Some Help for Busy Owners

Devices that provide your cat with food and fresh water all day can be helpful. Here's what to look for when choosing one.

Ann McGorty was having a problem getting her cat, Jesse, to drink enough water. Jesse ignored the bowls of fresh water that were strategically placed around the house, preferring instead to drink water from a drippy faucet. Thats when McGorty had an idea. What if she could provide fresh, running water for Jesse all the time?

“I thought it would be a novel idea to get an automatic waterer for my cat,” the Santa Barbara, California, resident remembers. “Nothing else was working.”

Gravity-Style Feeder

Bev Caldwell


McGorty went online and purchased an electric waterer that doubled as an attractive fountain. Most importantly, her cat was drinking more water. “Jesse now loves drinking water and finds the fountain very entertaining,” she enthuses.

Stationary or Automatic?

Every cat needs a food and water dish, but which one best fits her needs? Were all familiar with the typical stationary dishes – the ones with the cute colors and designs, or your cats name printed on the side. These types of dishes have been around for many years and are fine for most cats. Automatic feeders and waterers, on the other hand, can aid cats that have health-related or behavioral issues or serve as a convenience for owners.

To help determine whether an automatic feeder and waterer would be beneficial for your cat, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I away from home several hours each day?

  • Does my cat need to eat at a certain time (i.e., because of a medical condition like diabetes)?

  • Do I need to feed my cat a specific portion of food at each meal (for medical reasons or for weight control)?

  • Does my cat jump onto the sink in order to drink water from the faucet?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then read on to learn more about the various types of automatic feeders and waterers and how to select the right model for your cat.

There are two main types of automatic feeders and waterers, and we’ll discuss their differences.

Gravity-Style Feeders and Waterers. The gravity-style feeder consists of a plastic canister that holds a supply of dry food and snaps onto the base (or bowl) of the unit. Since cats receive unrestricted access to dry food with a gravity-style feeder, its important to monitor your pets weight to ensure that she doesnt start packing on the pounds.

The gravity-style waterer is also a two-piece unit, with a plastic canister to hold the water and a detachable reservoir (bowl). Both the canister and reservoir should be thoroughly cleaned at least

Electronic Waterer

Bev Caldwell


once a week to remove bacteria, mold and algae buildup. These types of feeders and waterers are simple in design, easy to clean and inexpensive. They can be found at all pet stores or through online pet retailers.

Electronic Feeders. Electronic feeders are typically battery-operated or electric units that plug into a standard household outlet (make sure the product is UL listed for safety). The automatic feeder uses a programmable timer so that your cat receives a single meal at a predetermined time, which is crucial for diabetic or senior cats. Electronic feeders are more expensive than their gravity-style counterparts but offer a key advantage: They are useful if you plan on being away from home on a regular basis and want to maintain consistent feeding times and portion control for your cat.

With that said, its important that you never leave your cat alone for more than a day without someone checking in on her. Some people assume that cats are completely self-sufficient, but thats simply not the case. Your cat will not only miss the human interaction but depends on you for her safety and well-being. Theres always a chance that she may become injured or ill while you are gone and need immediate medical attention.

If you dont have a reliable neighbor or family member nearby, consider hiring a pet sitter the next time you go out of town. Organizations such as Pet Sitters International (336-982-9222, can help you find a professional pet sitter in your area.

A Way to Provide Running Water

Like humans, all cats need fresh drinking water in order to stay healthy. But many cats dont get enough H2O simply because they dont like the taste of stagnant tap water in their bowl; they would prefer to drink fresh, running water from the faucet. While some may think its cute when their cats jump into the kitchen or bathroom sink every time theyre thirsty, some of us would prefer that they didnt do this. An electronic waterer solves this problem by providing a continuous supply of fresh drinking water for your cat.

Many units can hold a gallon or more of water and include a waterfall to aerate the water with healthful oxygen. Electronic waterers come with a replaceable charcoal filter, dont require a separate water line, and use very little electricity. As with gravity-style waterers, its important to clean your electronic waterer frequently and replace the filter every six to eight weeks (more often if you live in an area with hard water).

Whether you choose a simple gravity-style unit or an electronic one, automatic feeders and waterers provide a convenient way to ensure that your cat is getting all her nutritional needs met when youre away from home.