Pets go hungry as ‘smart’ food dispenser stops working
Owners of the Petnet SmartFeeder complain as their dogs and cats go hungry
Cat and dog owners have vented their frustration at Petnet, the maker of an internet-connected feeder which stopped working for an entire week earlier this month.
The $150 second-generation SmartFeeder is supposed to automatically dispense food for cats and dogs while their owners are away. Set portion sizes are dropped into a food bowl on a user-defined schedule, and a smartphone app can be used to deliver extra food manually.
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The device is supposed to ensure pets left at home during the day receive the right amount of food at the right time, and don't go hungry or eat too much.
However, a week-long technical problem earlier in February meant the product stopped working, leaving pets hungry while their owners were away from home.
Owners began emailing Petnet when they saw food wasn't being dispensed properly, but found their emails bounced back from the company's server. One owner, called Laura Warecki, tweeted at Petnet's Twitter support account: "It's been over a week since you announced this failure. I've emailed your support team and the email bounced back. Are you kidding me? I have no idea if my cats are getting fed and I'm on the other side of the world."
System Update: Customers with generation 2 SmartFeeders may show offline symptoms as we are currently experiencing a system outage. Please stay tuned for more information in regards to this matter. We apologize for the inconvenience.
— Petnet Support (@petnetiosupport) January 11, 2020
Petnet said on February 14 that it was "investigating a system outage that may affect customers," but it wasn't until February 21 that the company said functionality had been restored. The company also "experienced a system outage" on January 11, and also in June 2019. Customers also complained about connection issues and food not being dispensed in October 2018.
Another SmartFeeder owner called April Kimberly tweeted: "I was supposed to be traveling this weekend but has to change it to next weekend. That God I did. I'll have to make other arrangements if I can't trust my cat will be fed correctly."
The lack of response, server issues, and email delivery problems led owners to speculate whether Petnet had failed to pay its hosting company bills. One person tweeted: "You know I've never understood the business model. The device should have been slightly cheaper but charge a minimal annual subscription to run the servers. At least that way they wouldn't have to worry about running out of cash."
My cat starved while we were out of town, ended up having neighbors needing to save her. Cat was so starved she was acting an attack cat when they tried to come into the house. Glad (and rather surprised) that the feeder was up and running when we got home today.
— Tiffany Duquette (@TDuquette19) February 22, 2020
Another said: "Anybody considered the possibility that they've just gone out of business?"
Sold through Amazon, the SmartFeeder has an average review score of 2.5 stars out of five from 560 customers. Half of reviews are one star, with many reviews complaining about how the device doesn't connect to the internet properly, and the company doesn't reply to issues raised by owners.
One owner, Jayson Cox, tweeted to say his SmartFeeder had failed to follow the feeding schedule once its internet connection was lost, resulting in his two cats not being fed. Another owner, Eric Fishon, claims to have emailed Petnet more than 30 times and not received a response.
Petnet's main Twitter account has not tweeted since August 30, 2019.
When GearBrain reviewed a Petnet SmartFeeder back in 2017 we noted how it was prone to jamming and not dispensing food correctly.
GearBrain has emailed Petnet for comment on the latest server outage, and although our email did not bounce back we received an automated reply saying the company would respond as soon as possible.
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