For a long time, I was looking for an automatic cat feeder that can feed two cats at the same time, but I could never find one – until the Staywell PetPod finally came along. I ordered it right away and what follows is my in-depth review of it.
Our cats are about four years old and we only feed them twice a day now. Many cats are happy if you put out some dry food foor them and they will nibble it during the day when they get hungry. You can’t do that with ours. If Garrus and Wrex see food, they will immediately eat every last bit of it. As a result, if we feed them twice a day, they will only eat twice a day (and they won’t leave anything for later for a snack in between).
From all the books and opinions I’ve read, it seems acceptable to only feed your cats twice a day, but it would be beneficial to feed them more often than that. If they lived outside and had to fend for themselves, they’d have several snacks throughout the day (a bird here, a mouse there), so this would be their natural feeding rhythm.
So what I wanted to get was an automatic pet feeder with a timer, so my cats could get an additional little snack twice a day.
If you look for feeders for two cats, you’ll likely come across the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder. It has a microchip (RFID) reader so you can program in your cat’s chip and it will only open for that cat. Obviously, for this to work your cat needs to be chipped – ours are. Problem: With this feeder, every cat has their own food and Wrex can’t eat Garrus’ food. But they would still eat all available food at once and not leave anything for later. In other words: A timer is missing. So a SureFeed cat feeder sadly won’t help in our case.
Option 2 which comes up on Google is the PetSafe feeder priced at more than $100. It’s made for only one cat, but you can get a splitter 3D printed that turns it into a feeder for two cats. Unfortunately this splitter isn’t always available. If you can find this 3D printed part, it’s roughly $25 for an additional a piece of plastic. This method might work, but is expensive and the part is not always available. In general, I do like the idea of making an “unusable” feeder usable by adding a 3D-printed part, though.
Option 3 was to get two feeders like the Trixie TX1. It’s cheaper at roughly $30, so it’s still an acceptable price if you buy two. We did have one of those and it worked a treat until one of our cats pushed it from the shelf and broke the opening mechanism. The problem with the Trixie feeder is that you can never know if both cats will eat from it. It has a fairly big surface and you can put a lot of food in it, but you can’t know (unless you’re there to watch it) if both cats eat from it or if one cat will eat from it and the other one will sit nearby not getting any. So it would be necessary to get two of these feeders, but the Trixie TX1 only has an analog timer – it’s essentially a small cog that lets you set the number of ours until it’s meant to open. If it’s 10am and you want the feeder to open at 3pm, you set the cog to 5 hours and it will slowly tick away the minutes. (By the way, you can hear the ticking sound. Some people apparently don’t like the sound.)
The problem is: you can’t set the timer exactly to the second. This is obviously an issue if you’re trying to feed two cats. If one lid opens after 4 hours and 55 minutes and your dominant cat eats it all, then the next lid opens after exactly 5 hours, your dominant cat will simply continue with the next feeder. So this is also not an ideal option.
Then I finally came across the Staywell automatic cat feeder, which fulfils all of my requirements: It was less than $60 at the time, which was much less than the feeder requiring the additional 3D-printed part. While it can’t read RFID chips, it does have two food trays. And more importantly: The inbuilt timer is digital, so both trays can be programmed to open at the exact same second. My only concern was if our cats would manage to “crack open” the feeder, as Amazon reviews were divided on that part. But I was willing to give it a shot.
A note on the name: My packaging calls the feeder “petPod” and the company name seems to be Staywell. However, I’ve also found it on Amazon under the names PetSafe Feeder as well as Nobby petPod. Make sure you look around to see if you find it cheaper under a different name.
The PetPod feeder arrived quickly and in a sturdy box. It came with a manual explaining how to program it. Batteries were not included. It needs two AA batteries – we tried it with rechargeable batteries first, but they don’t work very well. I’m not sure if this is because our rechargeable batteries had been around a while or because the PetPod feeder is one of those devices that need 1.5 volts rather than the 1.2 volts rechargeable batteries produce. My guess is it’s the latter, as the manual indeed mentions that you should not use rechargeable batteries.
