You’d think feeding your pet would be simple enough. But actually, mealtime is deceptively complex, and doing it right is an important part to being a good pet parent.

The PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Programmable Dog & Cat Feeder promises to remove the guesswork and remembering parts of mealtime — even better for forgetful pet owners with ADHD like myself. A favorite on most automatic feeder shopping guides, the Healthy Pet Simply Feed does what it says. As the title implies, it spits out pre-portioned pet food at the programmed time, with a mind-numbingly fool-proof simplicity that Luddites will prefer over more high-tech options. 

But its laser-focused commitment to utilitarianism makes the Healthy Pet Simply feed one of the ugliest things currently taking up precious space in my apartment. And after a couple of weeks of using it for my two cats’ dry food, all three of us were far too underwhelmed to be convinced that its $100 price is justified (OK, the cats don’t know about money, but they were underwhelmed). 

Dependable • Simple set up • Utility with no fuss • Regimented portions and feeding schedule • Slow mode for fast eaters
Not compatible with wet food • Batteries not included • Cat preset not optimized for grazing • Not smart yet not always easy • Too pricey • Bad for multi-pet households
Despite its popularity, it lacks the features and widespread use to justify its price point.

⚡ Mashable Score

Getting set up with the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed automatic feeder

Powered by D-cell batteries (not included, so add about another $15 to the price), it’s like the automatic feeder equivalent of early digital alarm clocks, if it was priced the same as a smartwatch. For about $50 more, you could get a far more high-tech, exciting, customizable feeder with Wi-Fi-enabled features. 

Call me a digital native, but I found myself wishing for app integration, anxious over whether I could really trust this low-tech Petsafe favorite to follow the feeding times I set up using its analog button codes. At least with a smarter automatic pet feeder I could check-in or be notified if, while away on vacation, something went wrong and my cats were left to starve.

But from what I can tell, it will, indeed, dependably feed your pet when you tell it to. Using it for when you’re at work or leave your cats behind for a weekend trip (or whatever) is probably this feeder’s best use case. Even then, though, most vets strongly advise against only feeding your cats dry food, since they’re notoriously bad at hydrating and wet food is often their best source for water. So if you’re a wet food kinda cat owner, the Healthy Pet Simply Feed doesn’t solve even the basic problem of forgetting feeding times.

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Programming the PetSafe feeder isn’t the easiest

While the feeder isn’t smart, learning its programming language isn’t always easy either. You’ll need to remember the less-than-intuitive button shortcuts for not only setting up meal portion and frequency, but also to activate other featured modes, like slow feed (for animals with zero self-control) or immediate feed. 

It isn’t rocket science, but if the ideal customer is a Luddite from an older generation who just needs something to make owning a pet easier without digital fuss, this can definitely still be a barrier.

One of the best features of the Healthy Pet Simply Feed, though, is the automatic portion setter, with options for recommended dog and cat meal sizes twice a day. It’s really easy for pet owners to overestimate how much their pet needs to eat, which is one of the worst things you can do for their health. The auto feeder does add some restraint to feed time, whether it’s you or your four-legged friend who needs the help.

Despite being less than impressed, I will admit that it was cute to see all my pets come running at once after the food dropping into the metal bowl sounded like a dinner bell. While the cats approached the robot with cautious mistrust, the dog made sure I knew he was more than eager to take one for the team and dive into that sweet, sweet forbidden kibble. 

Unlike similarly priced smart feeders (like this micro-chip one that only lets the designated pet access their individual food now;), this one does nothing to help with the struggles of feeding a multi-pet household. Because at least twice a day, our new kitten is a total food hog, while our older cat is too polite to fight for her portion, and our dog is always scheming for opportunities to throw everything into more chaos. 

After their initially disinterested reactions to the automatic feeder (taking the opportunity to eat their wet food instead), I worried the cats would be too skittish to accept this foreign tech telling them when they can or cannot eat. After sniffing around it gingerly, they turned tail. But despite me never being to witness them using it, there was sure enough less and less food in the bowl as the day went on (and it wasn’t because of the dog). 

As grazing animals, cats prefer to eat small amounts throughout the day. So while the preset cat schedule recommends 1/4 cup twice a day, I had to painstakingly program their more natural feeding habits into the thing, which was annoying.

Automatic feeders are helpful, but not a substitute for bonding

I didn’t test the feeder on my pup, though it does seem much better suited for canine mealtimes. Yet knowing what I know about dog training and relationship-building, person-to-dog interactions during daily feeding rituals is often very vital. So honestly, I can’t say I recommend anyone letting a robot do that job for you, unless absolutely necessary.

Mealtimes with your dog aren’t just a chore — it’s an opportunity for them to associate good things with you.

When it comes to new pup-owners, foster parents, or dogs with behavioral struggles (fear, lack of trust, anxiety, dominance, etc) especially, I would advise against auto-feeders. Mealtimes with your dog aren’t just a chore — it’s an opportunity for them to associate good things with you. They learn who takes care of them, who controls resources in the pack (or household), and (with the right training regimen/command) who they must listen to in order to get said valuable resource.

To be clear, I’m by no means a professional. But after years of being a foster mom to many different dogs and a pup parent to a very fearful, anxious pittie with a history of abuse, I’ve picked up on some of the most common advice trainers give. 

Pretty much across the board, training regimens tend to utilize mealtime for one reason or another. Whether it’s hand-feeding to speed up the bonding process with a distrustful or reserved pup, or training them to listen to you when they’re excited, or fostering respect in you as their pack leader — letting a low-tech robot take over feeding entirely sounds like a huge missed opportunity.

Add to cart?

There are some conveniences and pros that the Healthy Pet Simply Feed brings. But it can also create as many headaches as it purports to solve. As the reigning champion on many best-of lists, it certainly does do its job with straightforward dependency. But I’m unsure if it does that job any better than another low-tech PetSafe feeder that’s about half the price.

Sure, this feeder is “simple.” But when it comes to most pets, feeding is never quite as simple as one might hope.