CheetahBeam: More Proof that Cats are Your Overlord

We don’t know what cats see when they see a red laser beam, but we know it isn’t what we see. The reaction, at least for many cats — is instant and extreme. Of course, your cat expects you to quit your job and play with it on demand. While [fluxaxiom] wanted to comply, he also knew that no job would lead to no cat food. To resolve the dilemma, he built an automated cat laser. In addition to the laser module, the device uses a few servos and a microcontroller in a 3D printed case. You can see a video, below. Dogs apparently like it too, but of course they aren’t the reason it was built.

If you don’t have a 3D printer, you can still cobble something together. The microcontroller is an Adafruit Pro Trinket, which is essentially an Arduino Pro Mini with some extra pins and a USB port.

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Sentry Robot Turns Bad Cat to Good

The household of [James Watts] has cats, and those cats have decided that various spots of carpet are just great for digging up with their claws. After some efforts at training the cats, [James] enlisted a robotic cat trainer with remote wireless sensors. The automated trainer does only one job, but it does that one job reliably and tirelessly, which is just what is needed in this case. A task like “automate training the cats to stop clawing the carpet” is really made up of many smaller problems, and [James] implemented a number of clever ideas in his solution.

First of all, the need for an automated solution has a lot to do with how pets form associations, and the need to have the negative reinforcement be in the right place at the right time to be effective. A harmless spritz of water in this case is used for correction and needed to be applied immediately, consistently, and “from out of nowhere” (instead of coming from a person.) Otherwise, as [James] discovered, spraying water when the cats clawed the carpet simply meant that they stopped doing it when he was around.

There were a number of tricky problems to solve in the process. One was how to reliably detect cats actually clawing the carpet. Another was how to direct the harmless spray of water to only the spot in question, and how to rig and manage a water supply without creating another mess in the process. Finally, the whole thing needed to be clean and tidy; a hackjob with a mess of wires strung everywhere just wouldn’t do.

base_frontTo achieve all this, [James] created a main sprayer unit that is wirelessly connected to remote sensor units using NRF24L01+ serial packet radios. When a remote senses that a trouble spot is being clawed, the main unit uses an RC servo to swivel a spray nozzle in the correct direction and give the offending feline a watery reminder.

The self-contained remote sensors use an accelerometer to detect the slight lifting of the carpet when it’s being clawed. [James] programmed the MMA8452Q three axis accelerometer to trigger an external pin when motion is sensed above a certain threshold, and this event is sent over the wireless link.

For the main sprayer unit itself, [James] cleverly based it around an off-the-shelf replacement windshield washer tank. With an integrated pump, tubing, and assortment of nozzles there was no need to design any of those elements from scratch. If you want to give the project a shot, check out the github repository — probably worth it it since one night is all it took to change the cat behavior which explains the lack of any action video.

Pet projects usually center around automating the feeding process, but it’s nice to see other applications. For something on the positive-reinforcement end of training, check out this cat exercise wheel that integrates a treat dispenser to encourage an exercise regimen.

Cat vs. Human Escalates with Armor-Plated Feeder

Wars generally increase innovation as the opposing sides try to kill each other in ever more efficient ways. Even the soft war waged daily between felines and their human servants results in innovation, to wit we offer this armor-plated automated cat feeder.

The conflict between [Sprocket H.G. Shopcat] and her human [Quinn Dunki] began with a thoughtfully provided automatic food dispenser. Like human vending machine customers who witness a just-purchased bag of Cheesy Poofs dangling on the end of the dispense auger, [Sprocket] learned that the feeder would dispense a few fishy nuggets when nudged. [Quinn] embarked on an iterative design process to control [Sprocket]’s off-schedule snacking. Fastening the feeder firmly to the floor, and adding obstructions to prevent her from pawing up the dispense chute — nothing seemed to stop the clever feline’s raids. [Quinn] then pulled out all the stops and whipped up a [Sprocket]-safe enclosure for the feeder from 1/8″ plate steel and copper. This seems to have put the cat back on the straight and narrow, and it doesn’t look half bad either.