You put the batteries in at the back. You’ll need a screwdriver to to that. In comparison with the Trixie TX1, the batteries go in very easily. Putting batteries in the Trixie TX1 was always a big hassle, as the compartment was so small that you’d break all fingernails trying to get at the batteries. With the PetPod, changing the batteries is really easy.
Setting the digital timer is very easy. The manual contains detailed instructions. The button on the bottom right lets you pick which setting you want to change, the button on the top left lets you change the time. You can enter the same time for both compartments if you want to feed two cats, otherwise you can also put different times if you’re just feeding one cat. You can also pick a day, but I set it to open daily and I simply change the time next time I put the feeder out.
If you’re feeding two cats, make sure that below the hour display, you see two lid symbols, indicating both lids have been programmed to open. Otherwise, only one of them will open. But as I said, setting the feeder is very easy and convenient and not much of a challenge at all.
The plastic trays seem very stable. You can take them out and wash them between feeds. You open or close the lids by pressing a button – the button on the top left will open and close the left lid, the button on the top right will open and close the right lid. You’ll hear a little motor hum and the lid shuts tightly. I’m mostly mentioning this because someone on Amazon commented that the lids opened to easily. It wasn’t at all clear, though, if they had actually closed them by using the button or if they had pushed them shut. This feeder works by pushing a button, so don’t use force at all to open or close it.
I feed the Staywell PetPod with dry food – but as it’s closed and so the food is protected, you could put in wet food just as well, depending on how far in advance you’re setting it. Be aware though that the feeder doesn’t have a cooling function, so it probably works best with dry food.
Getting your cats used to it
The big question was if our cats would accept the feeder. The reviews weren’t really clear and I know out cats have a bit of a violent streak when it comes to taking things apart that contain food. How do you get your cats used to the feeder?
First I filled it and put it down, but my cats didn’t like that at all. To them, the Staywell feeder was more of an activity toy than anything else. I filmed them with my IP camera.
I waited, hoping they’d soon lose interest, but our apartment is not big enough and the noise kept me from falling asleep. Next I put the feeder on a soft mat to prevent it from being noisy when they lift it and let it fall back down. I also stuck StickyPaws on the device – which is essentially wide strips of double-sided tape, nothing else. You can also stick them on your sofa to prevent your cats from scratching your sofa.
But even with the StickyPaws tape attached, they still scratched up the feeder and managed to open the little flap on the top. Once that’s open, they only have to push the right button to open the feeder. But I didn’t give up that easily either. I took our very sticky double-sided tape out of the drawer (something like this) and tried again.
Now we had a battle going – cat vs. sticky tape. At first, they did manage to open one of the flaps. When I found it, it hadn’t been opened completely, so I assume they managed it through violence rather than by pressing the right button.
So I added more tape. There are two dents below the lids that I imagine are there to make it easier to take the trays out for washing. They are a good point of attack for cats, so I put sticky tape over them. I also taped the flap on the top down. And wouldn’t you know it: it helped!
At some point, they decided the feeder was a sticky mess and maybe they also realized that at some point, the machine opens all on its own. And my camera had the proof: When the trays open, but cats sit in front of them, eating. It’s not just one dominant cat getting all the food.
Pros and cons
Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of the Staywell PetPod:
- It’s simple to set and you can set it precisely to the time you want.
- It’s easy to fill and easy to clean.
- Sticky tape made it so the cats couldn’t break in.
- It works for two cats at once.
- It’s a bit expensive compared with feeders for one cat.
- You need sticky tape to cat-proof it if your cats are as wild as mine.
After a short phase of getting them used to the feeder, they’ve now been using it consistently for quite a while. Double-sided tape prevented them from braking in – now they just wait until they hear the sound of the little motor and they run to it and eat. Setting a time is extremely easy and the feeder has been very reliable so far.
Although it was a bit more expensive than I would have liked (the price on Amazon seems to go up and down), it fulfils all the requirements I had for a cat feeder used to feed two cats: It’s got a digital timer and feeds two cats at once.
I wholeheartedly recommend the automatic Staywell Petpod feeder – not only because there doesn’t seem to be a comparable product out there capable of feeding two cats with a timer, but also because it’s a sturdy, good product that does exactly what it’s meant to.
Here are some links to the feeder on different sites: