Feeding The Cat, Reinventing The Wheel

There are few projects that we see as many iterations of as the pet feeder or the plant waterer. (What is it with you people? Are you all as forgetful as we are?) Still, the fun is in the details of the implementation. Or at least that’s the case with [Emmaanuel]’s cat feeder.

The writeup is split into three parts: the worm-drive, the electronics, and the housing (here in English: worm, electronics, housing). And of course, there’s a video inlined below.

The auger and motor housing make great use of PVC pipe and 3D printing, and the dispenser unit looks quite professional. There’s not all that much to say about the electronics — an Arduino clone, an LCD, and a cheap gear motor do just about what you’d expect.

The CNC’ed case with spring-fit tabs steals the show, however. It’s made out of MDF, which doesn’t take well to screwing or glueing. With carefully routed pins and tabs that have a little spring in them, [Emmaanuel] was able to take the pieces off the mill table and just snap them together. Awesome.

How do you like your cat feeders? If you require more French cat-feeder builds, we can accommodate. Rube Goldberg cat feeder? We got that. Or would you prefer something redneck, but with fancy restaurant flair? So many feeders, so few pets!

32 thoughts on “Feeding The Cat, Reinventing The Wheel

    1. I’m so very tempted to post a cat video. But I won’t.
      *meow* There it is! Aww, pretty kitty.

      That is a great build [Emmaanuel]! Nice work, the case looks sturdy and cool job on the worm gear.

      Thank you Elliott, nice read and thanks for the translated links. (Yeah yeah I know.)

  1. I still think Doc Brown did it better. [ Granted, I am more of a dog person. ] still nice, tidy and works well, I wonder if the box could be refrigerated and the worm made to cope with tinned food, perhaps with a wash cycle built in (:

    1. The problem is those pesky cans of cat food are optimized for you finger to pop the top and your spoon to scrape out a serving. What we need here is single-serve syringes of wet cat food that can easily be actuated.

      1. My neighbor had a device that gets around this problem, mostly. Its a round wheel that has 7 containers built in, think a wagon wheel, where the spaces between the spokes are where the containers sit. There is a lid with 1 hole that exposes only one container at a time. The device has a timer, you fill all the containers with food (wet or dry) then close the lid and set a timer for how often the cat needs to be fed. At that interval the wheel rotates, exposing a new container with fresh food. After its done the wheel pops out and you can wash it, i believe it is dish washer safe. The only downside is you really cant use it for a week with wet food, as it isn’t totally sealed and the cat “food” starts to smell (believe it or not it can smell worse than it does when you open the package). We’ve found that 3 days is about the limit before it gets so bad even the cat wont eat it.

  2. That looks like a great build. I had made something similar a while ago and initially I had a problem of getting very inconsistent food output. Driving the motor for X seconds was insufficient because the distance travelled would vary based on the mechanical resistance seen by the motor.

    The solution I went with was to make a hole in the base of the auger and stuff a magnet in there, then mount a reed switch on the outside of the PVC. Rather than drive the auger for X seconds, I would drive it for one full rotation as detected by the reed switch. The food output would be within a few g every time.

    It might be that his gear motor is less prone to binding than my hobby servo (it was a beefy servo) was, but I wanted to mention this as a possible solution to anybody seeing that same problem.

  3. For most foods, that’s about the daily recommended amount for one active cat.

    If said cat is eating the amount shown twice a day, that’s going to be one super, super fat cat.

  4. I built one of these to feed chipmunks a few years back. I used a cheap garden auger from the hardware store. Getting the feed mechanism to work right took much longer than I expected. Getting the clearances right so sunflower seeds wouldn’t jam it was tricky.

    One gotcha with augers – it should probably have some sort of safety to keep a paw out of the auger. Some cats would stick a paw up there to try and get food to come out. And usually with an auger, physical action would cause some food to drop down. So that would encourage the pawing.

  5. Pet feeders aren’t for “forgetful” people so much as ones that 1) want to stay asleep at 5am when a cat’s HUNGER wake-up signal comes alive, and 2) will travel somewhere all day/overnight, and won’t be around to feed them.

  6. Darn it. I saw the “feeding the cat” headline and the photo of the auger screw and thought “GREAT! Finally! A solution for cats!”, but then read the text and discovered it was not, in fact, a device for feeding cats to anything. You liars. I’m disappointed.

          1. I got it. Sometimes a joke is so perfect that replying to it messes the flow.

            It was a fridge joke for me; I started laughing at work for what looks like apparently no reason. :)

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