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.

25 thoughts on “Recycled cat feeder

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

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