Do you know what your cat or dog most looks forward to in life? Just a whiskers width after a tummy rub and your loving attention – and maybe tied for a walk to the park for canines and laser pointer playtime for felines – is the sound of kibbles being poured or a can of food being opened...
In our two cat household we're faced with the dilemma of balancing the habits of one picky grazer and another cat who tends to eat kibbles like a whale shark. We found if we left feeding bowls unattended, one cat would get rounder and the other thinner, sort of like an hourglass timer.
It's only when we switched to an automated, multi-meal timed feeder did we see both of the cat's weight stabilize (an expensive investment I'll never regret purchasing). The feeder is set to dole out several small meals throughout the day, with one larger serving in the evening to satiate them through the night. Ever since adopting this automated setup, both our felines have maintained a slim weight and are active, even now in their double-figure age when weight gain normally becomes an issue.
But many American cats and dogs are facing some of the same dietary/fitness issues as their owners. Pet obesity is on the rise, especially when many owners keep pet bowls and feeders topped off with kibbles for their cats or dogs to graze on throughout the day. Think about it, if you worked with a plate of your favorite sandwiches on your desk, would you be able to say "no"? I'd certainly be tempted to have "just one more, don't mind if I do!".
Of course, pet owners aren't intentionally trying to overfeed their dogs or cats. We often leave a "little more" as a treat, sometimes out of guilt when we're away at work or off for a day/weekend trip without our faithful tailed companion. But in time, all those extra treats and feeding opportunities add up, and pets can exhibit some of the same health/dietary issues plaguing their bipedal counterparts. Because our pets cannot speak, they can't clearly communicate what might be ailing them...and the source of those ailments might be sourced to your feeding habits.
According to a 2010 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention study, out of the 171 million cats and dogs we include as family in our households, an estimated 93 million US dogs and cats are overweight or obese. That's a staggering figure with even more sobering effects:
- Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart and Respiratory Disease
- Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
- Kidney Disease
- Many Forms of Cancer
- Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)
As you can see, just like their human counterparts, animals kept as pets are struggling with weight gain and its effects. Because automated feeders regulate the amount of food served, while also transferring the duty of feeding itself (cutting down on begging), cats and dogs quickly acclimate to a specific schedule of feeding, and in time setting modest portion feed times throughout the day can result in marked changes. In many ways, this automated portion control mirrors what nutritionists and trainers recommend for people seeking healthier dietary habits: eat more often, but in smaller portions, all throughout the day on a set schedule.
Before purchasing an automated feeder, consider these few factors:
1. How many pets are in your household? You may need seperate automated feeders if pets are overly competitive/aggressive during feeding time.
2. Consider the size and strength of your pet. I initially purchased one of those plastic top dial-style automated feeders, and within one week our piggish and clever cat had discovered she could pull back the flexible top. After 3 weeks, she had pulled the cheap spinning cover off completely. Thus, the Fort Knox all-metal feeder today.
3. Review whether the feeder is appropriate for either/or cats or dogs. Certain models, like the Gatefeeder RFID model below, is specificall designed for cats. It may work with the smallest of dogs, but realize canine and feline bodies are notably different in dimensions and dietary requirements.
And be sure to always offer your pets a more than sufficient amount of clean water. Staying hydrated is equally important for overall health, whether for a cat, dog, or their mostly hairless roommates: us.
Animal Planet Programmable Electronic Pet Feeder
1. Animal Planet Programmable Electronic Pet Feeder: $29.99
2. Petmate Le Bistro Portion-Control Automatic Pet Feeder: $63.26
3. Super Feeder Csf-3 Automatic Cat Feeder: $169.00 (Amazon)
4. PintoFeed Intelligent Pet Feeder: $179.00
5. Gatefeeder GF-100 RFID Controlled Automated Pet Feeder for Cats: $193.98
Automated Drinking Fountains:
6. Petmate 24571 UV Light Infinity Dog Water Fountain, 180oz: $42.44
7. Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain 168oz: $43.81 (Amazon)
8. Automatic Dog Watering Bowl: $14.56
9. NatureSPA Premium Pet Fountain with UV Purification: $57.08 (Amazon)
10. Hagen Dogit Design Fresh and Clear Dog Drinking Fountain: $22.68 (Amazon)
(Images: Carolyn Purnell - Sarah & Brian's Salvaged Stories; as linked above)