This $200 Pet Feeder Saved My Sanity When I Got a Second Cat

Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo
Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

For five years it was just me and my sweet grey kitty, Charlie. I didn’t have pets growing up, so when the opportunity finally came for me to be a cat mum as an adult I took it. She’s the perfect cat. Taking care of one cat, especially a cat with her personality, was easy. Then a friend of mine needed to find a home for his grandfather’s cat, so I took in Katniss, a tuxedo kitty the same age as Charlie. It wasn’t the hissing, furniture scratching, or occasion carpet pooping that was the hardest part of integrating her into a new household — it was the constant food stealing. Each of my cats needed their own bowl that only they could access. That’s where the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder came in to save the day. It’s expensive as hell, but I love, love, love this pet feeder.

To be fair, both of my cats are food motivated. I could tip-toe into the kitchen and they are right behind me, expectantly waiting for me to crack open a nice warm can of tuna pâté. So when it came time to finally make the formal introductions, they always tried to steal kibble from each other’s bowls, even if their bowl wasn’t empty. They both graze throughout the day, so manually giving them food 5-10 times a day isn’t practical. I’ve tried automatic feeders in the past, but after nine ant infestations in the span of a few months, I gave up. The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder said it would stop my cats from stealing food from each other and help me stop worrying if one of my cats was going to turn into the next Cinderblock. It totally delivered on that promise.

The bowl itself looks like something straight from a science fiction movie, space-like with the curved arch that goes over the top. It took over a week before my cats got comfortable enough to put their heads underneath it to eat, but once they realised that’s what they needed to do to make the bowl’s lid open, they were fine. That arch is the key to the entire thing: it contains a microchip reader that reads the microchip implanted in your cat (or dog), and will only open the lid for whichever animal your program it to recognise.

SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect

WHAT IS IT?

A pet feeder that you can program to recognise a specific animal in your household so other animals don't steal their food

PRICE

$US150 ($209) per standard feeder, $US180 ($251) per feeder connect, $US253 ($353) for feeder and internet hub

LIKE

Easy to program, training mode, comes with two different bowl sizes, easy to clean, scale for measuring out the right amount of food

NO LIKE

Price, need the internet hub to use the scale, larger pets may have a hard time accessing the bowl

It’s super easy to program, too. You push the button on the back with a cat face and a plus sign next to it, move your cat near the arch, and ta-da, you’re done. Your cat or dog doesn’t even need to have their head fully under the arch for the lid to open. It’s sensitive enough to where your pet will trigger the microchip reader if they are sitting directly next to the bowl. If your pet isn’t microchipped, the SureFeed includes a collar tag with a chip inside that you can program to recognise instead.

There’s also a training mode to gradually get your pets used to the lid moving once they step up to the bowl. Each time you push the ‘cat in a graduation cap’ button, the lid will incrementally close. Combined with placing some treats on the mat in front of the bowl, this definitely helped my cats get used to the noise and motion the lid makes every time they wanted to nibble on some kibble. You’ll have to program the feeder to recognise your cat beforehand, though.

Now, if you have craftier cats than mine, they might try to come around the side or the back of the feeder to sneak some food when the other cat opens it. There are clear, plastic shields along both sides of the feeder that act as a blockade, and the lid itself creates a barrier since it lifts up and retracts backward from the bowl.

However, there is a gap between the side panels and the open lid, because the panels aren’t cut straight on one side. They have a curve to them, so your pet could reach their hand in there and scoop out some food. But if you place the feeder next to a wall in a corner or another strategic location, that should discourage your cat or dog from trying. I have the feeders set next to each other and I don’t have any issues — but my cats also eat at different times.

You can also opt for the Connect version of these feeders, which connect to a separate hub that you plug directly into your router. You manage the connection through an app, where you can check the battery life of the feeders (I’ve had these feeders for nearly two months now and the battery life is still well in the green), set the scales to measure of the weight of the food for precise feeding, and monitor how much and when your pet eats.

Photo: Joanna Nelius (Gizmodo), In-House Art

Photo: Joanna Nelius (Gizmodo), In-House Art

Photo: Joanna Nelius (Gizmodo), In-House Art

Photo: Joanna Nelius (Gizmodo), In-House Art

Photo: Joanna Nelius (Gizmodo), In-House Art

Photo: Joanna Nelius (Gizmodo), In-House Art

The one feature I didn’t find myself using so much was the scale. If you’re someone who weighs your pet’s food before serving them, you’ll probably find it more useful than I did; I use a good ol’ measuring cup. I’m also home all day, so it’s easy for me to glance over and see which of my cats is eating and how much. But, like every other part of the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder, this feature works flawlessly. It would have been nice if the app could connect directly to the feeders themselves, but that probably would have driven up the cost of the feeders.

The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder comes with a big price — $US150 ($209) per feeder without the Connect hub features, $US180 ($251) per feeder with the Connect hub, or $US253 ($353) if you want one Connect feeder plus the hub. It’s easy to look at the cost of one feeder and laugh. $US150 ($209) is not pocket change, but sometimes it can really and worth it, and these feeders are worth it if you’ve got cats with eating issues.

They use a minimal amount of power, so the batteries last a long time. The lid’s motor and rolling mechanism can handle dozens of activations a day. Programming the feeders to recognise my cats’ microchips worked with zero issues. It comes with extra accessories and features, plus tips on how to best get your pets used to the feeder. It’s a wonderful gadget that works as advertised, and I can’t stress enough how much easier these feeders made integrating a new cat into my household. If you do decide to shell out the cash for this feeder, you won’t be disappointed.

README

  • Easy to set up, works flawlessly
  • Includes a collar tag in case your pets aren’t microchipped, or their microchip isn’t compatible
  • Decreased the level of chaos in my house because my cats no longer steal each other’s food
  • Can purchase a separate back cover to keep sneakier eaters away
  • Expensive