Sometimes a piece of electronics captures the heart of a household. The four year old calls it “The Great Machine”. The kitten brings it gifts of hairbands and feathers. This review is for two separate products – the Cat Mate Pet Fountain and the Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Dry Food Pet Feeder collectively known as The Great Machine. I had originally planned on writing two separate reviews for the two items and even started writing but the partnership of the two items was so perfect they had to end up together.
So what makes up this pair?
The Pet Fountain is a moulded plastic three level water bowl with a small, quiet pump and a filter inside. Fill up with water, plug-in and the top-level slowly fills, spills over into the second level and back into the bottom reservoir. The cat can drink at any one of three levels and there are two waterfalls that aerate the water and a filter that picks up most things that fall in.
Second is the Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Dry Food Pet Feeder. This is a feeding tray with a huge hopper for dry food above it. The hopper has a small agitator in it that can measure out specific amount of food on a schedule that is settable by the user. The hopper is large enough to take a very substantial amount of food – around 2.5kg of dry food. It is not completely airtight so Pet Mate do not recommend putting out more than 10 days worth of food at a time or it will start to go off.
Both products are designed to be setup and then need minimum maintenance or human interaction. Once running they should need occasional topups and cleans but very little other human help. In my testing I found that about a week was the longest time that they could run with no interference or cleaning and the fountain needed topping up every 3 days or so. I tested them in the winter and in the summer with hotter weather it might need topping up a little more often.
The fountain is relatively straightforward in its features. It recycles the same water around and around and aerates and filters it as it goes. There is some debate as to how much of a health benefit aerating the water actually provides for pets but there is a lot of evidence, supported by my cats, that they prefer to drink from moving water and hence drink more water in general. This can only be good.
The feeder is a lot more complex with a number of features. In its simplest mode it gives a measured amount of dry food three times a day. This measured amount is choseable for your circumstances and the type of food – for example if you have two cats like me you are obviously going to want twice as much food as for one cat.
There are also built in programmable options for an extra measured feeds out of the schedule, bringing a feed forward in time to be an earlier feed or an unmetered extra portion of any size. Finally instead of feeding three times a day a frequent feed can be set. This makes the feeds much longer and more spread out – potentially hours long. If you have a cat that bolts and then throws up their food as one of mine has been known to do this will make it far less likely.
If your cats are anything like mine you’ll be glad that the top lid clips on very firmly and the buttons are specifically designed to be difficult to press so that they cannot help themselves. The whole thing can also be screwed down to either the floor or a piece of wood so that especially persistent pets who try knocking it over to get the food cannot break in. This hardening does have an unfortunate side effect – a reasonable amount of dexterity and strength is needed to refill the hopper or to press any of the buttons.
Both the products are designed for and marketed for cats but there is no reason I’ve found that they will not work just as well for small and not so small dogs and other pets. I’ve also found a number of instances of the feeder being altered with a longer tube through a wall to let the hopper be inside and the feeding bowl outside. This has been used to feed everything from stray cats to squirrels to raccoons.
Both products require electricity. The fountain plugs directly into the wall on a 3m cable but the cable has a converter built-in so it actually runs on 12 volts, eliminating any worry about the combination of pets, water and electricity. The feeder requires four C batteries.
Neither product has any form of light built into it at all.
The fountain has no visual indicators of any type and after assembly could be used by anyone with any level of visual issues.
The feeder has a small unlit monochrome LED screen built into its base which usually displays the time and the position in the feeding schedule. Setting up the feeder needs an ability to read this screen so may not be accessible for those with very poor vision. Once setup the screen can be ignored and it is accessible to anyone with visual problems. The only possible exception is that there is no non-visual way to check the level of food, but if topped up once a week this would not cause problems.
Both products make some noise.
