I got a cat in 2018. I hadn't, at the time, wanted one. The opportunity arose to adopt one and my partner jumped at the chance of rehoming a feline friend. I didn't even know if our rental agreement allowed cats, but he'd already checked before we moved in, just in case.
At first, Leo wasn't allowed to sleep on the bed. That soon changed. The saying goes that dogs have owners, but cats have staff, and that certainly rings true. Although he's a wonderful little chap in every way, once the little prince worked his magic and began sleeping on the bed, along came the obscenely early morning wake-up calls, when he insisted on being fed. When I say “early morning”, I actually mean the middle of the night. This was from 3am onwards, until he got what he wanted.
It began with little taps on my arm, in the cute way that a cat stretches out its tiny paw, asking you to stroke it. Obviously, I ignored it while in a deep sleep, but still being concious enough to be able to drag my arm back under the duvet. Then there would be another tap, this time on my shoulder, and a little more persistent and urgent.
Slightly more awake – and aware of what's happening – I'd pull the duvet up further. But, then, when everything was covered, Leo took drastic action. He went for the face. There's nothing quite like a heavy thud square in the mouth from your cat's paw at 3.45am to get you up and looking for cat biscuits, aka cat crack.
As summer mornings dawned earlier and earlier, Leo's tummy rumbled earlier too. After a few days of this, we were near the edge. The first port of call was what can only now be described, with hindsight, as a never-ending sweetie dispenser (in actual fact it was this food dispenser from Amazon). It was a cheap buy that meant Leo was able to gorge to his little heart's content on the good stuff with zero portion control. All we did was feed the addiction.
After further, more careful consideration, my partner bought an automatic feeder. "What rubbish," I thought. I categorised this as another OTT cat purchase, along with the 5.5ft (ugly) brown faux fur cat tower that he came home with one day.
Albeit that this is much less offensive to the eye than the cat tower, I assure you that it is the only essential cat purchase you need to buy. Thankfully, it gave us back our normal sleeping pattern.
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The gamechanger: Jempet donut shape 6-meal automatic pet feeder, £36.86, Amazon – Buy now
If anyone else's cat is as greedy as mine, and acts like a needy, hangry toddler most of the day (when not napping), this is an essential piece of kit. Forget the cat bed (they sleep anywhere), forget the cat carrier (you'll get them into a box or a bag easier) – this is a must buy.
Jempet’s aptly named "donut shape" feeder is a simple piece of kit with a compact design. The base cleverly rotates, while the middle section holds the food portions, and the top cover leaves one portion uncovered at all times. So when mealtime comes around, the bottom spins tp reveal the food.
Our little darling has three meals a day – yes reader, you read that correctly. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. He's ever so civilised. His first meal is at a pleasant 5.30am, but do I need to do anything? No I do not – apart from remembering to fill it up the night before, which is perhaps the most important job of the day. Otherwise, it's that old needy tap, followed by a paw-sized punch, to let you know about your mistake.
As much praise as I have for this wondrous machine, it has been known to skip a portion once or twice, getting a little spin-happy. Although a rarity, if this happens, don't worry – you'll be notified by your cat.
The feeder has six sections, although only five can be filled with food, with one always remaining empty. Each is plenty large enough for a portion suitable for a large adult cat. Of course it doesn't need to be filled to the brim, which in my case would only add fuel to the fire of a screeching cat, insisting on more. It works with either wet or dry food (Leo is a dry-biscuit-only man), and the machine can easily be taken apart to clean, which you’ll need to do often if you exclusively use wet food.
When it's time to dispense dinner, it has a very mechanical sound (which is added for effect, as there's nothing complicated enough inside to make it), and no matter where Leo is, he'll come bounding down the corridor at full speed, as if it was feeding time at the zoo.
On the top of the machine is a simple digital display where you set the timer in order for it to release the next portion. It comes with a power cord so you can keep it plugged into the mains, too. You can use batteries but, let's face it, it's not worth the hassle and the risk of them running out.
I would have paid far more than this to enjoy the freedom and convenience of being able to sleep through the night, only being woken up by my alarm for work at 7am. But as long a Leo's fed, that's the main thing.
For more essentials, read our International Cat Day guide on everything you need to care for your feline friend or our guide to the best pet cameras
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