Fortified Feeder For Feral Felines

Most of the commercially-available pet feeders littering the internet are cheaply-made, with wimpy motors and infuriating interfaces. Want to use it outdoors? Good luck. If you need a heavy-duty, outdoor cat feeder, you gotta heat up your soldering iron and do it yourself.

[jplanaux] is under contract to feed a bunch of feral cats that hang around, but he’s often gone for weeks at a time. His two-feeder fail-over system has one weak link, and it’s these commercial feeders — they’re under-powered and just plain unreliable, even after modding them for Raspi control. What he needed was an industrial strength automatic feeder that’s completely customized for his situation.

A simple web interface lets him set up automatic feeding times, or push kibble on demand if customers show up and there’s no food. The system takes pictures of the bowl to verify that food came out and was subsequently eaten. It’s supposed to be racoon-proof, so [jplanaux] can see who or what is chowing down. Aside from that, the feeder is pretty standard, with a large hopper on top of a screw drive that’s driven by a NEMA17. The stepper is relay-driven, so it only uses power when it’s driving the screw.

[jplanaux] has the STL files and code available, and even designed a bowl and base extension for people who want to build one and use it indoors. Nibble at the kibble-sized demo video after the break.

The lion’s share of the auto-feeder builds we chew on around here are designed for dry food. Serving wet food is a much harder problem, but is definitely possible to pull off.

30 thoughts on “Fortified Feeder For Feral Felines

  1. Why would you need to feed feral cats. Cats still have their instincts to hunt and be self sufficient because they were originally domesticated to rid farms and such places of vermin.

    1. Because some feral cats are half pets and enjoyable to be around and because feeding them keeps them in the area and keeps the area rodent free. Have you ever gone out to your car and find a mouse nest in it? That smell is very hard to get out. Having cats around would have prevented it.

      1. – Ever found cat crap in your kids sandbox? Not having cats around would have prevented that… Interesting standard if I have a dog and that wanders around, especially without tags, neighbors might call someone to have it picked up. But for some reason some people think ‘outdoor’ cats are fine to let wander the neighborhood crapping in sandboxes and eating birds or other things other than mice that I’d just as soon have around. /rant

        1. Dogs wander much farther than cats, meaning the chance of them getting hit by a car is much greater, also many dogs are much bigger than cats, I’ve never heard of someone being killed by a pack of feral cats (although there are some people I’d like to watch it happen to.)

          1. Actually, not true. Cats wander over larger expanses than do dogs. It just takes ’em longer. But the only question I have concerning this feeder is, how many wacks with a baseball bat will it take to destroy it when I encounter one in the field?

            I ask this because all cat-feeding accomplishes is to accelerate stray/feral cat population growth (it’s currently increasing at ~29% annually), proliferate rabies, toxoplasmosis, toxocariasis, MRSA, bartonellosis, cryptosporidia, bartonellosis, plague and more than 40 other cat-vectored zoonotic diseases, and the torture and slaughter of tens of billions of wildlife annually.

            Finding and destroying such–usually illegally placed–feeders is a act of good public health and environmental stewardship.

        2. I was about to make the same rant.

          Also a feral animal is by definition not a pet.

          Feral cats fend pretty well for themselves and I would be pissed to find out that someone was feeding them near me and drawing more in.

      1. This. I’ve TNR’d about a dozen cats. Part of the process is feeding them to gain their trust. Afterward, some leave, but those that stay I continue to feed. In turn, that attracts new cats that I can TNR.

  2. My biggest concern with most cat feeders is the open loop control. Animals are relying on this to feed them and you need to know it actually happened. Probably less of an issue for outdoor cats as they can fend for themselves but for indoor pets its a problem.

    I’m part way through (yet another project) that has a similar auger mechanism but it also has a shutter on the shoot with a distance sensor above so you can portion control as well as validate the food has shot down the feed chute.

