The Andrew James New Automatic Pet Feeder

According to Amazon, this thing appeared on The Gadget Show. I have no idea what that is. The Andrew James New Automatic Pet Feeder is a programmable pet food dispenser, dispensing dry food only, programmable for up to 99 days in advance. So if you want to go off and leave your pet alone for three months, it won’t starve.

Except if you used the one I bought, your pet would definitely starve.

The pet feeder’s usual price is £99.95 and when I bought it on Amazon, it was reduced to under £30. It’s pretty big, and requires 4 large batteries. Of course, the battery compartment is on the bottom of the base unit, so make sure you put them in before you fill it. The control panel is on the back of the base unit. The hopper sits on top of the base unit, and dispenses into a detachable tray. The lid of the hopper locks very awkwardly – sometimes it worked very smoothly, but at other times I couldn’t open or lock it at all.

I found it incredibly difficult to set the clock and programme the timer. It took me three goes, and it seemed to be correct by the end of the third go. The feeder didn’t dispense at the requested time, and when I checked the clock, it was a couple of hours out. Somehow it had lost a couple of hours after I set it. So I set it all again. There doesn’t seem to be any way to just re-set the clock without re-setting the whole thing, timings and all. It dispensed one lot of food at roughly the correct time, but that was all it managed. After that, the clock just lost track of time completely, it dispensed at random hours, and then seemed to stop altogether. Good job I’d decided to try it out before I go away!

Weirdly, for a product sold in the UK, it only dispenses in cup sizes – quarter cup, half cup etc, even though nobody I know uses cups as a unit of measurement. That’s for Americans who can’t work scales, surely? I asked it to dispense a quarter of a cup and that worked out at about 30g, which is slightly more than I wanted it to dispense at a time, but not hugely problematic.

I considered sending it back and asking for a replacement, but then I spent some time watching Pete trying to eat from it. He finds it very difficult to get the dry cat food up from the dispenser tray. Pete’s a greedy cat and is very motivated by food, but he was struggling to eat from this so badly that he was choosing not to eat rather than struggle on. So I’ve asked them to arrange a return and full refund.

If you get one that works properly, and your pet can eat from it, then it’s a good product. But I wouldn’t want to rely on this to feed my cat over a weekend, let alone a fortnight’s holiday. And the people who are letting it feed their pets for 99 days are going to come home to a nasty shock, I think.

On the other hand, Pete loves the cardboard box it came in and is currently using it something like a greyhound trap, launching himself from it to tear around the flat like a maniac.