As cat-sitters, we have two decades of trying-out and observing all kinds of cat-products on our visits. If it’s for cats and for-sale we’ve likely seen or used it in more than one home. We handle and see items in “real life,” and in different environments, used by different buyers, their cats, and ultimately by us, on a day-to-day basis.
How useful is it? Is it easy to operate? Does the cat still love it? Is it holding up with use? Is it a fad, dud, or lost its appeal packed away in a closet?
Eventually the field of product gets whittled down to a group of all-star products. Here, we share those enduring and useful cat items with you posting our reviews on the best-of-the-best, why we think so, and how you can purchase them. Check back regularly as new items are added to our review.
As an Amazon and Chewy’s Associate we earn a small amount from qualifying purchases that will promptly be blown on a new cat toy and a bucket of fresh cat litter.
SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder
In our “Gift from the Gods” category
You’re in a multicat household and things are going along blissfully until that is, one or more of your cats requires a special prescription diet or needs to lose weight. Or, maybe you’ve adopted a dog that can’t resist cleaning the cat food bowl out and you’re tired to hiding the cat food bowl on high shelves. In any case, you can’t get the pets you need fed the correct diet without cajoling, outsmarting, standing guard, refereeing and strategizing at each feeding. Or maybe to the detriment of your cat’s health you’ve admitted defeat and abandoned the special dietary needs entirely. Fret no more! If there ever was a product that ensured kitty gets fed just what he needs and in the exact amount necessary without the time suck or hair-pulling, this product is it!
I thought it was too good to be true when introduce 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 in it’s meal. But a week into cat sitting using these contraptions to get her cats fed, I was impressed - if still cautious. “Too good to be true. They’ll probably break within the year,” I told my client and 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 standing mat for the platform portion, and a programmable microchip tag for cats who aren’t microchipped. If you want to purchase the attachable clear plastic hood, different colored plastic dishes, metal dishes to get away from feeding from plastic, 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 through the photo on top. You can sync one pet per feeder or numerous pets to one feeder for the foods they share in common.
Using my cats implanted microchips (use the supplied 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 of my cats were 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 new routine with my time consuming and inconsistent ritual of herding cats into various rooms and locations to feed, standing guard, refereeing turning each meal into a 30 minute or more ordeal.
There were some issues I had to overcome with the set-up. One of the three feeders was defective and malfunctioned sporadically, always when my back was turned, allowing the cats -you know, the ones with the worst digestive issues - to eat from the feeder they’re not assigned to. Two bouts of explosive diarrhea overshooting the litter box stuck to the front of my washer tipped me off that perhaps a feeder wasn’t doing what it should have. At sleuthing to ID 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 clearing and resetting the feeder failed I was promptly sent a new replacement when I gave a detailed description of explosive poop clean up I was enduring during the trial and error with fixing the feeder. The replacement arrived in two days. The replacement feeder works great and I give my customer service experience an “A”.
I was concerned with six cats that I might not be able to train all of them to use the feeders. In client homes there’ve been no issues adapting the cats to the feeders. They don’t however have my neurotic tuxedo Oreo living with them. Oreo wants nothing to do with new things, processes, or people and 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 at least the vet clinic. He gradually would walk around them and is happy to watch the other cats use them but not him. 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. But a year later, Oreo still walks past the feeder demanding his old glass bowl of kibble. 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 and I can handle monitoring one cat’s eating schedule.
