As a pet lover and software engineer, I love learning about all the new pet tech products that are hitting the market. One growing category within pet technology that I keep see popping up at trade shows (like the Global Pet Expo) is the automatic feeder for both dogs and cats.
I think this type of technology is particularly interesting because there are bunch of different use cases for WHY you might be interested in using an automatic feeder (late hours, weight management, etc.) and there are a ton of variables to make it work seamlessly for each person and their pets.
Though a newer company, Petnet, seems to be leading the pack in balancing all the possible needs of pet parents with an easy to use system through their SmartFeeder. We had the chance to try it out recently and put both the software and hardware to the test.
Possible Uses for Automatic Pet Feeders
When I first learned about automatic feeders, I was intrigued by the technical components and wanted to learn more about the user experience of a pet parent, but I wasn’t quite sure if I personally would ever find a need to use one. So, I decided to dig a little deeper to find out why people just might want to use an automatic feeder. Below are the top ideas I came up with.
1. You occasionally work long hours and want to ensure your pet is fed on time every day.
2. Your pet does better when they have a regular routine.
3. Your pet is overweight or you need help with portion sizes.
4. You are forgetful and sometimes can’t remember if you already fed the dog – we all know they won’t tell the truth!
5. You need a gentle reminder when it’s time to order or pick up more dog food.
6. You really like technology because it makes life easier.
7. Your dog suffers from separation anxiety and feeding meals after you leave helps. This made a huge difference with getting Luna over her separation anxiety!
Do you have a different reason for using or wanting to use an automatic pet feeder? Leave a comment below!
What is the Petnet SmartFeeder?
The Petnet SmartFeeder is an automatic pet feeder that dispenses food according to a schedule you set. It works great for both dogs and cats up to 55 lbs. The smart device is connected directly with your mobile phone allowing you to manage the schedule or even feed your pet directly from an app on your phone. It’s currently available online and at various in-store retailers for $149.
Petnet aims to improve the overall health of pets by putting an end to overfeeding. Their resources and SmartFeeder are designed specifically to help pet parents make intelligent decisions regarding their pets, bringing more joy to everyone – both pets and people.
The mobile app that pairs with the Petnet SmartFeeder is set up so you can personalize how you want to feed your pets. Petnet knows that all pets are unique, so the app asks for your pet’s age, weight, and activity level to help determine the best feeding schedule and daily meal goal for them. The app also gives you insight into how your pet’s overall diet is with a Food Report Card that breaks down what is actually in your pet’s food, so you can make better decisions about their diet.
Once you enter your pet’s information into the Petnet app, you are able to set up a feeding schedule by setting individual meals. You can select the meal portion size ranging from 1/16 to 1 1/2 cups, time of day, and day of the week for it to repeat. There is a lot of flexibility as you can have different meals on different days and multiple meals per day. You can also trigger a “Feed Now” through the app or by pressing the button directly on the SmartFeeder device.
The SmartFeeder device plugs in directly to the wall, so there is no need to replace batteries. The team at Petnet really did think of everything though! The cord for the plug is super durable and even chew resistent. Plus, the device features a backup battery that will last for up to 7 hours in case the power goes out.
Food is dispensed into a stainless steel bowl, which pops out and is super easy to clean. For each meal, the SmartFeeder precisely measures out the portion size you had set in your pet’s schedule to ensure your pet is eating the right amount every single day. Once a meal has been dispensed, you will receive a push notification on your smart phone to let you know. In the event there is a problem with the feeding or your SmartFeeder cannot be reached, you will also be notified.
The SmartFeeder includes a food hopper, which can hold up to 7 lbs of food and is designed to keep it fresh and free of debris. The device includes a Food Level Sensor, so it can remind you to refill it or even pick up more food based on the size of your bag. Certain areas can also try out SmartDelivery, which allows you to order food directly through Petnet when you are running low.
According to Petnet, not all food is created equal, so while some flow bits of kibble flow seamlessly through the device others need a little nudge. To solve this problem, Petnet offers a SmartFeeder Ramp which helps kibble that may have normally gotten stuck slide down effortlessly. The SmartFeeder is placed on top of the ramp and slots into place. The added angle allows food of various shapes and sizes to be dispensed. Currently, the SmartFeeder supports dry food of 1/8″ to 5/8″ in diameter. If you purchase a SmartFeeder, you can claim your free ramp online.
