It’s expensive, but for portly pets this could be a just what you need
- Know when and how much your pet is eating
- Built-in scales for portly pets
- Smart design
- Training cats to be comfortable takes time
- Cats are messy eaters and it isn’t dishwasher-safe
- Expensive for multi-cat households
There’s only so much you can learn about your pets by watching them, and as wearables have been providing greater insights into our own habits, our furry friends have been somewhat left behind.
That’s where Sure Petcare comes in. The company has been making cat flaps and pet feeders that respond to cat and dog microchips for years, but now it’s taking this to the next level, with its Connect range of products passing analytics straight to the pet owner’s phone.
I reviewed the Cat Flap Connect earlier this year, and it impressed. So is the Pet Feeder Connect an essential accompaniment?
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SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect review: What you need to know
The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect is a pet bowl that will unlock its contents only for the cat or dog with the correct microchip. When the pet approaches, the lid pulls back smoothly to expose the food within.
The clever bit is that the bundled bowls are on digital scales, meaning that not only can you carefully weigh the recommended amount of food for your pet, but the feeder can calculate how much has been eaten as the bowl becomes lighter.
The above means you have the information you need to learn about your cat’s eating habits, which could be useful for providing early warning signs of health issues, or be extra handy for cutting a portly puss down a size or two.
SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect review: Price and competition
Handy information, but it doesn’t come cheap.
The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect costs £120 – and that doesn’t include the £50 that you’ll have to part with for the hub you need to feed the data into the app. Yes, it is possible to reuse the hub that works with the Connected Cat Flap (if you have one), but if you have multiple pets in your home then you’ll need multiple feeders – otherwise, the pet whose diet you’re trying to control will simply eat the other’s unprotected food.
Most other app-connected feeders are designed to feed pets when you’re not around, rather than just moderating their eating per se. That said, Sure Petcare does have a non-connected version of the Microchip Pet Feeder that sells for £100; it can usually be found for less. This offers the same functionality, but doesn’t track the details of what your pet is eating and when, making spotting long-term issues tougher.
SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect review: Design
The Pet Feeder Connect doesn’t look like any kind of pet bowl you’ve seen before. It has a thick plastic base that houses the bowls. Beneath these sit two digital scales with magnetic plates on top. You can set this up to be either two bowls (wet and dry food), or a single, larger bowl depending on your pet’s needs. Covering this is a hinged plastic top that folds in two as it slowly retracts.
What really make this feeder stand out is the curved rectangular opening positioned in front of the bowl. This is the important bit, as it has four scanners embedded within. When it detects a registered pet’s microchip, the doors will slide open. If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in.
It’s a pretty solid design, let down by a couple of minor issues. First, the buttons sit around the back of the device, which means you’ll have to pull the unit out to see what you’re pressing. To be fair, most (Add Cat, Training Mode, Settings) will need to be set only once, with the main one for opening and closing the lid pretty hard to miss.
The second issue is that cats are messy eaters. This will result in things becoming mucky fast, with wet food sticking to the sides of the unit, and dry food tending to slip down the sides of the bowl.
As such, the feeder is likely to require regular cleaning. It isn’t waterproof on account of the battery compartments and sensitive microchip readers – although, to be fair, Sure Petcare has gone out of its way to make this as painless as possible. There’s a washable rubber inlay for the section where pets place their paws, and the bottom opens up to easily release all the dropped biscuits. The bowls can all be removed, given the unit itself can’t be put under running water. In other words, general cleaning will involve a lot of wiping with a non-abrasive damp cloth, and no components are dishwasher safe.
Note that, like the SureFlap Connect, the Microchip Pet Feeder Connect is powered by four C batteries. These aren’t cheap – it cost me just under £10 for batteries from my local Asda.
As such, you may want to invest in rechargeables, although the batteries haven’t come close to running out after the first couple of months of use.
It’s a pity there isn’t an option to plug the feeder into the mains – but I guess there would be a risk that an enthusiastic kitty would pull the unit out of the wall.
SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect review: Performance
So, this isn’t a normal pet bowl then, and that means your cats will be rightly suspicious of it. Fortunately, Sure Petcare has a training system in place to gently get your cats used to the idea that the lid of the unit opens when they put their fizzog in range.
Before you get to that point, though, you’ll need to register your pet’s microchip. This involves pressing the “Add Animal” button and then coaxing your pet to put its head through.
That done, it’s training time. There are four buttons on the rear of the feeder, and one of these shows a cat in a mortarboard, perhaps overestimating their intelligence of my particular subjects.
The training is set up in four stages to get your pets used to the sudden motion and (reasonably quiet) noise of the motor, starting with the lid almost completely open and ending with it completely closed.
There’s no time-limit to this; you just graduate your pet to the next stage when it’s ready with a press of the button. The app also features a setting whereby you can set the speed at which the cover slides, speeding it up or slowing it down as you deem appropropriate, meaning your pets should eventually grow accustomed to how it all works.
My cats took about a month to become comfortable with the feeder. One of the cats was particularly spooked by the sound of the motor and wouldn’t go near it for a couple of days; but with a bit of patience, you should be fine. Here’s a video of the early stages:
Once all is running, the Microchip Pet Feeder is brilliant. You set the weight of food you need for each bowl in the app, and the lights beneath each one will fill up as you top it up with food, turning red if you go over the limit. As the scales get lighter, the feeder can determine how much food your pet has eaten and will update you with notifications as seen below:
These can get a little much (especially since the updates can come as frequently as 2g instalments). They’re easy to turn off, though, if you prefer to check in on the app at your own convenience. This is the same app as used by Sure Petcare’s pet flaps, so you’ll begin to get a holistic view of your pet’s life:
There maybe those of you who regard the SureFeed feeder as overkill, but it’s good if you have your pet on a calorie-controlled diet, or want to show your vet how your pets have been eating recently, given that meal-time enthusiasm is a good proxy for general health. You can see the times of day that they tend to graze:
And see how much they’ve eaten over time:
Surefeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect review: Verdict
In short, the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect does exactly what it promises. It’s an easy way to keep an eye on your pets’ diets, ensure they don’t steal each others’ food, and provides a means by which you can control portion sizes.
It isn’t cheap – and that’s a problem that increases exponentially with the number of pets you have in your home. If you have an obese cat and a skinny one, you can’t just buy this for the former, because that pet will just steal the latter’s food. At £120 per feeder, on top of the cost of the hub (£50) and occasional C battery replacements, the cost could quickly mount.
Ultimately, though, you get what you pay for, and the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect is superbly designed. While it isn’t exactly a must-have, you may well end up wondering how you got by without it.