Pet-Themed Panels at SXSW

Thursday, March 06, 2014 by

Beginning tomorrow, thousands of the smartest and tech-savviest people around will meet in Austin for the yearly SXSW Interactive, Music and Film Festival.

Pet industry folks, marketing experts and social media pros are especially interested in the first part of the conference; Interactive runs from March 7 through March 11 and throws together panels, parties and mentor sessions (and parties, too of course) focusing on all things internet related.

As the pet industry presence grows ever larger, it’s fun to see how pets make appearances at places like SXSW. Taking a look at the schedule, there are several Interactive panels that discuss pet videos in particular and explore how memes and people’s natural love for animals translates to how companies build brands and make connections with customers.


Here’s a look at the pet-themed (mostly cat-themed) panels at SXSW Interactive this year:

Memes with Meaning: Why we Love Crazy Cat Gifs and Videos (Friday March 7, 5:15 – 5:30 p.m.) — In this quick ‘Future15′ session, Google’s head of Strategic Planning will talk about YouTube behavior and what it means for content creators.

The LOLs of Nations: Understanding Global Memes (Saturday March 8, 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.) — How do memes vary from country to country, and what does it say when one becomes universally embraced? A panel of experts will shed some light on cute animal video behavior around the world.

Cat Cash: The Economy of Internet Cat Videos (Saturday March 8, 5 – 6 p.m.) — “Cat videos are no longer just an entertaining distraction between emails and Facebook posts; they are now an economic force.” Like the sound of that? Better add this panel to your schedule.

A Book Signing with Will Braden (Saturday March 8, 6:10 – 6:30 p.m.) — The creator of the famous cat video “Henri, le Chat Noir” will be on hand to talk about cat videos and his new book, Henri, le Chat Noir: The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat.

A Book Signing with Bob Mankoff (Monday March 10, 6:10 – 6:30 p.m.) — The author of The Big New Yorker Book of Cats and The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs will appear at the SX Bookstore to sign copies of both books.

Going to SXSW? Have a great time!


If you live in a multiple-cat household, you know that feeding time can be chaotic. One of your cats may be skittish and avoid eating with others, while another might be the tyrant of kibble and push other cats out of the way.

two tabby cats

Having multiple cats can be fun, but can often turn stressful at feeding time.

Feeding in a multi-cat household becomes even more difficult when one of your cats is put on a special diet for health reasons. The special food for your sick cat can’t be shared with your healthy cats, and vice versa. Usually, the only solution to make sure the right cat eats the right food is to schedule separate, supervised feeding times. This solution is difficult for people who work long hours or who travel frequently and cannot always be at home to supervise their cats’ feedings.

The creator of Gatefeeder saw this need when one of his cats was prescribed a special diet, and responded by inventing a smart feeder that would only allow one specific cat to access a reservoir of food.

gatefeeder logo

Logo via gatefeeder.com

We’ve written about automatic pet feeders before, but this one is different. The Gatefeeder is a contained feeder which houses a stainless steel bowl behind a locked door. The cat who eats from the feeder wears a special Smart ID tag on her collar which activates a sensor in the door control mechanism. The cat pushes on the door to activate the sensor, which determines whether or not the right pet is trying to access the food. If it’s the correct cat, the door unlocks and the cat can access the food.

gatefeeder how it works

How it works via gatefeeder.com

According to the creator of Gatefeeder, the design has been tested and revised extensively to ensure reliability and safety. For example, the door of the feeder opens only enough so that the correct cat can enter her head and shoulders to eat. This ensures that the cat cannot become trapped in the feeder or that other pets cannot barge in around or behind the cat while she is eating. After the correct cat has finished eating, she backs out of the feeder and the door closes and locks behind her.

The look of the feeder is minimal and modern, and the compact size means that it can conveniently be placed in even the smallest of spaces. The stainless steel bowl within the feeder is dishwasher-safe and the sealed unit controls pet food odors and spills. Additionally, there is space beneath the feeder for an ice pack if wet food is being stored in the feeder. The feeder can hold enough food for up to one weekend of feeding.

gatefeeder with cat

Cat with Gatefeeder via Gizmodo

The Smart ID tag which activates the feeder is given a distinct code, so multiple Gatefeeders can be used in the same household without cats being able to access Gatefeeders that are not theirs. Additionally, the Gatefeeder website states that the ID tags are virtually indestructible, and offers replacements if your cat’s tag gets lost or damaged. The Gatefeeder is battery operated and the battery should last 8 months to one year before needing to be replaced.

What are the uses of this feeder? As previously described, it was created with the feeding needs of ill pets in multi-cat households in mind. The feeder could also be of use in houses where there is an overweight cat and a cat without weight difficulties. The healthier cat can access her food at any time via the Gatefeeder, but the cat who is prone to overeating is restricted to supervised meals served by the owner. The feeder could also be useful for skittish cats who need a safe, quiet environment in which to eat. Finally, the sealed feeder keeps out dogs or small children who might be tempted by what’s in Fluffy’s bowl.


The gatefeeder is sealed to keep out any animals other than the cat wearing the Smart ID tag. Photo via gatefeeder.com

Your cat will likely be hesitant at first about eating from the Gatefeeder, especially considering its resemblance to a carrier (unless, of course, your cat is crate trained and has no problem entering plastic boxes). The Gatefeeder site states that cats should become acclimated eventually, despite initial reluctance (food, after all, is an extremely effective incentive).

This feeder is a clever solution to a specific problem, but it’s not necessarily ideal for everyone with multiple pets in their home. The price tag is set at a whopping $250, so it is quite expensive and probably out of reach for many pet owners. Additionally, the small size of the Gatefeeder limits possible users to cats under 20 lbs and small dogs (the feeder is designed specifically for cats, but the website indicates it is safe for small dogs to use).

That being said, if you find yourself with cats who have specific dietary needs that cannot be easily addressed by supervised feedings, the Gatefeeder might be a high-tech solution that can offer you peace of mind in knowing that your cats are getting what they need, even when you’re not there.

orange tabby and white cat

With the Gatefeeder, mealtime conflicts are eliminated and kitty friendships are restored.

Would you use this product? What do you think of the Gatefeeder? Share your thoughts in the comments below.