See where Socks has been using a GPS tracking collar

[Buxtronix] wanted to know where his cat (named Ash, but we thought Socks sounded much more cliché) was going when on the loose. He designed a GPS tracking collar and a way to map the data it collects.

The hardware actually turns out to be very simple. He needed a GPS module to gather location data, and a way to store that information having decided that live broadcast was not feasible. He hit SparkFun because they have a GPS module that is small enough for a cat collar, and outputs data with one serial pin. Unfortunately this module is no longer available, but if you have a similarly sized replacement let us know in the comments. Data capture is made easy by this device, you just need to record the serial data as it comes down the pipeline. [Buxtronix] used an OpenLog board as it dumps the data onto an SD card. When [Ash] returns from his roaming, [Buxtronix] grabs the SD card, and uses a Python script to convert the NMEA data to KML format which can be overlaid on Google Earth and Google Maps.

Keeping tabs on your tabby with a camera and GPS

cat_eye_pictures_and_gps

[Janis] has an outdoor cat that likes to roam all over the neighborhood. He was curious to see what he was up to all day, so he decided to build a small cat cam to document the feline’s comings and goings. After the cat returned one evening with a snail riding along on his back, [Janis] thought it would be pretty interesting to see where the cat was going as well.

He calls his creation “CatEye”, and it consists of a small JPEG color camera and GPS sensor, both of which are managed by what looks to be an ATMega328. The camera snaps pictures as the cat roams around, while the GPS sensor records its location throughout its travels. All of the data is stored on an SD card, making it easy to transfer the pics and .KML files back to his computer. A few clicks later, he can see everywhere his cat has been, using Google Earth.

It seems like a pretty interesting project, and we would love to see some schematics and code so that we can strap one of these on [Caleb] our cat to see where he’s been all day.

Hacking for feline enjoyment

[Dino] is staying true to his goal of hacking one project every week. This time around, he’s working on a toy that will amuse and delight his cats. The project centers around a mouse house that has two holes where mice can stick their heads out. When they do, a little LED lamp illuminates their appearance in hopes to catch the eye of your lazy kitty.

The mechanism that automates this device is quite clever and reminds us of the most useless machine. That is, the armature that holds a mouse on either end actuates a limiting switch in the middle of the box when it moves to expose one of the mice. Each of those mice is attached with a rod, along side a leaf switch that makes the mouse retreat when boinked on the head by the cat.

It only takes [Dino] about six minutes to walk us through the build in the video after the break. What follows is a walk through of the wiring and some playtime with the family pets. Despite the intended purpose, it looks like the dog is much more interested than the cat. Either way, it’s a winner in our book.

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Out Engineering a Sneaky Cat

Cats do what they want, which rarely coincides with what their owner wants them to do. In [Dumitru]‘s case, his girlfriend’s cat [Pufu] tended to make it outside into the cold more often than desired. Rather than settle with the normal bell which gets obnoxious even when the cat isn’t misbehaving, he decided to put together a custom Cat Finding collar. He used a PIC microcontroller as the brains, and temperature and light sensors to decide whether the cat had snuck into the cold, dark night. Once the cat has been marked as being outside, a buzzer and LED are set to go off at regular intervals until returned into the safety of the indoors.

[Dumitru]‘s website along with his YouTube videos are in Romanian, though the schematics and source code provided speak for themselves. He does a wonderful job walking through the entire design process, including time spend in the IDE as well as EAGLE designing the board. YouTube has managed to subtitle the majority of the details, but we imagine this post will be a real treat to any Romanian speaking hobbyists out there. Be sure to catch both videos after the break.

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Yet Another Cat Door

Cat Flap Fever

RFID cat flaps are one of those projects we see all of the time. They are generally pretty simple to rig up, not too expensive, and have a good “wow” factor for any non-technical friends or family, not to mention tremendously useful. Why did we decide to share this one? Well, for one, it is simple. It doesn’t tweet, email, or text message, it just gets the job done. Two, it is excellently documented, including a detailed parts list and a step by step schematic just about anyone could use to build their own. [landmanr] does mention that he recommends some sort of project enclosure to protect the electronics from damage, which would be bad for the poor cat stuck outside.

AVR Guardian filters out dogs

Cats and dogs can get along quite nicely when they are raised up together. The problem with this type of arrangement tends to be keeping dogs out of the cat box and away from the cat food. [Ryan Meuth] tried out a simple electronic barrier to keep the dog away. It uses an IR transmitter and receiver to shine a beam of invisible light across the doorway to his cat room. In the demo after the break you’ll see that he took steps to make sure the cats don’t set off the alarm. The beam of light is set high enough that their bodies don’t get in the way, and the firmware measures the amount of time the beam was broken in order to avoid false positives caused by the cats’ tails. If the dog does try to get into the room it will break the beam and set off a high-pitched alarm sound.

It’s interesting that the dog doesn’t like the sound but the cat’s don’t seem to be scared of it. Also, we’ve got a less-than-ferocious feline that would love to chew on the cord that connects the two modules. Still, it’s a solution that works for [Ryan] and could be incorporated into an automatic feeder to keep the dog away from feedings while you’re out of the house.

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RFID cat feeder helps with the diet

When faced with having 2 cats with different dietary needs, [Landmanr] had to decide between manually stopping the cat on a diet from eating normal food, or building a dietary robot overlord. [Landmanr] chose the robot route. Using an old cd rom for the opening/closing mechanism, and RFID to distinguish between felines, [Landmanr] no longer has to stand guard while each cat eats. We particularly like the design of the antenna, so that the cat has to stick its head through it to activate the food opening. You don’t see that version in the video, but it is in the instructable.