For the past two years, I have tried just about every tactic to train my obese European Burmese cat Kazu to eat a special diet. We put her on scheduled feedings, only giving her wet food, and tried to ban her from the dry kibble which we needed to leave out for the other two cats (both of whom are normal weight). Kazu continued to sneak dry kibble throughout each day, despite being scolded for doing so.
After all my unsuccessful efforts to get Kazu on a unique feeding schedule, I was at my wit’s end. Then a couple of people suggested that I purchase a microchip pet feeder. I looked up microchip feeders online and discovered SureFlap Microchip Pet Feeders. I almost keeled over when I saw the price of these units: $149. What’s worse is that I knew I had to purchase TWO of these feeders, since Kazu would have to be trained on one feeder, while Tenshi and Shima would be trained on the other.
I saved up so that I could buy two feeders. $365 later (I had to purchase C batteries, as well as extra RFID tags since only one tag comes with each feeder, and we have three cats), I was ready to give them a try.
The training period consists of five stages, in which the door progresses from remaining completely open (stage 1), closes a small amount (stage 2), then closes incrementally more until stage 5 when the door closes completely, only opening for the pet who is programmed to the feeder. The idea with the incremental training is that the pets will eventually understand that the closed door will open when they approach the feeder to which they are programmed.
Without going into agonizing detail, I will say that it took a good six weeks before my cats finally understood how the feeders worked. They were so afraid of the devices at first that I honestly began to doubt whether the system would work for my household. As soon as the door would move back or forward, my cats would just freak out, so we were at training level 2 (the door only moves a small amount and the chamber is very accessible) for close to 3 weeks.
I’m not sure how I feel about these things. While they are well constructed and work well, they are inaccessible to people who can’t afford the units. In addition, our household STILL hasn’t progressed beyond the training setting, because when the doors are completely closed (as they are in regular post-training mode), my cats don’t consistently understand that all they have to do is approach the feeders for the doors to open.
What this basically means is that I must have dry kibble available to all three cats in both feeders, which completely defeats the purpose of buying these devices in the first place. I purchased these feeders THREE MONTHS AGO. In addition, all three cats race into the kitchen when I enter it, and beg for wet food like starving street urchins. I relent, because I want to make sure my babies are fed.
Kazu just keeps getting fatter, while my wallet is definitely slimmer from purchasing the devices which mainly serve to startle and confuse my entire brood.