A weak spot with the design of the Surefeeder was immediately recognized and exploited by our household mastermind Jimmy. Where Oreo would cut-and-run from the feeders lest they attack him, Jimmy adapted easily, enjoyed triggering the lid open to eat, and quickly figured out that he could tail other synced cats to their feeders and once triggered open, slide around the back side, reach in with his paw, and drag food out splattering wet cat food all over the feeder, floor and wall. Once the others observed this technique, I had a wagon train of copy-cats cruising behind synced cats dining from forbidden feeders. I purchased the clear plastic dome that snaps on to block the back of the feeder which successfully foiled food burglars that is for a week. Frankie the diarrhea artist, determined in his pursuit of the forbidden food, learned to nudge the feeding cat to the side just enough to squeeze his head in and dine too. I wasn’t willing to give up my new-found feeding freedom so easily so I placed the feeder in a tighter space wedged between furniture to make it difficult for Frank to squeeze his whole body in the space with another cat. It works. Several months later there’s been no food mooching as evidenced by the clean walls and appliances behind the litter box. Now I only have to watch for batteries running low in the feeders. The minute the feeders get sluggish Frankie moves in for a quick snack and I move in for fresh batteries.
In spite of the challenges, we 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 prescription foods critical and medications mixed in their foods once any snafooz are worked out. It’s a must-have for anyone who adds medicine to their cat food. No more standing guard fending off other cats while following the right cat around and cajoling it into eating. Place the mix in the unit and forget it. The cat eats the food or medication when ready. If you’re presently feeding multiple cats a prescription food when one cat needs it, you will save money by keeping the one cat on its prescription food while continuing to feed the others in your pack their normal diet utilizing the feeders. The units are attractive, well constructed, durable, easy to use and clean, and operate reliably. 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 it’s feeder under the arch. Most importantly, cats take to them well - except of course, Oreo and the minority of scaredy-cats like him. 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 continue feeding client cats around town and recommend the feeders to clients who clearly could benefit from them. As for me, 6 cats and 4 different diets, the feeding circus is now a snap!
THE YEOWWW! “Chicata Banana”
While this item falls in the “non-essential” category, with as much entertainment as it provides felines and humans alike it’s money well spent
Although we had seen this one in multiple households over the years, we brushed it off as pretty-much just another cute catnip toy. But after a while we couldn’t brush off noticing the hideous amounts of cat spit staining these things and that no matter how soiled looking they got, clients wouldn’t toss them out. We found the toys frequently underfoot having seen plenty of cat-mauling action between our daily cat sitting visits. Curious, I placed one in my shopping cart with my cat food order from Chewy’s.
Let me start by saying that my spoiled cats get plenty of fresh catnip from the best and most potent brands I’ve discovered so I wasn’t sure if this would be strong enough to impress them. The Chewy’s order arrived, I unpacked the cat food and placed the banana with little thought on a high shelf on our wire utility storage unit until I got around to tossing it on the carpet for the cats. A few days later I hear scratching, rattling and items falling in the utility room. Figuring something major is about to get broken by a cat somewhere, I discover Joey, our more athletic tuxedo, climbing the wire shelving presumably exploring a new location for that favorite cat favorite pastime - creating annoyance by knocking things down. Joey masters the lowest shelf clinging there with plenty more to push on the floor but he aims for the next shelf up. I watch as he makes his way up the shelving like an ape swinging through the trees, then I realize - it’s the “Banana”!
It’s nap time but curious, I grab the “Banana” and throw it on the den carpet where they’re all asleep in their usual positions. Joey having worked so hard for his prize is on it first on the spot and within minutes Frankie, Sam and Jimmy are awake and on it. Seeing a potential spat in the works over it, I supervise as they take their turns tossing, drooling, and rolling around with their new prize. I hide it away in a new location and daily this scene resumes during supervised play time with it.
Having discovered the new prize, more “Bananas” are purchased and handed out as gifts to the company sitters. Comments like, “What’s in that thing?!,” “Where did you get it so I can buy another?,” and “I have to watch when I put it down so the cats don’t fight over it,” are texted to us with photos of their cats biting, cuffing, and rolling around on their new toy.
The frenzy has cooled at my house and I can now leave it out unsupervised. But it remains a solid favorite and guess what, it’s butt-ugly with cat slobber and painful to look at. But I don’t have the heart to throw something so valued away. Instead, I bought another that arrived with my cat food order. Can’t wait to see what they do with their fresh “Chicata Banana”