Shine Tries It: The Neater Feeder

Welcome to "Shine Tries It," a new feature where we try things so you don't have to. Every Friday our editors will road-test unusual products and unbelievable promises to find out what lives up to the hype and what doesn't. Warning: don't try any of this at home until we do.

This week, editors Charlene Birkeland and Sarah D. Bunting tested a single product – the Neater Feeder ("Spoil the pet. Spare the floor.") – on two fronts, canine and feline. Charlene's first up with her assessment of the NF for dogs.

Charlene Birkeland, Editor: I have a diva-ish 70-pound Labrador Retriever who goes by the name Luna Lovegood. She drinks her water like a sloppy drunk. It sloshes all over the floor and trails behind her as she walks away from her bowl. The black water stains on our hardwood floors are like an open scrapbook of her messy habits. She's a piglet.

Of late, we've just kept a towel under her water bowl so it can soak up her spills. The towel stays damp all day. And it looks trashy.

Enter the Neater Feeder. Unlike Sarah's dainty version, Luna is test driving the large Neater Feeder. I won't lie; I was startled by its enormous size. Would I really want this huge boat on a pedestal sitting in the corner of my dining room?

Yes. Because it works.

My dog refused to eat food out of one of the bowls, as she prefers to take her meals outside on the patio steps. The first time I tried to have her eat her dinner out of the Neater Feeder, she picked out pieces of kibble and moved them to her usual spot. Diva.

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But for water? The Neater Feeder is fantastic. Look at how much water it captured after Luna's days of water debauchery:

Splashdown!I just wipe out the holder every evening. Super easy, super clean. The claim that the Neater Feeder doesn't slip is accurate. My only tiny complaint deals with the slanted design of the bowl holders. When you insert filled water bowls into their holders, they tilt slightly backwards and water can slosh out.  In the end, I guess it doesn't really matter since the spill is captured by the Neater Feeder.

Now if I could only teach the dog to wipe her mouth after she drinks.

Sarah D. Bunting, Pets Editor: I did get the "dainty" version, like Charlene says (actually the "small dog" size, not the cat size), but compared to my cats' previous low-profile feeding system, it did kind of look like the spaceship from "Close Encounters." But if it would corral the kibble bits my felines inevitably 1) drop next to the bowl, then 2) track into neighboring rooms, downstairs, into my closet, etc., the better for me to step on barefoot in the middle of the night, well, I was willing to entertain a visit from the edge of the galaxy.

The before.The Neater Feeder appears to live up to most of its own hype. Claiming a "kick proof," "spill proof," "elevated," and "comfortable" design, the NF definitely cuts down on the human-related water-bowl sloshing that occurs when I trip over one of the cats figure-eighting around my ankles at mealtime, so the first two claims: totally true.

"Elevated" and "comfortable" are harder to prove. The idea behind the Neater Feeder is pretty rad – not only does it contain food AND water spills, but it separates those spills, allowing food/kibble to dry out in the little reservoir tray, then be put back into the bowl for eating. But it can only contain these food-and-water messes if your cats consent to USE the Neater Feeder in the first place. Two of mine are still ignoring it after a week; one, Little Joe, finally took some kibble from it – then carried it four feet away and ate it in the middle of the kitchen like he always does.The after. Note other food bowl I was forced to put back out.

So, I wouldn't say that the Neater Feeder worked for my household, exactly – but I also wouldn't say my household is the target demographic. The product definitely does what it says it does, as far as elevating the food to make eating more comfortable; protecting floors from water splash; and protecting walls from flying food and water. The system is ingenious, and nicer-looking than most of the garish plastic pet-food set-ups out there. It's just that my cats don't create the type of localized food/water mess problem that this product solves – and two out of three refused to acknowledge its existence – so I would give it a qualified thumbs-up, for dog households and particular kinds of sloppy pet eaters. I wish it had allowed me to upgrade from the "plastic bowls and grubby Ikea placemats" system currently in place. Darn stubborn felines.

Would your pets use the Neater Feeder? Are you tempted to try it to save your floors -- or do you know better than to change your pets' routines? Let us know in the comments.

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