Hackaday Prize Entry: Feral Cats Phone Home with Das Katzetelegraf

Feral cats are a huge problem in some areas. Roaming freely in cities and in rural settings and reproducing with reckless abandon, colonies of feral cats can exhibit nuisance behavior that often results in unpleasant measures being taken to control their population. More humane programs, such as trap-neuter-return (TNR), seek to safely trap cats, give them basic vaccinations and neuter them, and either return them to their colony or, for a lucky few, ready them for adoption. Such programs are proving successful, but are not without issues. Enter Das Katzetelegraf.

You don’t need to understand a lick of German to figure out exactly what Das Katzetelegraf does from its name. Consisting of an Arduino, a GSM module, and a simple magnetic reed switch attached to the door of a humane cat trap, Das Katzetelegraf sends a text message to a TNR program volunteer when a cat has been trapped. Instead of waiting in the trap for the TNR workers to make daily rounds, the cats are quickly retrieved and the trap is reset for the next cycle. This reduces the time the cat spends in the trap, stressed and without access to food or water, and improves the animal’s outcome. As a bonus, each trap’s throughput is increased, so more animals can be cycled through the TNR program.

TNR can really help reduce feral cat populations, and Das Katzetelegraf can make them even more effective. But if you just have a stray cat pooping up your garden, a Raspberry Pi cat-deterring sprinkler might be a better choice.

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Hack Your Cat’s Brain to Hunt For Food

This cat feeder project by [Ben Millam] is fascinating. It all started when he read about a possible explanation for why house cats seem to needlessly explore the same areas around the home. One possibility is that the cat is practicing its mobile hunting skills. The cat is sniffing around, hoping to startle its prey and catch something for dinner. Unfortunately, house cats don’t often get to fulfill this primal desire. [Ben] thought about this problem and came up with a very interesting solution. One that involves hacking an electronic cat feeder, and also hacking his cat’s brain.

First thing’s first. Click past the break to take a look at the demo video and watch [Ben’s] cat hunt for prey. Then watch in amazement as the cat carries its bounty back to the cat feeder to exchange it for some real food.

Continue reading “Hack Your Cat’s Brain to Hunt For Food”

Super Simple Cat Feeder

Sometimes, along comes a hack that is just that. A kludged collection of parts thrown together quickly to solve some problem. [mightysinetheta]’s Upcycled Cat Feeder is just that – no pretensions.

It’s a cat feeder built out of a drill, wall switch and mechanical clock timer for under $10. Pretty much the simplest electric cat feeder you can make. Survives power outages just fine, is single serving, but due to the noise and motion it makes, it is a perfect Pavlovian trainer for the cat. The best way to describe it is as a Rube Goldberg machine.

Set the timer for the planned feed time (up to 12 hours in advance). At the appointed time, the timer triggers, the drill rotates, the old, broken screwdriver chucked in the drill turns. The cord tied to the screwdriver winds up like a winch. This pulls up the lid covering the cat’s dinner plate. The noisy drill announces it’s dinner time. When fully raised, the lid pushes up a short piece of PCV pipe. This flips a switch, that shuts off the drill. If you need build instructions, fear not. [mightysinetheta] has detailed build instructions although the pictures are probably all you’ll need.

Check the video after the break.

Continue reading “Super Simple Cat Feeder”

Embroidered Nyan Cat Brings a Meme to the Real World

Have you ever come across an Internet meme and just thought to yourself, “I have to bring this into the physical world!” Well [0xb3nn] and [Knit Knit] did. They decided to take the classic nyan cat meme and bring it to life.

The frame is 24″ x 36″. Many hours went into the knitting process, but the result obviously turned out very well. The stars include 24 LED sequins to add a sparkling animation effect. These were sewn onto the back of the work using conductive thread. They are bright enough to shine through to the front where needed. These connect back to an Arduino Pro Mini 5V board.

The Arduino is also connected to a capacitive touch sensor. This allows the user to simply place their hand over the nyan cat image to start the animation. No need for physical buttons or switches to take away from the visual design. An Adafruit AudioFX sound board was used to play back a saved nyan cat theme song over a couple of speakers. The source code for this project is available on github. Be sure to watch the demo video below. Continue reading “Embroidered Nyan Cat Brings a Meme to the Real World”

Hacklet #8: The Animals

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This week on the Hacklet we’re looking at Hackaday.io projects that are all about animals! Hackers and makers are well-known animal lovers, in fact many a hacker can be found with a pet curled up at their feet, or on their keyboard!

catWater[Brian’s] cat Roger loves drinking from the bathtub faucet. Unfortunately Roger hasn’t learned how to operate the faucet himself, so it gets left on quite a bit. To keep Roger happy while saving water, [Brian] created the Snooty Cat Waterer. Cat’s still don’t have thumbs, so [Brian] turned to capacitive sensing in the form of a Microchip MTCH10 capacitive proximity sensor chip. Coupled with a home etched PC board, the waterer can detect a cat at 3 inches. A valve and water feed teed off the toilet provide the flow. The project is moving along well, though Roger has been slow to warm up to this new water source.

