When you buy an off-the-shelf automatic cat feeder, you might well expect it to do the one thing it’s supposed to do. Feed the cat. Well, at least as long as you do your part by keeping it filled with food nuggets. [Stephen] had the sneaking suspicion that his feeder was slacking occasionally, and set out to prove this theory.
He had a few ideas for approaching the investigation. One was to set up a web cam, but that proved unreliable. Another idea was to log the weight changes of the food bowl. This seemed like a possibility because the reading would change dramatically whenever it was filled. The method he settled on is a good one, too — monitor the motor’s activity and look for holes. After all, the motor only runs when it’s feeding time.
The design is based around a smart door/window alarm, which is little more than a reed switch with networking capabilities. [Stephen] wired up an opto-isolator so that when the motor runs, the reed switch is triggered but not fried, and the event gets logged in Google Sheets. Any missed meals are weeded out with a script that alerts [Stephen] via email and text that his poor kitty is hungry.
If [Stephen] ever wants to build his own cat feeder, we have plenty of designs for inspiration.
22 thoughts on “Opto-Isolating Automatic Cat Feeder Problems”
But he’s not tried to fix the feeder?
Intermittent faults, they’re hard to fix unless you characterise them well.
II’ve hacked a similar feeder to talk MQTT, and came across a similar problem while debugging. It’s not that it won’t be dispensing: when the food gets to about 1/3 full, the lack of pressure on the kibble means not as much is pushed into the mechanism as usual.
This argues for some kind of closed loop control — or some kind of “pusher” to put weight on the food in the bin (a sandbag?). Or just keeping the feeder more than 1/3 full.
I’ve always just left dry food out for my cats and they eat when they want. I’ve never had them get fat or had other problems, other than when some mice moved in and started eating it too. That was short-lived for obvious reasons. I managed to trap and save a couple, but not all of them, unfortunately.
I have done the same thing too, Although in my rush to get to work I forget to leave the scissors out for her.
The correct punchline includes the words “can opener”. After that, the joke tells itself.
congratulations on having a cat that is different from other cats.
my cat will eat as much ch food that is left out for her- always- regardless of amount.
hey congratulations to me for having a different cat than yours…
Your cat is a slacker if she/he is letting the mice get away with that.
Moar kitteh pix plz!
Does it ever say anyplace that he actually discovered that the feeder was intermittent? It says that he was suspicious that it was, but I have yet to find results. So we don’t know if there is really a problem or if there is just too much worrying going on. Given that data the next step is deciding whether to fix it or build a new one.
Interesting idea though repurposing the door/window alarm. I can see turning this into my mailbox arrival gadget I think about making.
And what happens if a cat feeder fails and the cat dies? Is the manufacturer responsible?
Only if they look.
Either way, the cat is dead. The process is irreversible.
It’s only dead if you observe that it’s dead.
Takes a long time to happen, unless the watering system fails. More likely you come back to a skinny and extremely pissed off cat.
But a great mouser nevertheless!
Dry food is terrible for cats. Study up on feline diabetes and urinary tract problems now.
It certainly used to be, used to have sugar in, it’s a lot better since about 5 years ago at least, lower in other carbs also generally higher protein percentages.
It can be depending on the quality of the food chosen and overall diet. I’m using a combination of “BLUE Wilderness” which is highly rated and nutritious (https://www.amazon.com/BLUE-Wilderness-Adult-Grain-Free-Chicken/dp/B002UT92EY) and wet food. The dry food is delivered as meals when we’re at work or asleep (this really cuts back on the 4AM wake up call).
It’s more that wet food is better for cats with those problems. Dry food does not cause these problems.
Also, you can periodically give them wet food when you’re home. When you’re away for a day…trust me, if they get hungry, they’ll eat the dry food.
Yes it sure does cause those problems. Read about it at catinfo.org.
Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)