Microchip Pet Feeder full review
Following on from bringing us the Internet of CatFlaps, Sure Petcare’s latest product is brings the same approach to feeding your cat. It’s a pet feeder that only opens for one particular pet, knowing who they are by ‘reading’ their microchip. With the new Connect version. you can also control it using an app, through the optional Hub, monitoring how much they eat.
If this all seems a little odd: congratulations, your cat/s likely don’t have any of issues that might make something like this invaluable. But there are many reasons why you might want one or more of these – you pet might have a health condition that means you need monitor how much they eat, or you may have pets with different dietary conditions that mean you have to ensure they eat only their particular food. In our case we have two cats, and the larger, Bramble, likes to eat her sister Peggy’s food as well as her own – especially the jelly that they both like best.
To avoid Bramble putting on too much weight and Peggy not eating enough, I was very happy to be offered a review unit of the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect. It’s essentially a dish with a clear lid that folds open and closed by itself. A collar over the top means that when it’s open, only your chosen pet can get their head in to eat (bad luck Bramble).
You can put one large or two small trays inside – but the lid is only every open or closed. There are no separate compartments as you’d get with a timed feeder you’d use when away overnight, though I can’t see why Sure Petcare couldn’t develop a larger, multi-tray system in the future.
Getting the feeder to recognise your pet is as easy as pressing a button when they’re near. This was a lot easier than with the SureFlap, as all we needed to do was to press the Open/Close button (below, far left) on the back to open the lid, put some food in, and then when Peggy came to eat, press the Add Cat button next to it. The only problem we found was keeping Bramble away so it didn’t learn to recognise her microchip instead/too.
Teaching your pet to learn to use it is something that takes time. The feeder has a training programme that you follow, based on the excellent instructions given in the printed manual including in the box. There’s another button on the back of the feeder that starts the various stages of the programme, starting with the lid being completely open at all times so that your cat or dog learns that this is where food happens. Once they’re used to that, you engage the next stage where the lid closes a little.
Here, your pet cat still see they have clear access to the food, but they get to experience the movement and sound of the lid opening as they put their head in to eat. Over the next few stages, the lid gets more and more closed – until it’s completely closed and flat (until they trigger it to open.
Peggy took about three weeks to complete the programme, but how long yours will take really depends on the pet.
Keeping the feeder clean is made easier by a rubber mat that lays under where you cat eats, so you can quickly pick it up and wash it if you cat drops food. The rest of the unit is relatively easy to deep clean every so often, and the manual provides clear instructions on how to do this.
Sure offers a range of colour options for the rubber trays, and you can get different coloured bowls too (or a stainless steel one), which means you can nicely colour coordinate the feeder with your kitchen – though your cat won’t give a furball about this.
The feeder uses four C batteries and Sure says that this will last around six months. We can’t tell how true this or not yet, but the company made the same claim for the SureFlap that we installed about six months ago and it flashed red to let us know to change the battery for the first time yesterday.
SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect review
Neither of our cats has a health condition that requires monitoring how much they eat, but as we had the Connect model - plus a Hub from reviewing the SureFlap - we got to test it out. The Connect model puts a scale under the bowl to calculate how much your cat has eaten, plus lights to show you how much is in the bowl compared to the portion size you tell it your cat needs - which is a fast, handy way to help you measure out food from a pouch, tin or bag.
The Hub is an Echo Dot-sized device with cute cat ears that light up green when connected and flash red if it loses its wireless connection to your Sure Devices. You connect it to your router using a short ethernet cable.
Setting this up is simple. As ours was already setup, we just went to the Sure Petcare app and clicked on Add Device (you can also access the controls from any browser through surepet.io). Then we could choose how much our cat should get in each portion to make it easy to fill the bowl to this level.
Within the app, you can manage which cat/s have access to the feeder (below left), in this case selecting from our two real cats and the Tech Advisor microchip-in-a-keyring tester).
You can also adjust how quickly the lid opens (below right), change between single and dual bowls, see where you are in the training regime, or zero the scales.
When your cat eats, you will see when and how much listed in the timeline (below middle), alongside when they left or returned through your catflap (if you have one). You can also get notifications if you prefer.
The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder is a best-in-class product – easy to use and clean and with some real thought put into how you get your cat you use it. It’s not cheap, especially if you want the Connect version and don’t already have a Hub – or you need to buy for multiple pets - but if your cat/s have the kind of health conditions that need careful monitoring, this feeder is ideal.
As a side note, we thought we could just buy one as Bramble was very protective on her food bowl, but during the recent warm spell we’ve recently discovered Peggy stealing Bramble’s food when Bramble is outside. And we’ve spotted one of next door’s cats stealing food when we’ve left the back door open. But as I don't need to monitor how much they're eating precisely, the standard version is what we need, especially as it's currently on sale on Amazon UK for just over £60.