All kidding aside, [Quinn]’s approach to this problem is pretty instructive. Careful observations informed several cycles of reasonable modifications until it became clear that only the most extreme solution would work. There’ve been tons of cat feeders here before, from the simple to the complex, but we think all would fall prey to the clever [Sprocket] without a little up-armoring.

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Cat-Operated Cat Food Dispenser

Tired of being harassed by your cat? [MomWillBeProud] made a cheap, effective — and more importantly cat-operated — cat food dispenser.

The feeder is of an efficient construction — a double cat food dish, one container to store the electronics, and a Pringles can to act as the hopper. A simple servo rotates the hopper thirty degrees and back on each button press; using gravity to drop food through an opening that appears due to this motion. The button itself is an old IKEA timer and a piece of plastic large enough for a hungry cat to swat.

An Arduino controls the servo, and while [MomWillBeProud] skips over going into detail on his code, you can check it out here.

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Neural Network Targets Cats with a Sprinkler System

It’s overkill, but it’s really cool. [Bob Bond] took an NVIDIA Jetson TX1 single-board computer and a webcam and wirelessly combined them with his lawn sprinklers. Now, when his neighbors’ cats come to poop in his yard, a carefully trained neural network detects them and gets them wet.

It is absolutely the case that this could have been done with a simple motion sensor, but if the neural network discriminates sufficiently well between cats and (for instance) his wife, this is an improved solution for sure. Because the single-board computer he’s chosen for the project has a ridiculous amount of horsepower, he can afford to do a lot of image processing, so there’s a chance that everyone on two legs will stay dry. And the code is up on GitHub for you to see, if you’re interested.

[Bob] promises more detail about the neural network in the future. We can’t wait. (And we’d love to see a sentry-turret style build in the future. Think of the water savings!)

Via the NVIDIA blog, and thanks [Jaqen] for the tip!

Robotic Pets Test an Automatic Pet Door

Lots of people get a pet and then hack solutions that help them care for their new friend, like an automatic door to provide access to the great outdoors. Then again, some people build the pet door first and then build the pets to test it.

It’s actually not quite as weird as it sounds. [Amir Avni] and his wife attended a recent GeekCon and entered the GeekCon Pets event. GeekCon is a cooperative rather than competitive hackathon that encourages useless builds as a means to foster community and to just have some fun. [Amir] and his wife wanted to build a full-featured automatic pet door, and succeeded – with NFC and an ESP8266, the stepper-powered door worked exactly as planned. But without any actual animal companions to test the system, they had to hack up a few volunteers. They came up with a 3D-printed dog and cat perched atop wireless cars, and with NFC tags dangling from their collars, the door was able to differentiate between the wandering ersatz animals. The video below the break shows the adorable plastic pals in action.

It’s clear from all the pet doors and automatic waterers and feeders we’ve seen that hackers love their pets, but we’re pretty sure this is the first time the pet itself was replaced by a robot. That’s fine for the test environment, but we’d recommend the real thing for production.

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The Running Cat

Cats are great to have around, but they need exercise. If you’re not in a position to let the cat outdoors, you need to look to something else when kitty wakes up bored from her 23 hour nap. Cat playscapes are useful diversions, but this is the first time we’ve considered real exercise equipment. Let’s get our feline friends their exercise fix with a hamster-esque cat exercise wheel.

[bbarlowski]’s design is simple but very clever, and almost looks like something you’d find flat-packed at IKEA. Built of CNC-milled birch plywood, the wheel rims snap together like puzzle pieces while the floor has tabs that slot into the rims. The tension of the bent floor panels locks everything together and makes for a smart looking wheel. The video after the break shows [Kuna the Maine Coon cat] in action on the wheel, and outlines a few plans for expansion, including adding an Arduino to monitor kitty’s activity and control both an RGB LED strip for mood lighting and a cat treat dispenser for positive reinforcement of the exercise regimen.

The project mounted an unsuccessful campaign in March and they’ve made the DXF cutting files available for download. Of course if it’s too much plywood and not enough Arduino for you, just build the Arduspider to torture – err, entertain your cat.

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