Automatic cat feeder made with recycled laminator parts

automatic-cat-feeder

When [Antoine] and his family leave home for a few days, they usually have to find a neighbor who is willing to care for their cats while they are away. Instead of bothering the people who live next door, he decided it would be best to build an automatic cat feeder (Translation) instead.

[Antoine] originally tried building an auger to distribute the food, but it didn’t work as well as he had hoped. He opted to build a dispenser out of wood instead, driving the feeding wheel with an old microwave platter motor. The motor did not have enough torque to do the job, so he dismantled an old laminator, which had a more suitable motor inside.

He built a large hopper (Translation) out of wood and left over acrylic sheeting, which stores the cat food and houses all of the electronics used in the feeder. He controls the amount of food and feeding intervals using a pair of buttons and a small LCD display, all of which are controlled by an Arduino Nano.

While [Antoine] has not yet shared the source code that drives the feeder, he does have a demo video which you can watch below.

Comments

  1. Uky says:

    Dejavu… Two cat feeder builds with very similar clear designs, both starting with microwave motors.

  2. Sparkinium says:

    Very clever build. I like it. My only criticism would be that it looks like any cat worth its salt would tip it over and have a feast. Hopefully it’s secured to a wall, and the lid is secured shut.

  3. John Jorsett says:

    I don’t get all the cat feeders. I’ve always just put out a quantity of food and my cats eat what they want when they want, and I refill it from time to time. They don’t overdo it and eat everything the way a dog would, nor do they get fat. So I don’t see why people feel the need to automate a feeder to rein them in.

    • andar_b says:

      amen. :) I’ve never had to ration my cats, and they let me know when their dish has run out.

    • HackJack says:

      And I’d much rather have a simple but reliable gravity feeder than this which has multiple components that can fail.

      • Indyaner says:

        The failproofing would be one of the main-aspects in my design. I trust myself. But I doint trust my creations to be that failsafe to hang the life of my cat on it.
        His creation sure does look like it can go wrong. A simpler solution, maybe even a spreaded risk would be wise. Like a chamber-system that opens on time on two unrelated Controllers. In that way even if the one system would fail, the cat would be without food for only the first two days and the last two days shw would have a chance of food because of the second system. I doint know. Are there any well designed projects out there for hyper panic people?

    • cutandpaste says:

      Furthermore, I’ve found that whenever I’ve been away longer than I anticipated and the cats had eaten the contents of their usual container of food, that they’ve been more than happy to liberate more food from the bag in the pantry.

      Even without any claws, if the only thing that stands between a hungry cat and food is a waxed paper bag, the cat wins easily. :)

      When I had cats and I planned on going away for more than a day or two, I just did the following: Clean litter box. Feed and water cats appropriately, often using larger bowls (mixing bowls are nice for this). I’d also leave toilet open, and bag of cat food on floor, just in case supplies run out for some reason.

      I’ve -never- felt that I needed someone to tend to a cat, or to buy or create an apparatus to do it for me. A dog, on the other hand…

    • Xyroze says:

      @John

      ..So you’re saying you have never seen an overweight cat before? You must be pretty new to this whole internet thing.

      • John Jorsett says:

        I’ve seen a few overweight cats before, but none of the many I’ve personally had ever got fat, nor are fat cats that common in the world in general. Cats on the whole are pretty self-regulating when it comes to food. I’m sure there are some that need to be controlled, but not so many that all of these automated feeders are needed. The first thing I’d do if my cat was gaining weight would be to take it to the vet to make sure there wasn’t some underlying medical condition that needed addressing.

    • Stoneshop says:

      Some cats (ours is one) are just fussy; they don’t overeat, but if their bowl contains a few days worth of food to cover a long weekend away, they’ll consider the last portion(s) to be stale and not worth eating. Adding just a spoonful of food fresh from the bag makes it alright again.

      For those cases such a feeder would be quite the solution.

      • cutandpaste says:

        A hungry cat will eat “stale” food long before it starves.

        Remember, these animals are also capable of surviving on their own in the wild, and able to go many days without a proper meal.

        That they’re fussy when you’re around is simply a social construct: They complain, and you provide fresh food, in typical Pavlovian fashion. (Cat wins!)

        And when you’re not around, they’re perfectly able (even if not perfectly content) to fend for themselves from whatever is available.

        I forgot to provide a surplus of food, once, for my Maine Coon cat when we left for a weekend, and he was more than able to liberate a loaf of sliced white bread from the countertop for himself.

        He wasn’t punished for this, because I understand cats to be excellent survivors, and he was just fine (though happy to get some proper cat food) when we got back. Nor do I suspect he was suffering: All evidence showed that he had plenty to eat, even if it wasn’t the same food I’d generally intend for him to heat.

        When/if you ever discover a litter of (well-fed!) kittens eating their unfortunately-dead runt brother, you too will understand the veracity of a domestic cat.

        Their sense of morality is not at all the same as yours and mine, nor is their ability to find food. Cats naturally tend greatly toward viciousness, compared to people.

  4. metalwolfhax says:

    Some cats do act more like pigs. My cat got fat because my mom would fill the bowl late at night before she went to sleep, I would see the bowl empty in the morning and fill it before I went to school. This went on for a while until I finally seen her fill the bowl and asked her why she was filling the bowl since I usually do it. My cat had been getting double the daily amount for atleast a month.

  5. echodelta says:

    Wood insides need to be sealed well, so cleaning inside is effective. Access? Mold!
    A far better scheme would be to set several hidden caches to open on a schedule. Or robotic distribution at random times of the day. Like the kong toy used for dogs which seeps out bits of kibble as it is rolled around and chewed.
    How about some hacks for our pets to liven up the ole food bowl routine. Any robots up to it!

  6. invertica says:

    What happens when there’s a power cut? with the food encased in plastic that’s going to one hungry (read: face shreddingly angry) cat

  7. Agtrier says:

    OK, I guess the feeding problem is solved, but the real challenge is to build a service bot that would clean the cat’s liter box.

    Who’s up for the challenge?

  8. Philippe says:

    Nice build, but I’ll ask my neighbor anyway.

    Cats like company.
    The neighbor is an old bachelor who likes to feel useful.
    No Arduino will be hurt in the process ;-)

  9. next says:

    Just to give a guy his due: He did mention that the code is available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BteovEmeCS_TbbWcT_iftPMzyzrzT5S39ZvUMCknWYE/edit?pli=1

    The link is hidden in the “ICI” in “Vous pouvez télécharger le code Arduino que j’ai écrit pour cette application, mais il peut-être intéressant pour d’autre chose (gestion de l’affichage LCD, commande du rétro éclairage, gestion de menus, création de caractères… en cliquant ICI .”
    Telecharger = download.
    cheers

  10. conundrum says:

    I recall a famous quote, along the lines of “People in geographically separate locations come up with the same ideas independently”.

    Probably along the same vein as Jung’s collective unconscious theory, brain structures are broadly similar so exposed to the same articles, TV programmes and newspapers people will unconsciously go “oh thats a good idea” and this will end up in the conscious mind.

    Case in point, back in 1998 I thought “why aren’t there superconductors based on lead and magnesium”, discussed it with a colleague but was laughed at for it.

  11. none says:

    really nice project. I’m having an error while uploading the code could you help?

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