The incessant whining of my pets is more than enough to remind me to feed them every morning and night. However, there are times when I go away for a night or two and don't want to leave several bowls of food out. PetSafe's Smart Feed 2.0 ($189) is a pricey but convenient way to make sure your pets get their food without being overfed. But it doesn't work with all pet foods.
The oval-shaped Smart Feed measures 20.3 x 12.6 x 9.4 inches, so it takes up a bit more space than your standard dog bowl. Still, the blue-and-silver design is attractive enough, and you're likely to forget it's there after a while. On the top front of the machine is a button that lets you dispense food if you don't have your smartphone handy.
Inside the PetSafe Smart Feed is a large hopper into which you pour the cat or dog food. It holds about 24 cups of food and is protected by a plastic lid with two latches that secure it in place. When it comes time to parcel out the Purina, the food travels from the hopper up a chute before being dumped into a stainless steel bowl. The entire machine comes apart fairly easily (but not too easily for a hungry pet), so you can wash all the parts that come in contact with the food.
The Smart Feed can be plugged into an outlet, and it can also run on battery backup (four D-cell batteries, not included).
The Smart Feed app (available for Android and iOS) is very flexible in its scheduling. It can dispense between 1/8 cup and 4 cups of food at a time up to 12 times a day. You can also set it to dispense food over a 15-minute period, so your pet doesn't wolf down everything too quickly. It's a cinch to set up, too. The app also lets you set up a child lock, which prevents the feeder from releasing food when the button on the feeder is pressed.
From within the app, you can also set up an Amazon Dash Replenishment so that it will automatically reorder food if the supply in the feeder is running low. It's a good idea in theory, but bags of pet food are usually much larger than the Smart Feed's hopper, so you don't necessarily need to order a new bag every time the feeder is empty.
After setting up the Smart Feed (which took only 5 minutes), I loaded it with dog food and pressed the dispense button on the device. A few nuggets of food popped out — far less than the 1 cup I had specified in the app. I repeatedly pressed the button — both on the machine and in the app — to get more food to come out, but it never dispensed the proper amount.
After contacting the company, I found out that the type of dog food my dog eats — Purina Pro Plan Savor — is the one type of dog food the machine can't handle. A PetSafe representative said the different sizes of the nuggets made it difficult for the machine to dispense the food.
Fortunately, I had a backup plan, in the form of my two cats. I loaded the Smart Feed with their food, and it was apportioned in the right amount. Initially, the cats jumped back in alarm when they heard the food hitting the metal bowl, but they quickly learned that the sound meant FOOD.
After that, the Smart Feed handled everything, sending a notification when it fed the cats and when it was running low. Adding to the convenience, the Smart Feed 2nd Generation can be configured with Amazon's Dash Replenishment service, which will automatically order you more food. I didn't test this, as my cats eat a prescription food.
How well does the PetSafe Smart Feed 2nd Generation work? After about two weeks, I completely forgot about feeding my cats, and they never bugged me for food (except when I was preparing my own dinner), and were just as fat and happy as before. If you don't need the Amazon Dash Replenishment feature, check out PetSafe's original Smart Feed, which is $10 less and works the same as the 2nd Generation. If you're a pet owner who travels for work, the PetSafe Smart Feed is a handy device for making sure your fur babies stay fed.