 

catWater2[Jsc] has the opposite problem. His cat has decided that bathtubs are the perfect litter boxes. [Jsc] is taking aim at this little problem with his Cat Dissuader. After a servo controlled squirt bottle proved too anemic for his needs, [Jsc] turned to the Super Soaker Hydrostorm. These electric water guns can be had for as little as $16 on sale. [JSC] didn’t want to permanently modify the gun, so he 3D printed a switchable battery pack.The replacement pack is actually powered by a simple wall wart. Power to the gun is controlled by an Arduino, which senses his cat with a passive infrared sensor. Since the dissuader was installed, [Jsc’s] cat has been a model citizen!

 

doggieBowlCat’s don’t get all the love though, plenty of engineers and hackers have dogs around the house. [Colin] loves his dog, but he and his family were forgetting to feed it. He created Feed the Dog to help the household keep its four-legged member from going hungry. [Colin] tried a microcontroller, but eventually settled on implementing the circuit with old-fashioned 4000 series CMOS logic chips. He used a 4060 (14-stage ripple counter w/ internal oscillator) as an 8 hour timer, and 4013 dual flip-flop. Operation of Feed the Dog is as simple as wagging your tail. Once the dog is feed, the human presses a button. A green “Just fed” LED will glow for 30 minutes, then go dark. After about 6 hours, a red LED turns on. After 8 hours, the red LED starts blinking, letting everyone know that it’s time to feed the dog.

 

chookin

[Steve] has outdoor pets. Chooks to be exact, or chickens for the non Australians out there. He loves watching his birds, especially Darth Vader, who is practicing to become a rooster. To keep track of the birds, he’s created What the Chook?, a sensor suite for the hen-house. He’s using a GCDuiNode with a number of sensors. Temperature, humidity, even a methane detector for when the bedding needs to be replaced. An OV528 JPEG camera allows [Steve] to get pictures of his flock. The entire project connects via WiFi. Steve hopes to power it from a couple of AA batteries. [Steve] also entered What the Chook? in The Hackaday Prize. If he wins, this will be the first case of flightless birds sending a human to space!

 

hackaspace-mini

Hey – Did you know that Hackaday is building a Hackerspace in Pasadena California? We’re rounding up the local community while our space is being built out. Join us at a Happy Hour Show & Tell Meetup Event hosted by our own [Jasmine Brackett] August 18th! It’s an informal show and tell, so you don’t have to bring a hack to attend. If you’re local to Pasadena, come on down and say hello!

 

 

 

 

 

A Tweeting Litter Box

SmartLitterBox

How can you not be interested in a project that uses load cells, Bluetooth, a Raspberry Pi, and Twitter. Even for those of our readers without a cat, [Scott’s] tweeting litter box is worth the read.

Each aspect of this project can be re-purposed for almost any application. The inexpensive load cells, which available from eBay and other retailers, is used to sense when a cat is inside the litter box. Typically sensors like the load cell (that contain a strain gauge) this use a Wheatstone bridge, which is very important for maximizing the sensitivity of resistive sensor. The output then goes to a HX711, which is an ADC specifically built for load cells. A simple alternative would be using an instrumentation amplifier and the built-in ADC of the Arduino. Now, the magic happens. The weight reading is transmitted via an HC-06 Bluetooth module to a Raspberry Pi. Using a simple Perl script, the excreted weight, duration, and the cat’s resulting body weight is then tweeted!

Very nice work! This is a well thought out project that we could see being expanded to recognize the difference between multiple cats (or any other animal that goes inside).

Feedback for automated water and food pet dispensers

pet-food-and-water-automation

[Enrico] figured out a way to fully automate his pet food and water. The system is in two parts, the water trough as seen on the left, and the food dispenser whose control hardware is shown on the right. The system is even hooked up to the network so that he can make sure it didn’t break down while he was away.

The water dispenser uses parts from a sprinkler system. Since it’s mounted outdoors it doesn’t matter if the water overflows a little bit. So [Enrico] set up the timer to run the water for three minutes every day. This acts as a backup system since the trough already has the ability to refill itself.

The food dispenser started as a commercial unit. To get feedback from the system he added a couple of magnets to the agitation motor and reads them with a hall effect sensor. In addition to an IP camera that monitors the area around the feeder (so [Enrico] can actually see his dog eating) there is a webcam which monitors the STM32 Discovery board which monitors the feeder. It tracks the number of times the dispenser has run.