Automatic Cat Feeder Dispenses Noms, Wants Cheezburger

[Domiflichi] likes his cats, but not the drudgery of feeding them. So, like any good engineer, this simple problem became his next project: building an automatic cat feeder. Based on an Arduino, his creation beeps to let the cats know that it is dinnertime, then dispenses food into a number of bowls. There are also buttons for manual control. This lets him give individual cats a separate feeding. Rounding out the feature set, a DS1307 RTC tracks the feeding times.

One of the most interesting parts of his build is the transfer from breadboard to protoboard. This usually involves taking apart a working version, then putting it back together and trying to figure out why it doesn’t work anymore. [Domiflichi]’s problem (detailed in a follow-up post) was figuring out how to program the real-time clock module to set the time, because it looses the time when you disconnect the power. Rather than use the Arduino to program the RTC,  he used the battery backup feature of the RTC chip, programming it on his computer and then soldering it onto the board. He went on to remove the backup battery after the chip was in place. That’s a solution that will no doubt have many readers waving their fingers disapprovingly, but it worked.

It may seem overly complicated, but his project is worth checking out to see how he approached some of the engineering challenges. The food hoppers themselves are off-the-shelf cereal dispensers. We’ve seen other designs bootstrap this mechanism with 3D printed augers.

24 thoughts on “Automatic Cat Feeder Dispenses Noms, Wants Cheezburger

    1. Of course it can. Just buy a breakout board including a coin cell holder. Programm it on your PC, plug it into your project and you don’t need to worry about setting the time for the next 50 years. Even with no external power.

    2. Glue a magnet to the edge of the gear, use a Hall effect sensor just outside the hopper to detect rotation.

      Since this is AC powered and unlikely to be unplugged, use a supercap instead of CR2032 to avoid surprises 15 years from now.

  1. “Also remember that I’m feeding 3 cats with 2 different kinds of food…your situation may not be as complicated.”

    I’m feeding 4 cats with 3 different kinds of food due to medical requirements. There’s no chance whatsoever that each will eat its own. Actually they’ll eat it if I put where the others’ normally is.

    1. I’ve got two cats that both eat the same food, but if my male cat finishes before the female, he will eat her food. (He has the “fat kid” complex and if I put out 5 days worth of food at one, he’d gorge himself on it, the female would graze and still have food left after 5 days), my solution would be to have two levels to the feeder, one on the floor, and one up higher on a platform, since the female has no trouble jumping up on things where he’s too fat/lazy to do so (and he’s really not a fat cat, he’s 12-13lbs and the female is like 8)

      1. I have two males, brothers, and they have a similar weight distribution (4kg and 6kg). But they both do not have trouble jumping on tables. I would never try to leave them unattended for 5 days, but when I come home in the evening there is often some food left in the bowls – and they ask for new :-) It would be very difficult to feed them not the same food :-) The other is always better, even if it came out of the same can just seconds before.

        1. against the owner of the cat? well, if you think it will solve the problem…
          against the cat? hope the owner will answer with real gun if you harm his cat!!
          If you try to teach the cat to avoid your garden a little WATER sprayer is a possible and acceptable solution. It’s HaD here, so simply combine some pir with a solenoid valve from dead washing machine.

          1. I like the automation idea. If you have an automatic sprinkler, you could get away with just a PIR by the garden with a wireless link back to the garage, where the receiver would close a relay across the valve for the zone covering the garden.

          2. There was a hackaday post some time ago. One guy created an automated watergun turret in a form of a an owl. He used it against the squirrels that chewed plants on his balcony.

  2. He ought to be checking out the quality of the food if he likes cats, before designing an easy feeding system. Dry food is unhealthy crap and is really bad for cats because they derive 97% of their moisture from food. They do not have a switch in their brain that tells them they are thirsty like a typical mammal so they drink water when they are quite dehydrated. It is especially bad for male cats because as much as dry food causes crystals in the bladder (unlike healthy food) it can plug the penis and kill them. Ever wonder why the vast majority of obese pets are on dry? Because it’s an overly baked savory-greasy-floury cookie.

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