Having cats is wonderful. Enjoying the love, affection, and fuzzy cuddles of a kitty is one of life’s simple pleasures. But as many cat parents know all too well, owning one has its pains too, including the constant demands for food and the annoying 5am wake-up paws or butt on the face.
We’ve all been there, even if we don’t moan about it too much because the hugs, kisses, and head bathing that I get make it worthwhile. Still, I’d rather not be woken up rudely in the wee hours of the morning and be yelled at if I get home past dinner time, and investing in an automatic wet food dispenser is the best solution.
Automatic wet food dispensers, many of which come with a scheduling feature for customized feeding times, are also fantastic for when you’re going away for a couple of days or even a two-week vacation. Unless you’re as lucky as I am and have cat-owning friends willing to trade free cat-sitting services, you have to pay for someone to come in every day to feed them, and that can put a big dent in your bank account. These dispensers can minimize the cost.
My issue with most automatic wet food dispensers on the market, however, is that you can’t trust that the food isn’t going to go bad. According to Wellness Pet, “when left out, cat food can quickly grow bacteria” which can then “lead to digestive issues for your cat.” The cat food brand recommends putting leftover wet cat food in a covered container and in the fridge.
Unfortunately, most dispensers don’t offer refrigeration, which is why I stopped relying on them. Some allow you to put in an ice pack underneath, but that just gives you another thing to do.
Luckily, we now live in a world of smart home devices, including smart pet-care devices. Case in point, Happy Llama Tech’s Refrigerated Smart Feeder, the world’s first feeder with refrigeration built-in. And it solves the biggest problem that wet food dispensers have.
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No more annoying cat alarms at 5am
I’ve gone through several different automatic food dispensers, some for wet food and some for dry food, and none of them has really been satisfactory for one reason or another. And, there are simply no wet food feeders out there that keep your fur babies’ food fresh and bacteria-safe.
So you can understand why I got excited when Happy Llama Tech offered to let me test this innovative piece of pet tech. As a bonus, it comes with some smart home functionality in the form of a simple-to-use app that allows you to schedule and personalize feeding times (it allows you to schedule six meals a day, two meals a day for three days, or one meal a day for up to six days), as well as see the feed record and force-deliver a feeding – handy if your baby is getting hungry ahead of schedule.
And, I have to say, it’s a game-changer – or maybe more accurately a life-enhancer. Since I’ve started using it, setting it to deliver meals at 6am and 6pm every day, I no longer have to drag myself out of bed at 6am. My kitties actually let me sleep in, or just laze around in bed until I’m ready to get up, during which time I can enjoy a gloriously unhurried and relaxed morning routine of making my latte and reading a book or getting ready for a hike.
The Happy Llama Tech Refrigerated Smart Feeder also works beautifully, delivering the scheduled meals right on time and without a hitch, taking some load and pressure off poor ol’ busy me. Each of the six meal compartments is wide, deep, and decently spacious enough for at least a big 5.5oz can of food – let alone a healthier meal portion for a ravenous adult cat. And while the removable and easy-to-clean meal tray is made of robust plastic, Happy Llama Tech will let you purchase a six-pack of stainless steel bowls that slot nicely in the tray compartments.
What’s more, because it needs to keep the cold in, it comes with a thick and robust lid that is break-in proof – so if your cat is the type to attempt a food heist, you need not worry.
Refrigeration is better than I expected
The refrigeration system on the Happy Llama Tech Refrigerated Smart Feeder is better than I had imagined. The issue with refrigerating leftover wet food is that you need a proper lid or airtight container to keep it fresh, otherwise, the food just gets dry and unappetizing; that’s why cat owners usually have a silicone pet food can cover or two.
It was clear during my two weeks’ of testing that Happy Llama Tech has thought of that. The lid on it may not look like it’s airtight, but it does a fantastic job of sealing away all the servings inside from air and light, keeping them amazingly fresh. I was impressed by this attention to detail.
The refrigeration itself is pretty effective too. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, “opened cans should be stored in the fridge, at temperatures between 40 and 45F (4.5-7C), for a maximum of 5-7 days,” and the Refrigerated Smart Feeder keeps the temperature inside at 38 to 40F (3-4.5C).
Unlike in the fridge, however, it doesn’t make the wet food too cold for consumption (cat-sumption?). One of my babies has an aversion to cold food, but he doesn’t seem to mind the temperature at which Happy Llama’s feeder serves meals. That’s an added convenience, as I hate having to quickly heat their leftover wet food up in the microwave.
Some missing features
As great as it is, I do feel that the Happy Llama Tech Refrigerated Smart Feeder has some missing features. First of all, it doesn’t have a movable door to cover the first serving. One of the earliest automatic wet food feeder I got had a door that conceals the first serving, then slides out of the way as soon as it dispenses the first meal. That’s a nice feature to have if you need to fill it up some hours before your cat’s meal time.
Unfortunately, this one doesn’t have that functionality, which means that if you have to refill after they’ve already had their meal, you run the risk of them overeating.
The Refrigerated Smart Feeder is also not the quietest device. The hum of its refrigeration system typically hovers around 38/39 dB. Now, that’s nowhere near as loud as my quietest vacuum cleaner, but I still think it’s pretty loud for a device this size. It’s certainly noticeable, especially if you live in a small apartment and it’s the dead of night.
I also wish that Happy Llama Tech went all the way with its smart feature. Currently, the Refrigerated Smart Feeder only comes with app support, and doesn’t work with smart voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant. Having the convenience of asking Alexa to force-deliver a meal if my cat is already bugging me 30 minutes before mealtime while I’m relaxing on the couch would have been nice.
Granted, the company does say that it will offer Alexa and Google Home integration in the future, but it wasn’t able to say when.
It’s worth noting that my test unit, again being a pre-production model, does not have an LED display, although according to Happy Llama Tech, the final for-sale version will have an LED indicator that alerts you when it’s time for a refill.
Pricey but worth every penny
Slated for an August 2024 release in the US, the Happy Llama Tech Refrigerated Smart Feeder is pretty expensive at $397 – most smart wet cat feeders on the market are less than half that price. (The company hasn’t said whether the Smart Feeder will be available in the UK and Australia or how much it will cost there.)
However, if you care about your cat’s well-being as much as your convenience and your quiet alone time, it really could pay for itself, and then some.
I’ve only had the Refrigerated Smart Feeder for two weeks, and already, my life is better. Just like all smart home devices, it’s taken a menial task off my long to-do list while also ensuring my fur babies’ wellbeing. I need not rush home before dinner time, or worry about paying a cat-sitter to feed them while I’m away on a weekend trip. And, most importantly, I can sleep in on the weekends, since I don’t have a pair of cats nagging at me to get up at ungodly hours.
If you want to secure your unit before the Happy Llama Tech Refrigerated Smart Feeder lands on the shelves, you can back it on Indiegogo now.