You’re in a multicat household. Things are going along blissfully and then one or more of your cats requires a special diet, one cat is turning into a tank while the other is too thin, or the dog can’t resist cleaning-out the cat food bowl. Feeding time turns into a ritual of cajoling, outsmarting, standing guard, refereeing and strategizing. Or maybe to the detriment of your cat’s health you’ve admitted defeat and abandoned special feeding needs entirely. Fret no more! If there ever was a product that ensured kitty gets fed just what he needs and in the amount necessary without the time-suck and hair-pulling, this product is it!

My cat Joey enjoying dry food from the feeder that several household cats are synced to.
My cat Joey enjoying dry food from the feeder that several household cats are synced to.

I thought it was too good to be true when introduced to this slick looking food dish for the first time by a client. “Yeah, right,” I said sarcastically to my client when she lined up her three SureFeed devices and showed me how to fill and operate them for each of her three cats all requiring different diets including one cat needing medication mixed. But a week into cat sitting feeding with these contraptions, I was impressed – if still cautious. “Too good to be true. They’ll probably break within the year,” I told myself. But a year-and-a-half later, the same feeders are still going strong and we merrily restock these same feeders each time our client goes out of town. Convinced after a year of use and observation, I purchased three Surefeed Microchip feeders for myself.

The Surefeed operates on 4 C-batteries. It comes with a gray plastic divider dish, gray plastic non-divider dish, rubbery gray platform mat, and a programmable microchip tag for cats who aren’t microchipped. If you want to purchase the attachable clear plastic hood (to keep cats from marauding the feeder from the back-end), different colored plastic dishes, stainless steel dish inserts, or multi-colored mats to easily identify feeders from each other, these can be purchased as separate accessories. Rather than color code the feeders, I distinguish each by placing a small sticker with the assigned cat’s name and photo on the arch of each feeder which makes it easier for sitters to ID the cat that goes with the feeder. You can sync one pet per feeder or numerous pets to a single feeder for the foods they share in common.

Using my cats implanted microchips (you can use the provided microchip-tag with a collar for unchipped cats,) set-up and training my cats to the feeders was easier than I anticipated especially given I had 3 feeders and 6 cats to harang into using them. Within a week all save one cat was successfully maintaining their individual dietary needs having mastered their feeders 100% of the time. If anything, my cats find these devices entertaining. Sam likes to walk up to his feeder just to watch the lid open and close. No surprise, the batteries to his device need replacing twice as often but the convenience makes this a non-issue. Contrast this with my prior ritual of herding cats into various rooms for isolated feeding, standing guard, and refereeing, taking 30-minutes several times a day.

As perfect as all this sounds, however, there were some issues I had to overcome.

My cat Joey enjoying dry food from the feeder that several household cats are synced to.
My cat Joey enjoying dry food from the feeder that several household cats are synced to.

One of the three feeders was defective and malfunctioned sporadically, always when my back was turned, allowing the cats (always the ones with the worst digestive issues) to eat from the feeder they’re not assigned to. Two bouts of explosive diarrhea later that overshot the litter box and glued to the front of the washer tipped me off that perhaps a feeder wasn’t doing what it should be. After identifying the rogue feeder and several attempts at troubleshooting with the company, I became worried that I was stuck with a bad feeder. But after a fair attempt at resetting the feeder failed, I was promptly sent a new replacement. The replacement arrived in two days. The replacement feeder works great and I give my customer service experience an “A”.

A year in, two of the feeders hang-up sticking open. I’m still in the process of working with the manufacturer. To their credit, they are always responsive but in the meantime I have episodes of cats gorging themselves on forbidden food.

I was concerned with six cats that I might not be able to train all cats to use the feeders. In client homes, there’ve been no issues adapting the cats to the feeders. They don’t however have a cat like my neurotic tuxedo Oreo. Oreo wants nothing to do with new things, processes, or people. On a “fraidy-cat” scale of 1-10 he’s an easy 9.5. So it was no surprise when he ran and hid from the feeders for about a day. In his mind it was some sort of portal to hell or to the vet clinic which is worse than hell in his mind. Gradually, he walked around the feeders happy to ignore them and waited patiently by his food bowl to be fed. The company gives step-by-step instructions on how to train nervous cats to use the feeder which likely solves this issue for most cats.That leaves my success rate at 75% – not the 100% I was hoping for. But I’ll take 75%. It’s better than zero which is what I was getting before.

A weak spot with the design of the Surefeeder was immediately exploited by our feline mastermind Jimmy. Where Oreo would cut-and-run from the feeders lest they chase after and attack him, Jimmy adapted easily, enjoyed triggering the lid open, and figured out he could tail the other synced cats to their feeders and slide around the back side of each feeder, to dip in and dine with his paw. Canned cat food became splattered all over the feeders, floor and walls. Once the others observed this technique, I had a wagon train of copycats cruising behind synced cats enjoying a buffet from forbidden feeders. I purchased the clear plastic dome that snaps on to block the back of the feeder which successfully foiled food burglars for about a week. Undeterred, Frankie’s next move was nudging the feeding cat over and muscle in to dine too. My counter-move was to place the feeder in a tighter space wedged between furniture making it too difficult for Frank to squeeze in. It worked — for a while. The chipped cat would give up, sit in front of the feeder just close enough to signal it to stay open. Frankie happily chowed down on his prize with this development. I was ready to throw in the towel but contacted the manufacturer. There’s an advanced “intruder” setting I was unaware of and they walked me through setting up. The lid closes faster and with a shorter radius snapping shut on Frankie every time he moves in. Praise be to the cat gods! Several months later there was no food mooching as evidenced by food-free walls and a clean vertical washer surface behind the utility room litter box.

So, my remaining issue is with the lid stuck open half or all the way open on two of the feeders periodically. I’ve seen other comments online about this problem so it does seem to be a vulnerability with the feeder. At times it appears to be a weak battery connection. Taking the batteries out and replacing them seems to help.

Although not perfect, we still give the Surefeeder high marks because of how effectively it solves the problem of multiple diets and greatly increases the success rate of keeping cats on their own diets and solves the problem of meals with medications mixed in. No more standing guard to fend off other cats while following the right cat around cajoling it to eat while I watch. Place the mix in the unit and forget it. The cat eats the food or medication when it’s ready so you can set it and forget it. If you’re presently feeding multiple cats a prescription food for ease because one cat needs it, you will save money by keeping the one cat on its prescription food while continuing to feed the others their normal diet The units are attractive, well constructed, durable, easy to use and clean, and operate reliably for the most part. Set-up is easy following the company’s step-by-step instructions and with the push of a few buttons your cat is synced to its feeder by placing the cat under the arch for the feeder to read its RFID chip.

Most importantly, cats take to them well – except of course, the Oreos among the crowd. We would like to see a timer feature added for cats needing precise feeding times for things like medications. But for the most-part we happily set-up our feeders before leaving for cat visits and continue to feed client cats around town with not much complaint. 6 cats and 4 different diets, the feeding circus at our house is now a snap!