Not only is the SmartFeeder smart itself, but it also links with other smart technologies. You can check in on your pet during mealtime by linking up a Nest Cam. This will allow you to view snapshots and video clips of your dog or cat chowing down! And super recently, the SmartFeeder is able to work with Amazon Alexa allowing you to feed your pet through a voice command.
Impressions of the Petnet SmartFeeder
Though initially skeptical of why I might want to use an automatic feeder, I found the Petnet SmartFeeder to be extremely well designed and developed and I believe it will provide a great user experience to pet parents who need a product like this.
Here’s a list of features of the Petnet SmartFeeder that impressed me (the “Pros” if you will…):
- Sleek Black Design
- Chew Resistant Power USB Cable
- Removable Easy-to-Clean Stainless Steel Bowl
- Built-in Rechargeable Backup Battery
- Mobile Phone Push Notifications for Successful Feeds and Possible Issues
- Flexible Meals – Able to Combine Scheduled and Instant Meals
- Flexible Meals – Multiple Meal Portion Sizes and Frequencies for Scheduled Meals
- Visually Appealing, Easy to Navigate Mobile Phone App
- Food Level Warnings and Pet Food Purchase Reminders
- Ability to Feed Your Pets from Your Phone
- Company Invested in Solving Problems – Get a FREE Ramp
When setting up and using our Petnet SmartFeeder, we ran into three minor issues (the “Cons”):
May Require a Bit of Training
Luna was a bit scared of the device because it makes noises when it dispenses food. She’s had similar issues with other products (water fountains, automatic treat dispensers, etc.) Usually it just requires time and a bit of positive reinforcement. Once she realized it was providing her with tasty morsels, she opened up a bit more. Ralph didn’t have as much of a problem. If your dog is skittish around strange noises, just be aware. You don’t have to rule it out, but it might require more work and time to make it work for your pet.
Not Ideal for Multi-Pet Households
Unless you are really good at training your pets to not each others meals, there isn’t a good way to differentiate who eats what meals that are dispensed. In our house, Luna would definitely try to gobble up all of Ralph’s meals which completely goes against trying to stop overfeeding and pet obesity. This may not be as much of an issue for cats or less food motivated pets.
ONLY 2.4GHz WiFi Supported
This will really only apply if you are a tech-y person like me. We actually have both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi frequencies set up in our house. We generally use the 5GHz, so when the SmartFeeder device tried to connect it took the same settings that were in my mobile phone. The connection failed a few times and displayed a rather unhelpful error message. Eventually I overrode the default connection info and forced a connection via our 2.4GHz frequency. Then the device was able to connect. If you don’t understand or know what WiFi frequency you have, then you’ll probably be alright. Petnet does distinctly say on their website that only 2.4GHz is supported, so this was more a user error on my part. I do hope they add a more helpful error message though!
Overall, I was actually surprised that the price of the Petnet SmartFeeder is only $149. Yes, that is definitely an investment, but for the quality of what you get I think it’s well worth the money.
Learn More About the Petnet SmartFeeder
In addition to the SmartFeeder, Petnet also offers a SmartBowl and is working to launch a SmartDelivery service soon. The SmartBowl is a WiFi bowl with built in smart scale designed for feeding cats and dogs. The bowl’s purpose is to help pet parents measure and pour the right size portions for every meal. The bowl is available for $49.
SmartDelivery is a new subscription based service coming soon that will ship your pet’s food right to your door, so it arrives right before you run out. This is connected directly with the information you input into the mobile app (food bag size) and your food level readings from your SmartFeeder. According to Petnet, shipping is always free and you can cancel anytime. If this is something you might be interested in, keep an eye out!
Have you ever used an automatic pet feeder? How did it work for you?
Disclaimer: I am being compensated to help spread the word about the Petnet SmartFeeder. I received no additional benefits for mentioning the brands or products in this post. The opinions and ideas in this post are my own and are uninfluenced by any other person or business.
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