The fountain routinely makes a slightly bubbling noise as the water flows from section to section. Most people will find this a positive thing and I found the noise is quite relaxing but if you are very sensitive to noise – for example if you have a migraine – it could be a problem. Under normal use I could not hear the pump inside. If the water level drops below the minimum recommended then the pump starts to make a clicking noise until the reservoir is refilled.
The feeder is usually silent but when dispensing food it is surprisingly noisy. I initially set the first feed of the day for 6 am and the whole house was awoken but the sound of the agitator in the hopper and the food falling into the dish. Once I adjusted it so that it did not feed when people were asleep the noise is actually a bonus – the cats have associated it with food and as soon as they hear it make for their feeder at high speed.
Input and touch
Once setup both of these products need a minimum of interaction. The fountain needs topping up with water every 3 days or so and cleaning around once a week. Pet Mate also recommend changing the filter once a month. The parts of the fountain slide together and are held together without any clips so as long as you have a reasonable amount of dexterity this should not present any problems.
The feeder is rather more complicated. The feeding dish needs cleaning regularly – I found weekly worked well and is held in place with some fairly stiff clips. The hopper needs topping up relatively regularly as well and also has some difficult to open clips.
Ease of Use
The fountain is quite simple to setup. The parts are relatively simple and only fit together in one way. A certain amount of dexterity is needed to fit the parts in and pouring water into the fountain needs some strength either to pick up a jug or put the whole fountain under a tap. I found that once running it needed very little interaction apart from being topped up.
The feeder is rather more complicated to set up. I’m fairly technical and it still took me quite a lot of careful thought and reading to get it up and running. Fitting the parts together was not too complicated, although it would be difficult for anyone with any form of hand or grip problems but I found the programming rather more complex. In order I had to fit batteries, set the clock, assemble the feeder, calculate the amount of feed that needs to be dispensed every day, set the meal sizes, set meal times and check it. The manual is clear and well written but it is a complicated process which does take some confidence.
Once setup the feeder needs very little interaction. The dish can unclip to be cleaned (it’s dishwasher safe) and the top of the hopper opens to allow putting in more food. Beyond that unless you wish to change the feed amounts or timings there needs to be little interaction. The exception to this is when you want to add an extra one off feed or bring a feed forward. This requires two buttons (‘Feed’ and ‘-‘) to be pushed together.
A reasonable level of technical confidence and the ability to follow written instructions is needed to set up the feeder, but once it is setup it is very simple to use. The language in the manual is straightforward but somewhat dense in the amount of information it trys to fit in.
There is no social interaction involved in either the feeder or fountain – unless you count your pets trying to persuade you to up their meal sizes.
There are no specific allergy problems related to either the feeder or fountain.
Both products are made by UK firm Pet Mate. Pet Mate is based in Surrey but sells in 40 countries worldwide, notably as Ani Mate in the US. They sell a range of Cat, dog, pond and aquarium products and crucially also sell spares. Taking the Fountain as an example replacement filters, pumps and power supplies can be bought via their website.
Cat Mate Pet Fountain
RRP: £34.95, currently £23.90 on Amazon
Cat Mate C3000 Dry Food Cat Feeder
RRP: £75.95, currently £50.70 on Amazon
Our pets are brilliant. They are our friends, company, entertainment, hot water bottles, a listening ear and on occasion alarm clocks. The Cat Mate C3000 Automatic Dry Food Pet Feeder and Cat Mate Pet Fountain take a very large part of the physical tasks involved in caring for cats and automate them. The automation actually has health benefits for your pets – they get a reliable water source and a measured regular feed preventing over or underfeeding.
If you work away from home and wonder what your cat is eating at lunchtime, if you have problems with the physical side of feeding or remembering to feed your pets,if you’re going to be travelling for a few days or if you just want to simplify the process these products are for you. If you have pets but are worried about not being able to feed them yourselves any more this could give you peace of mind. Highly recommended.
The review is based on the the Cat Mate Pet Fountain and Cat Mate C3000 Dry Food Cat Feeder kindly provided by Petmate.