to when watching us eat while their bellies weren’t so full.
I feed the boys meals by hand twice a day, firstly, to make sure Avery gets his exercise. Secondly, I want to be sure both cats are getting enough food, especially Avery, since Bjorn often eats more out of the feeder toy due to his speed and aggression. I’ve also fed the boys different kibbles for dinner before, Bjorn the sensitive stomach cat food to see if it would help in his case, and Avery something less fattening since he’s prone to gaining weight due to his lazy bones.
Finally, I feed them meals to make sure both cats get enough water in their systems since I can no longer tell by inspecting the clumped pees in litter boxes if there’s enough drunk for the day to keep me happy. Obviously, I could do this when I had only one cat, but with two, there’s no way I could tell who was drinking how much. Both my cats drink a lot typically, but two male cats in my family, my brother’s and mother’s, have struggled with UTI issues throughout their lives. My brother’s cat Beau even had issues so bad as to need a PU surgery to make sure he could pass crystals/stones. Yes, that’s the same cat who has pica. Poor thing has way more than his fair share of hardship. Anyway, too paranoid not to do this, especially now that I live in a really hot country (Portugal) and Bjorn has had vomit, and diarrhea issues before, and has coughed up a few hairballs. Needless to say, want to make sure he always has enough liquid in him. Again, both are great drinkers, excellent in comparison to other cats I’ve seen, but I still like taking the precaution.
There’s another problem this timed feeder has solved – and that’s in terms of negative behaviours both Avery and Bjorn were showcasing whenever they got too hungry. Avery would get a lot more aggressive with Bjorn when he became hangry, and Bjorn would sometimes get up to some pretty naughty shenanigans, things like licking soap and trying to bite things he wouldn’t, like this one cork tray we used to keep his food toy on before. And of course the sensitive stomach vomiting-before-a-meal issue Bjorn had has gone away, which is fantastic.
The boys are both way more stimulated mentally thanks to engaging with the food toy so frequently. They usually start having their interest in the feeder piqued around 15 minutes before it goes off, up to around half an hour, then stay by it for another 15 minutes once they’re done eating, looking for stray kibble, waiting to see if maybe it’ll spill some more, and for Bjorn, once in a while trying to get some more pieces out. If I was home most of the day for work (I’m lucky enough to work from home, so this isn’t the case), this would provide a lot of mental stimulation during the day when I couldn’t be around to keep them occupied. Though to be honest, this feeder works infinitely better at keeping them mentally stimulated than I ever could.
No more sleeping all day for them, and being awake more frequently during the day also helps them sleep through the night. Avery sometimes used to have days where he’d spend the entire day napping, and spend the entire night bothering us for company since he didn’t have any stimulation in the morning – not going to happen anymore.
The feeder helps them keep a routine better than I could, makes them whine a lot less for meals, and if I’m home late one day and don’t make the 10 PM feeding in time, I’m not so scared Bjorn is going to vomit. In fact, I can easily add a feeding for the two at 10 PM if I can’t be home, and am out late or travelling, so they get the meal they typically get from me from the PetSafe Simply Feed instead.
I can use it to make overnight visits when I want without needing a cat sitter, to make the lives of my family and friends a lot easier when they come over to cat sit for weeks at a time – honestly I can see this helping out in day to day life quite a lot.
I can easily mix 2-3 kibbles together before popping the mix into the hopper, or even mixing after in the hopper itself. I love doing this since I really like the idea of giving my cats food from multiple protein sources – mostly chicken, a bit of fish. Vets have told me this is good to do with cats, though I haven’t done research on the ins and outs of it yet.
Basically, this one machine, expensive though it is, has fixed a plethora of problems for me, and will fix a plethora that have yet to come (related to travelling/needing to be away from home for some time).
A few other things this machine has fixed based on reviews:
- Cats waking you up early in the morning/late at night for feedings. Cats in general begging for food. Example & example.
- Clearing up issues related to food anxiety and weight gain over hunger. Example here.
- Keeping outdoor cat food out of the hands of raccoons – though if your raccoons are smart enough you may need to use a DIY hack like this one here.
- Prevent whining and begging while humans are cooking and/or eating dinner. Example here.
That’s on top of the additional benefits I’ve discussed, which I’ll do my best to summarize here:
- Helps sensitive stomach cats who often vomit before meals due to increased stomach acidity and anticipating a meal.
- Helps behavioural problems that may be cropping up due to hunger.
- Can feed your pet completely for you if you’re travelling for very short periods of time.
- Can keep your cat(s) mentally stimulated during the day if you’re off at work (even without the food toy)
- Easy to place a food toy beneath, keeping them even more stimulated whenever this goes off.
- Only need one food toy for multiple cats; easy to feed snacks to the whole feline furry part of the household.
- Keeps cats more awake in the morning, helping them sleep through nights.
- Easy to provide multi-kibble mixes, if that’s something you’d like to do.
There are a few situations where I feel this feeder would absolutely not work and that’s the following:
- Where you feed only wet food.
- Where you have multiple cats, and at least one eats a different kibble (especially if it’s for health reasons).
- You free-feed your cats kibble and want to continue doing so due to there being no weight or other health issues (though I doubt you’d be interested in a product like this if that was the case).
- You have a very large dog who’s a bit of a trouble maker as he or she might be able to destroy this thing. It isn’t strong enough to withstand some very large, strong dogs. Actually, if you are okay with DIY-ing this shouldn’t be a problem as you can use the clever raccoon fix to prevent your dog from destroying it.
- If you have a lot of food theft going on and at least one really aggressive eater and at least one really submissive cat who probably would get nothing. Things may work out, they did for me, but they may not. For cases like this, you may want a microchip cat feeder like the SureFlap SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder to protect the food of your submissive furry instead, especially if he or she is capable of free-eating without weight gain or eating slowly enough to not need a slow feeder bowl to prevent scarfing.
- You just want to feed one or two meals a day, have no issues a timed feeder can resolve, and thus the price tag becomes unnecessary.
- You have multiple cats, and want to be able to be quite exact with portion sizes each cat is eating. You absolutely can remedy this a little like I do – by offering at least a main meal or two a day yourself, but it’s not a completely fool proof method.
The PetSafe Simply Feed is 100% worth the price to me and I have already ranted and raved about it to everybody I know with cats. I can’t imagine being without one anymore, for so many reasons – from convenience to the plethora of problems it’s already fix and going to prevent from cropping up in the future.
Could there be a better product on the market? Yes, absolutely. But I’m not going to complain about this one considering it’s ever so close to perfect.
A++; and for a cat product, swimming in a world of easy-to-break pet stuff and toys that never get used – that’s a pretty big deal.