Pet feeders have become commonplace. Even the most devoted pet parents sometimes find themselves having to be away from home longer or more often than anticipated or desired. Fortunately, we live in an era of super-connectivity through our mobile devices and can now be assured that our furry friends are being fed regularly with automatic pet feeders. We can also check in on them to see what they’re doing in our absence or to make sure they aren’t up to any mischief.
PintoFeed Pet Feeders
One of the favorites from the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the Pintofeed, the crowd-funded (through Indiegogo) invention that retails for $149, but can be pre-ordered at a discount. It comes with a 5-lb. hopper for dry food only, but a 10-lb. bin can be purchased separately. The manufacturers assure consumers that the hopper is fully pet proof, as it was designed to be opened only using opposable thumbs. Still, your mileage may vary on how clever or determined your own companion is to break into the food bank. Like other similar devices, the Pintofeed can be set to distribute a specified amount of food (as little as 1/8th of a cup) at designated times. It also runs on batteries if the power should ever fail while you’re gone.
What sets this gadget apart, however, is that it can be activated, controlled and monitored via the corresponding smartphone app. With your iOS or Android phone, you will not only know that the food has been dispensed, but also whether or not your furry friend has eaten — and if so, how much. This is particularly beneficial for pet parents who may be trying to control an overweight pet’s food intake, monitor a fussy eater’s habits, or simply be assured that a sick pet hasn’t stopped eating altogether, which indicates the need for immediate medical attention.
The one thing Pintofeed doesn’t have — at least not yet — is a camera function. Such a feature would greatly enhance the integrated smartphone application by allowing the user to have visual confirmation that, indeed, Puppy or Kitty has eaten. It would also be nice to simply be able to peek in on them, especially when they are still little and need more monitoring, but Mum or Dad can’t be there every minute.
Remoca Pet Feeder
One automated pet feeder that does incorporate a camera comes from the Japanese company Remoca. Since it retails for nearly $700, one would think the company could have come up with a more interesting, less literal name for their automatic dispenser than “Dog Food Bowl and Camera” Nevertheless, the Remoca feeder does provide all the interim necessities for small pets (the device does not meet the requirements for large dogs) for short time frames. It includes a standard water bottle dispenser, as well as two bowls for distributing food. The neat thing about this one is that you can use one of the bowls for wet food since the device functions by automatically sliding back a cover rather than spilling food out of a hopper.
Of course, the best part about the Remoca feeder is that it incorporates both a camera and a speaker so you can actually talk to your pet. You can control the camera — this one lets you pan or zoom — remotely after integrating it into your home computer network (either WiFi or direct ethernet). It is compatible with both Mac and PC and has an Android app for your non-iOS smartphone. The major drawback to this one is its price tag.
Ergo Remote Pet Feeder
The Ergo Auto Pet Feeder remote feeder system is quite a bit less expensive (around $200, depending on where you purchase it) and also comes with a Panasonic surveillance camera. However, the price tag does not include the required SmartLinc controller hub ($129). Customer reviews on this system are mixed. People have either had no trouble integrating the Insteon device into their home network (PC only), or have had nothing but problems with it and/or the smartphone apps (for both iOS and Android). It would probably be best to test the controller hub on something like a porch light before relying on it for feeding your beloved companion animals.
A simple workaround for pet feeders like the Pintofeed, that do everything you want but don’t come with a camera, is to simply set up a decent webcam to see what’s happening with your pets. There are plenty out there that will fit just about any budget, but the Dropcam HD can be controlled through both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. It’s also $149 but it shoots in 720p, providing a very clear image of whatever activities are happening back at the house while you’re away.
Of course, if you’re the super techy sort, there is always the DIY alternative. Amanda Ghassaei of Instructables has posted step-by-step instructions for how to build your own Twitter Controlled Pet Feeder. You can also download the instructions guide in PDF format.
Hopefully, you and your furry friends got some benefits out of this post on remote pet feeders. Let us know if you come across better options for pet feeders.