“ A unique product that automatically fills your pets food bowl at set time intervals. Great for when you are out of the house for longer periods. A little tricky to assemble. „
Anyone who has read some of my other reviews will remember that I have 4 cats all of which are very much part of the family. If we've ever gone away for a long weekend then my parents have always been on hand to pop in and look after them but since we moved across the country this is no longer an option.
Now I have nothing against catteries but I feel cats do much better left in their own environment so I needed a new plan because we had a long weekend away coming up.
Up until the time one of my 'greedy' male cats started to over-groom himself and consequently developed bald patches I had always free-fed my cats but since then I've meticulously weighed out their daily amounts of food.
I was aware that you could buy automatic timed feeders and gravity feeders but both these systems had draw backs. The automatic timers only had 2-4 compartments and the gravity feeders didn't restrict the daily amount fed.
Then to my surprise I came across the Andrew James Large Capacity Automatic Pet Feeder on Amazon and the more I read the more it ticked all the boxes.
It's a 90 day or non-stop automatic pet feeder that can be used for dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals. It has a pet proof lock on lid so the food is kept secure and air-tight and prevents accidental spillage. It can be programmed to feed from 1-4 times a day with 1-10 portions at each feed. It has a removable feeding tray for ease of cleaning and a smart sensor to prevent overloading the feeding tray that sets off an alarm if this happens.
Overall size is approx. Height 14" (36cm) x Width 9.5" (24cm) x Depth 17" (43cm incl. feed tray)
Retail price is £59.95 but Amazon is now selling them for £34.95.
When I first saw this product 8 months ago I wasn't prepared to pay £60 so when a month later it was reduced to £39.99 I thought let's give it a go.
It arrived the next day and just had to be assembled. The clear upper food tank fits onto the top of the base unit with two side spring loaded locks; the feeding tray clips into the bottom of the base unit and all that was left to be done was insert the batteries; fill with food; fix the secure lid; set the timer and it was all done in a couple of minutes.
Ok; so let's just back up there a minute. Yes the assembly was very quick and easy but this unit does not come with batteries supplied and then I found out that the batteries required were not the standard ones I had. It required 4 x D size (they are the very large round ones) so off to the shops I went and paid out another £5 for good long lasting quality batteries. I think that this unit could be improved if there was an option to run it like a radio; mains supply or batteries. Having said that the 4 batteries I bought are still going strong 7 months later so it's not so bad.
So with the batteries fitted, back to setting up the programme. Now I had read that others had had problems with understanding how to set this up so I read through the manual; then read it again, put it down and went and made a cup of tea and read it again.
I'm not saying it was complicated as such but as a word of advice whatever you do 'do NOT get rid of the instruction manual at any cost because you will regret it'.
You're probably wondering from the picture where the digital programmer is; well it's on the back of the unit with the batteries fitting in the underneath. Once the batteries are fitted and it's switched on the display will flash and you have 90 seconds to set the clock to the current time in order for the timer to work properly. Under the digital display are 8 buttons including day, clock, start, timer, set, volume, record and play. There is also a red low battery light here that will flash when the batteries need changing; very handy.
You need to use these buttons to set the feed time and number of feedings a day. This can be any time within the 24 hours and anything from 1 to 4 feedings.
Next is setting the volume / portion size. Now this is where you need to experiment. You set the unit to dispense anything from 1 to 10 portions at each feeding with one portion being equal to ¼ cup (60cc). If like me that measurement went straight over your head then you'll need to get out the kitchen scales. Depending on what dried food you are serving this needs working out. For the sake of arguments as I'm feeding cats the following info is based on Burns dried cat food.
One portion is roughly 45-50g and the hopper will take just over 3.5kg of food.
I started by having one feeding of food for the full amount but this clogged up the feeder tray and the alarm went off. The feeder was no where full, it's just that the shape of the food meant that it built up the tray instead of filling up the base first.
I ended up trying all sorts of times and quantities before I was happy so if you plan on just using this for when you go away you need to try this out first to get it right because once it jams up and the alarm goes off it won't deliver food again until it's freed up. This would be very bad if it happened when you were away.
When I was trying to work out the portion I used the manual over-ride buttons which dispenses just one portion of food. For the unit to deliver food it vibrates for about 10 seconds for each portion; I will warn you now this vibrating is very loud so I was concerned that it would frighten my cats off but I have since found that if the topper is full it's not so bad; it's only when the hopper is getting low on food that the vibrating is loud. Another point to make about the hopper getting low on food is that it tends not to dispense as much each portion so it's best to keep the topper filled up. This is very easy to do; just turn the beige coloured disc on the lid to the unlock postion and remove the lid; fill and put the lid back on and turn the disc back to the lock postion.
So after all that what did my cats think? Well to start with the noise did make them wary but now they've got used to it, as soon as they hear it going off they run to it because they know they are about to get fed. Amazingly but not surprisingly it didn't take them long to get into a routine and seemed to know to the nearest 15 minutes when it would dispense again.
You may have noticed that I mentioned there was record and play button as well; this is for recording a message for your pets. Not sure if it was intended to call them for their dinner or to just leave a message so they could hear your reassuring voice; either way this is not a function I use; especially as I use this unit every day whether we are at home or not. I think it would be quite freaky to hear my own voice when I was still in bed.
The other little quirk I've noticed is that over the course of a couple of months or so it keeps gaining time so after a while I've had to adjust the clock but it's not a major fault.
Overall the automatic feeder is a very robust unit, at no point have my cats been able to break into it like some feeders I know and has definitely been worth every penny.
Worth investing in if you want to leave your cats at home when you go away and don't have someone to pop in everyday or even if you just want a lie in one day the cats can look after themselves; no more paws and claws to the face until you get up.
Although I was concerned the first time we left the cats for the weekend totally dependent on this automatic feeder I am now more than happy with it and fully confident in it's reliability.
Great piece of kit; highly recommended.