Petnet SmartFeeder review

Smart home devices are all the rage, and more companies are trying to automate the everyday things we have to do. You can set a schedule for when your lights turn on and off, check on your laundry while you’re away from home, and even see who’s ringing your doorbell without getting up, but what about taking care of our pets? Petnet has a solution.

The gadget is simply called the SmartFeeder, and it aims to automate your pet feeding and keep your pet in healthier shape by not overfeeding, since it’s all perfectly measured and calculated.

So how does it work? It’s actually pretty simple. In the box you’ll find a few pieces of the SmartFeeder that you pop together; a bowl, a hopper, and a lid. Put everything together, download the PetNet app, and get started.

The app will ask you to make an account, then walk you through pairing it with your new automatic dispenser. It involves some nifty flashing sensors that your phone picks up on to pair, and then you’re all set. Oh, you’ll need to fill the hopper up with food, obviously. It seems like magic, but it can’t make things appear out of thin air.

You set up a profile for your dog (or cat!) and choose the food you feed them. This gives you a score and potentially makes recommendations on healthier foods, plus gives you the option to set up a recurring food subscription from PetNet so you don’t even have to remember to buy food at the grocery store.

You can choose how much you want to feed your pet every day, then set up times for them to be fed. I tested it out with a breakfast meal at 8 AM, a half cup snack in the middle of the day, then dinner at 6 PM. I’m not normally home for those last two feedings, so my dog doesn’t have to wait for me to get off work for food. She’s also getting fed exactly three cups a day of food, which is perfect for her weight.

The glowing button on the front of the feeder is a manual feed button, so if you do happen to be home and want to feed your dog a little extra, you just press that button for a one-off dispense. The app keeps track of that in the meal log, and you can adjust how much food comes out from a manual feeding.

Best case scenario, we have functional electricity 100% of the time. Realistically, that’s not the case. Sometimes weather happens, sometimes things just go down for maintenance. The good news is that the SmartFeeder has a backup battery that’s set to last for seven hours to keep feeding your fuzzy friends, even if the power goes out. So even in a disaster, it’ll keep getting food out until you can get home to feed them the old-fashioned way.

Most smart devices tend to be a little too convoluted for their own good, but the PetNet SmartFeeder really is the kind of thing you can set and forget. Once the meals are set up, you’ll likely never need to change them, and it can even intelligently recognize when the hopper has been refilled after running out of food. You barely have to interact with it.

But, like all smart devices, it’s not all good news. When the hopper automatically goes off, it makes a lot of mechanical noise. It has to do this because that’s how it accurately dispenses the correct amount of food, but bigger meals need more spins from the hopper which can be annoying early in the morning and can potentially freak your dog out. I have two dogs with polar opposite personalities, so I got to experience that first hand.

The first dog, Penny, is the kind of dog that needs to be the center of attention and loves getting into trouble. The hopper was weird, so she had to investigate. She found out it gave her food, so now she loves it.

My second dog, Dexter, would rather spend all day being quiet and in bed, and he’s still not sold on it. He’ll occasionally eat out of it if there’s anything leftover from Penny, but more often than not he avoids it in favor of his normal food bowl. He’s also not a very food motivated dog, which probably plays into things.

And that brings us to our second low point of the SmartFeeder; it only officially supports one pet. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I can understand why you wouldn’t want to teach two dogs to feed from the same bowl at the same time, but there’s also no way to pair a second SmartFeeder to your account.You’d have to make a totally separate account for a second feeder, which might work if you pay attention to food levels on your own, but you’d lose out on all the extra notifications and functionality that PetNet advertises.

For me, this isn’t a big deal. My dogs are completely opposite with different eating habits, schedules, and personalities, so it makes sense to automate feeding the more active dog while manually taking care of the little guy who needs less attention anyway. But if you’re looking for a way to manage this for multiple dogs that are more similar than mine, you’ll probably only want to tackle it if your dogs are well-trained and you have someone else that lives with you that can manage a second account for feeding, and if you have more than a couple pets it might not be worth it at all.

For smaller situations and more relaxed animals, though, the SmartFeeder is a huge time saver, even if it is a little on the expensive side.

About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid, but the tech enthusiasm currently covers just about everything. He likes PC gaming, Lenovo's Moto Z line, and a good productivity app.