Petnet Internet-Connected Animal Feeder Suffers Mysterious System Outages: 'My Cat Starved For Over a Week'

An internet-connected pet feeding device has suffered a series of mysterious system outages over the past week, with complaints quickly mounting across social media.

The Petnet SmartFeeder—which lets users automate the supply of portions of food to their cats or dogs at home with the help of a smartphone application—has been blasted on Twitter by owners who claimed to have been impacted by the issues and not given adequate information.

The firm's sporadic posts in response to a barrage of complaints about the downtime on social media led to speculation it had actually gone out of business.

An email asking for comment sent by Newsweek to Petnet's press email address returned a bounce-back. However, a message to a support email address appeared to have been sent successfully. So far, the company has only been sharing its updates via a support account on Twitter.

Posts about the issues started back on February 14, with Petnet confirming it was investigating an outage affecting customers using the second-generation SmartFeeder product. It urged those customers not to turn off the devices and promised updates on the matter would soon come to light. It took another four days for the next update to be published.

The Petnet support account on Twitter wrote on February 18: "Our team is working closely with our third-party service provider in regards to the outage affecting the SmartFeeder (2nd Gen). We hope to release more information as we learn more. We apologize for this inconvenience."

System Update: We are investigating a system outage that may affect customers using the SmartFeeder (2nd Gen). Scheduled automatic feeds will still dispense on at the desired time although SmartFeeders will appear offline. Sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause.

— Petnet Support (@petnetiosupport) February 14, 2020

System Update: Our team is working closely with our third-party service provider in regards to the outage affecting the SmartFeeder (2nd Gen). We hope to release more information as we learn more. We apologize for this inconvenience.

— Petnet Support (@petnetiosupport) February 18, 2020

After another three days, and mounting customer queries, the company suggested the device and mobile application functions had finally been restored and pushed a link to a support page.

System Update: SmartFeeders and App functionality have been restored. If you see a red ring, please power cycle your SmartFeeder by turning it off and on from the power switch. For further assistance, see our reconnection steps listed on our support page. https://t.co/QSjrLCxU6m

— Petnet Support (@petnetiosupport) February 21, 2020

Indeed, some commenters confirmed systems were back online.

But many Petnet customers indicated they would be returning the smart product to online retailer Amazon and fumed about the failure to provide explanations, even if the situation was fixed.

"My cat starved for over a week," one user wrote in response to the February 21 social media post. "Tech support with your company stinks. So glad I returned mine. I have been so vocal, I thought you shut down. Talk to your customers don't hide or ignore. Terrible experience."

Another wrote: "Emailed bounced back. Phone calls not answered or voicemail not returned. I purchased mine about a month ago. Glad I got from Amazon. Returned just today."

A third complaint read: "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."

My cat starved for over a week. Tech support with your company stinks. So glad I returned mine. I have been so vocal, I thought you shut down. Talk to your customers don't hide or ignore. Terrible experience.

— Cul Blu (@mrculblu) February 21, 2020

@petnetiosupport @Petnetio @amazon @amazonlaunchpad All my boys wanted to do was have dinner but thanks to PetNet and never responding to 30+ emails and server outages and now jammed units for weeks and bounced customer Srvc emails crickets.#hungry pic.twitter.com/g8p6cYueGW

— Eric Fishon (@eman1061) February 15, 2020

I have lost all faith in @petnet. @petnetiosupport how are people supposed to get support when your own support email website issues bounce backs? https://t.co/rE62j35A1y

— Oren Roth-Eisenberg (@orentalks) February 21, 2020

Petnet seems to have shut down services and folded up shop on the Thursday before a long weekend, leaving feeders (of people away from home) completely inoperable. Hey @internetofshit, has any other device potentially killed pets? Because that seems possible here. https://t.co/R2nkOaGA04

— Dave Temkin (@dtemkin) February 17, 2020

One Amazon listing for the device has been hit with a wave of negative reviews. One new comment read: "Horrible products. Lack of connection for a week. My cat is hungry."

Another angry review said: "There is currently a massive outage that basically bricked a ton of 2nd generation devices. The company claims that the feeder was supposed to keep going with the schedule, but my device is currently offline and doing absolutely nothing.

"To make things worse, they have a support e-mail that doesn't work and their only other method of communication is via twitter, which they are also not monitoring."

According to its website, the SmartFeeder sells in the U.S. for about $145. The company's profile on Crunchbase states it has amassed $14.9 million in funding since being founded in 2012.

As reported by the BBC, Petnet products suffered similar issues back in 2016.

"You may experience a loss of scheduled feed and failed remote feedings," Petnet said at the time. "Please ensure that your pets have been fed manually until we have resolved this issue."

Petnet (Press image)
The Petnet SmartFeeder—which lets users automate the supply of portions of food to their cats or dogs at home with the help of a smartphone application—has been blasted on Twitter by owners who claimed to have been impacted by the outage issues and not given adequate information. Petnet/Press Brand Assets