Product Type: Staywell other pts
Marigold Has Her Meals Like Clockwork!
Staywell Pet Feeder 153
Member Name: Machair1
Staywell Pet Feeder 153
Date: 22/09/10, updated on 22/09/10 (205 review reads)
Advantages: Easy to use and to clean.
Disadvantages: Prolonged absense will reveal the first compartment again.
Last weekend saw the departure of my youngest son as he left for university in Scotland. This was a milestone in the lives of my three rather pampered Persian cats that, until this point, had a ready made feline carer waiting to step in on my weekend trips. This is when I decided that, for once, the cats should learn to stay home alone. Now I am not proposing to leave them for long periods, but just for a couple of days, and I needed a solution which was not dependant on neighbourly help or outside visits, and this is when I came across the Staywell 153 Pet Feeder. This simple clockwork device was to become my best friend.
Researching the market enabled a comparison to be made between the large numbers of pet feeders available. Many of these are fancy machines and no doubt work well, but I favoured simplicity and so I plumped for the clockwork feeder.
To understand the ideas behind this machine you have to step inside the mind of Marigold, my oldest Persian. At eleven she has seen a lot of life - all indoors though, as she has never stepped outside other than for annual vet appointments. She adores her food but she has no intention of eating dry cat biscuits - the main food I feed to my other two. This makes it rather difficult if you want to go away for the night, as she will starve herself rather than eat dry food provided. It is for this reason that I wanted a pet feeder which had some kind of chilling facility.
The Staywell 153 Cat Feeder has four compartments and a space underneath these for a chilled ice pack. I purchased mine from Amazon for £19.36. It works by the medium of a clockwork mechanism which, after winding up, clicks at a snails pace revealing each compartment over a period of 36 hours. It has no timer or batteries so the simplicity really appealed to me.
The unit consists of three main parts. Firstly the base unit which has four compartments. Then the lid which fits on the top but which has one quarter missing to expose the first feeding compartment, and lastly the clockwork device which locks in between the lid and the base.
Before departure you fill the compartments with wet or dry food and put the ice pack in place if you are using. The model I purchased was not supplied with one, but some models are. I called Staywell who told me they no longer sell the ice packs separately, but that a standard ice pack would fit the space, and it did.
So before I used this for the first time I decided to test it out on Marigold in case I could see any snags or particular points I could learn from. This was really important as I wanted to feel secure when I really did leave her for the first time.
The first point I must make is that Marigold was the main beneficiary of this product. My other two cats are happy just grazing on their dry food and have no real need for food presented in this way. Therefore I will concentrate on Marigold and her culinary preferences in relation to this feeding system. My first piece of advice is to feed your cat a large meal before you leave in a separate bowl. Choose something which they really love and don't have very often. I purchased Applause cat food for this purpose which looks absolutely delicious, and is guaranteed to send Marigold to the lounge for the afternoon to snooze away the hours. The advantage of this special meal is that the bowl can be washed thoroughly, and you leave with the knowledge that your cat has been well fed. It also gives the opportunity to feed slightly more food than the first compartment would allow.
For this reason I then leave the first compartment of the cat feeder empty. This keeps the unit cleaner for longer. So after winding up the feeder, the hours tick by and the first of the remaining three compartments will very gradually appear. There is no loud noise associating with the ticking clock mechanism, which is kind to cats as they hate being startled, but you can discern it and I would imagine this would be annoying if you were there to hear it. What to put in these compartments is really up to you, but I have found that tuna in spring water works the best, as the fish is moist and covered in the liquid, so it stays fresh and doesn't dry out as commercial cat foods will. Marigold adores this special treat so it partially makes up for the lack of human company.
So over the next 36 hours these three meals will appear giving you a 36-48 hour window to be away - but you will come home to a ravenous cat if you leave it much beyond 40! We tried this out for the first time after the trial last weekend. We had a very long trip to do to Scotland which was to begin on Friday afternoon, and end in the early hours of Sunday morning. The feeder will cover meals for 36 hours, and so after this time your cat will have no food, so you need to return as soon as possible after this. This is also important as the first compartment will be revealed at the end of the period again, and if food was left it would be available again for the cat to eat. Now most cats won't touch old food, but it is a health risk to them and hunger could generate an urge to eat this. For this reason you really must adhere to the time-scale this feeder covers, and not extend the time, unless you have made arrangements for a neighbour or friend to check up on them.This isn't as important with dry food but fresh food certainly casues more of a concern. This is the main reason why I leave the first compartment empty and feed Marigold the special meal in a separate bowl before I Leave. That way at the end of the cycle the pure white clean bowl is the only one revealed.
Of course you need to provide lots of drinking water, several litter trays, and I left dry food for the other cats. Mine tend to be quite sensible when presented with dry food and do not eat it too quickly, but if you have a cat which does then it would also suit you to purchase this feeder which can stagger their meals in the same fashion as it does for the wet food. My daughter owns two rescue cats that I call puddings! They are actually called Peach and Plum and are built like barrels, and would need this feeder to avoid eating their dry food all in one go making themselves sick from greed!
We could have stayed until Sunday afternoon, but we were slightly concerned about the device as we had not used it before during a real absence. I should not have had any concerns because the cats were sound asleep on the lounge chairs, all the meals had been eaten by Marigold and she was totally contented. I think she scarcely missed our departure having lived the high life for the weekend on Waitrose Maldivian line caught tinned tuna in spring water! It was amusing though as my husband was really concerned about her, and as we were driving home down the A1 I could sense the urgency he was feeling about her situation!
One point I would make about using this device for fresh cat food is that the ice packs have a limited chilling effect and would not be suitable for fresh meat in my opinion. Indeed I would advise against this, as it could spoil and cause stomach upsets. Chicken in particular would be a serious risk. Commercial cat food is ok but it does have a tendency to dry out, and if the cat leaves it or is messy with it then the clearing up is worse. The first time I tried the feeder as an experiment I used Sheba- Marigold's usual food, but she was messier with it compared to the tuna which was eaten in its entirety!
I would also advise to seek out the feeder which comes with the ice pack if you can. I was rather disappointed when I spoke to Staywell to find that they did not sell them separately any more. The other point to make is that the unit can take up to two ice packs if you want to chill all the compartments satisfactorily which will necessitate seeking out at least one extra pack.
The base and the lid are both dish washable which is brilliant because it takes the effort out of cleaning what can be a rather stinky item after 2 days!
I have very high praise for this device which offers freedom for the cat lover who enjoys the odd night away. It saves money on cattery fees and allows the cat to remain in its home surroundings. Highly recommended!
This review will also be published on Ciao under my user name Violet1278 with photos!
Summary: A first class simple device which offers freedom to cat owners.