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Why Veterinarians Hate Automatic Dry Food Cat Feeders

In the movies, Garfield the cat, the overly plump feline who’s always in search of food and adventure, is great for a laugh.

In the real world, however, obesity in cats leads to unhealthiness, illness, and even death. Diabetes, arthritis, urinary obstruction, skin problems, and cancer are much more prevalent in obese cats than normal weight cats.

In the wild, cats spend most of their waking hours (not necessarily daylight hours) hunting for food, defending their territory, and caring for young or finding a mate. In today’s world, pet cats often get little exercise and find calories very easily in their dish – no hunting required.

Why Veterinarians Hate Automatic Dry Food Cat Feeders | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Dry vs. Canned Cat Food

Dry cat food is very calorie dense and only about 10% moisture. Alternatively, canned cat food is 90% moisture and has many fewer calories per ounce, more similar to the little critters cats catch in the wild.

Because dry food is so calorie dense, it doesn’t take too many bites to fulfill a cat’s calorie needs. Yet a cat’s instinct to eat until full remains. Some cats can self-regulate and remain slim, but most see the smorgasbord and lose control. Others may not be eating at all, but the change isn’t readily apparent.

Auto Feeder = Calorie Dispenser

Enter the automatic dry cat food feeder, dispenser of calories, often with little regard to a cat’s true needs or consumption. Set it and forget it.

The dry food feeder’s purpose is owner convenience – keep the bowl full, regardless of whether Fluffy ate a little or a lot. Most automatic dry cat food feeders lull cat owners into not paying close attention to what their cat(s) are truly consuming, from too much to too little. In fact, a cat may be ill and eating very little, but the change is difficult to spot for several days or even longer.

The Temptation of Automatic Cat Feeders

Automatic feeders tempt cat owners to consider leaving cats for extended periods without daily supervision from a pet sitter, kind neighbor, or boarding facility.

Most veterinarians have stories of calls from distraught cat owners just returning after a weekend or week away from home to find their cat in dire straits because the cat feeder malfunctioned, or the feeder is still full and the cat wasn’t eating, or the cat developed a medical emergency (such as a urinary blockage), yet no one was there to notice. The money saved on a pet sitter or boarding turns into an afterthought in the regret of the current reality of an ill or dead cat.

It can be a hassle every morning and evening with a cat intertwined around your legs, begging for food while you’re trying to get to work or make dinner. But those moments of carefully monitoring what your cat is eating is time well spent, both in terms of your cat’s physical health and promoting the beautiful bond between you and your cat.

And besides, veterinarians recommend feeding cats primarily wet food because it more closely mimics their natural nutritional and hydration needs. So forgo that automatic dry feeder and stick to meal feeding your cat two to three times a day.

Wet Food Cat Feeders

On the other hand, automatic wet food cat feeders, which require daily washing, filling, and setting, offer some convenience. They provide 2-6 small wet food meals per day.

If a cat isn’t eating well, it’s apparent within 24 hours. Our favorite one includes a freezer pack to keep the food fresh. These do make sense.

6 Responses to “Why Veterinarians Hate Automatic Dry Food Cat Feeders”

  1. Reply Christina Nunn

    My cat is always looking for food! Food puzzles love her, she instantly bored after the food is all out.
    I’m home more often than I ever was. She would benefit from 3 meals a day. When I go to work, she doesn’t get that 3rd meal around noon.
    I am considering an automatic feeder for that reason. And so won’t eat wet food.

    • Reply Suga Mama

      Well, while I understand *why* vets would discourage automatic cat feeders, keep in mind that cat owners may NOT have time to feed their darling kitties.

      Also, ( if you are anything like me and take care of stray cats who are NOT allowed inside the house / apartment ), then the very next best action, so to speak, is to provide your feline friends with the automatic feed AND automatic water fountain.

  2. Reply Eric

    I don’t know if the quantity is controlled but you can do that and prevent the obesity. Not to mention playing with your cat’s as an integral part of owning a pet so you need to satisfy the hunting instinct by playing with them at least 20 minutes a day if not more.

  3. Reply K Hughes

    We have had both indoor cats on Petlibro auto feeders for dry food for a year, with great success, we just added one for our outdoor guy (not feral). They get a small portion (quarter cup) 2 x day, we also give them each about 1.8 ounces of wet food AM and PM (total just over 3 oz per day). A neighbor checks in on them once or twice per day. Our guys would be TERRIFIED and unsettled at a boarding facility, and paying someone $30 day to stop in for 20 min is not feasible when away for 3 weeks. We trade with the neighbors, Our cats are fine, well cared for, well fed and all 10+ years old. Diisagree auto feeders are bad, they are great.

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