  3. mmm, u just need an education. Feral cats can and do starve if they can’t eek out enough nutrition from it’s surroundings. Often it’s meager pickins despite what is thought to the contrary. Caring and compassionate folks who know what feral cats go through, what the realities are, want to help them. We domesticated them, we let them breed indiscriminately and don’t provide an adequate # of homes for them…so they struggle to survive. And make no mistake, a struggle it is. I myself have taken in a number of homeless cats and for the most part they are sick, very skinny, have fleas, a myriad of problems. The homeless ones suffer, I promise you that.
    Many people that feed them also get them spayed and neutered, shots and treated for whatever issue they may have. They will release back the ones that are too wild to be adopted or taken to safer place to live out their lives, like a barn where caretakers feed them. Kittens that are still young may have the luck to grow old in a real home.
    So I hope products that help cat caretakers do the right and good thing continue to be available and invented. As far as this product I think I will give it a good look. Thank you.

      1. If “take care” means “look after” then obviously you are not Australian.
        Feral cats are a diabolic pest in outback Australia.

        They are call feral cats for a reason. A negative reason.
        They are not “homeless” nor “unwanted” nor “ostracized” by other cats …

        1. +1, and not just a view of Australians. Sure a starving animal of any kind is sad, but I don’t have any more sympathy for an ‘outdoor’ or ferel cat than the living birds or mice that they so kindly rip apart. Outdoor cat~ferel cat as far as I’m concerned, you’re just taking care of a bit more up-kept animal in the former. A ‘pet’ that roams the wild (outside your property) and eats other animals seems a stretch of the definition of ‘pet’.

        2. I suppose you think these wild cats got themselves to Australia by themselves? They were brought there and let roam with no care or supervision. Trap neuter return is the more humane way to deal with the problem. They will eat what is available, ie birds or cat food.

  4. This looks suspiciously like a meat grinder. Feed the survivors and yet make the sandbox crowd a little happier too?
    Except for eventually all but the last feral ends up deposited in the sandbox.

    P.S. as a city dweller, I prefer seeing a couple of the clipped ear ferals around for rodent control. Mice have become trap&bait adverse, thus expensive here. If they aren’t chewing wires or packaging they’re urinating on & in everything, thus causing corrosion/rust damage.
    IF you ever have one get into a infrequently used tool cabinet and ruin hundreds of dollars worth of files (that no one seems to make the same shapes & quality now) along with some measuring tools (much easier to replace than the files) , you may understand why the cat became a welcomed presence.
    A bit of cat spray on my vehicle wheels & wheelie bin is a nuisance, mouse urine in the tools is a major problem.

  5. What do you do when you see coons feeding, just let ’em have at it till it’s empty? Here in town it’s them and possum, woodchucks….. It looks like the profiling cat door designs need to be applied to the feeder door.

    I am all for robotic mouse killers and indoor cats. Out bird population has taken a hit. There are lots of hacks on the tube about ways to kill mice. Let’s see some here. Organs and pianos and mice and Hanta Virus oh my! The things I work on.

  6. I came to the comment section looking for disagreements and I wasn’t disappointed. The world is divided into two types of people – those who have toxoplasmosis, and those who don’t have toxoplasmosis. Just like the rats that get it, people infected have unreasonable and unhealthy attractions to cats. Those who aren’t infected don’t understand those who are.

  7. I think a person who feeds feral cats AND catches as many of them as possible at least once to take them to the vet for spaying or neutering before re-releasing them is a kindhearted person doing a nice, generous thing. Regular vaccinations would be nice too however I do realize that the cost will start adding up.

    A person who feeds them but is not doing anything to stop them from breeding is a public menace and aught to be stopped!

    I didn’t notice anything to determine which of these “jplanaux” is. The lack of disclaimer however is suggestive of the latter.

  8. Super Feeder. Its commercial, outdoor ready and tough as nails with a few slight mods. no need to reinvent the wheel… We have been using ours for years, but to feed to large indoor male cats.

    I don’t get all of this bleeding heart stuff for feral animals. Everything dies eventually. EVERYTHING. But at least some of them don’t play with and or torture their next meals…

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