Recycled cat feeder

I find that I do a lot of fun projects but I’m very bad about documenting them when I’m done. Holidays are for hacking (in my mind) so I usually plan ahead and do something cool during my time off. This project, which I loving call the Autodine-2009, was a spontaneous event over Thanksgiving that I’m just getting around to writing about.

Our cat’s want to be fed at 6am and are very insistent about it. Like most folks, I’d rather be sleeping at that time of day so I built an automatic cat feeder. Now we sleep while the cats eat. We don’t want to rely on a hack to feed our cats when we’re away so I didn’t go the route of an Internet-enabled multiple-dose feeder. Instead, I used parts on hand to create a single-serving dispenser on a timer. A servo rotates a false bottom to gravity-feed the cat food. The servo doesn’t have control circuitry so it is controlled through an h-bridge (I did have to buy 2 transistors for that) by an AVR ATmega8 microcontroller. There are two salvaged tactile switches to set the time and timer, and a serial LCD display that I’ve had sitting around for years. Power comes from an old cell phone charger a friend had just given me that spawned the feeder idea when I asked myself “hmmm, what can I use this for”?

I’ll demonstrate this recycled device for you in a video after the break. This wasn’t as hardcore as my AVR Tetris build but I’m much happier now that I can sleep in a bit.


  1. Glenn v says:

    Where do you obtain all these recycled cats, and to what do you feed them?

  2. aztraph says:


  3. JON M says:

    Im all for recycling cats. but i wouldnt eat one.

  4. sanchoooo says:

    My definition of a recycled cat involves a coyote and being at the wrong place at the wrong time(for the cat). Didn’t see any coyotes in the video.

  5. Phil says:

    Lol. There is much mold inside. I think the cats will die if they eat to often from this Box.

  6. googfan says:

    If the cats want dinner at 6, feed them at 12. They will learn to suck it up.

  7. Mike Szczys says:

    @Phil: That’s paint. This was built using scrap wood.

  8. charper says:

    Pretty cool hack. All in all looks reasonably good, not over-complicated, etc. But.. two serious questions:

    1) Is that really mold inside the box?!?

    2) Why can’t you just leave food out 24/7?

  9. charper says:

    Edit: you ninja’d the paint answer in there while I was typing.

  10. John Bokma says:

    I agree with googfan: cats will adjust to the feeding times you choose. My cat sleeps nicely in the bathroom and wakes up when we do. Never had a problem with cats regarding feeding times. They adjust if you’re consistent.

  11. BuzzKill says:

    The cats in that house have their humans nicely trained. All other cats should take notice.

  12. jh says:

    some cats don’t wait around for the preferred time to roll around no matter what you do…

  13. John Bokma says:

    Tip 1: don’t let the cat in the bedroom

  14. Phil says:

    @Mike Szczys Ok. Thanks for the info.
    I´ll will built the same for my cats.

  15. Paul Potter says:

    Great bit of kit, and great name.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Grammar check! It should be “Our cats want to be fed…” not “Our cat’s want to be fed…”.

  17. supershwa says:

    So it’s only a 1-shot feeder? Lot of work to appease your cats once a day…don’t you dare forget to load it at night. ;p

  18. wellsfrago says:

    wow man…I have 4 cats and I just use a automatic dog feeder. another overkill

  19. Ho0d0o/Heatgap says:

    This is a cool project. Most hacks like this come out of necessity. Great job Mike.

  20. yuppicide says:

    Nice, simple project. I like it.

  21. smoker_dave says:

    It seems you are using dry cat food which should be ok, but if you used a wet food I’m sure the inside of the hopper would be a b*tch to clean out.

    I would have tackled it using a normal bowl with some kind of lid which flips open at a defined time.

    You could have used a plug in wall socket timer (like the type used for turing lights on and off) to simply energise the phone charger.

    Keep it simple stupid!

  22. A McAlpine says:

    So I doesn’t actually turn used cats into food.

  23. ICanHazSleepsNao says:

    I had the same problem so I hacked my cat.

    I reset his feeding time from “when I got up” to “when I get home from work”.

    First couple of days he was confused of course but after that he learned the routine.

    No more insistant meowing at sun up!

  24. Billy says:

    Damn!!! I was hoping for a solution to feed my recycled cat.

  25. Bryan says:

    Heaven forbid your cats ever figure out buttons

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