Having pets can sometimes be more demanding than raising kids. Pet owners obviously love and adore their pets, but anything that can be done to reduce their “chores” can be a welcome relief. One big pain point is feeding them at the right time and in the right amount, especially when it comes to cats. As the saying goes, “Dogs have Masters, Cats have Staff! ”
[Sebastian] had had it with his cat [Strachu] nagging him at odd hours for food. Luckily, [Sebastian] is a skilled maker, and his IoT Cat Feeder is not only practical, but also extremely well engineered. He designed and built it from scratch, and the beautiful, final version shows the effort he put in to it. His requirements were quite straightforward. It had to integrate with his home automation system, had to dispense food based on a regular schedule, send him a notification at other times of the day when the feeder detected the cat so he could decide if the cat deserved a special treat or not, and allow him to manually dispense cat food. Finally, he also wanted it to be easy to take apart so he could wash the parts that are in contact with food.
For the electronics, [Sebastian] designed a custom board to hold the ESP12F module and all the other associated parts. Everything, other than the stepper motor is mounted on the PCB. A PIR sensor is used for cat detection. A piezo buzzer lets the cat know that food is ready. A push button can be used to manually dispense food when required. The ESP8266 is flashed with ESPhome which allows control via simple yet powerful configuration files and control them remotely through the Home Assistant addon. If you’re interested in taking a look under the hood, [Sebastian] walks through some of the key code blocks on the ESP side, as well as the various configuration and setting options for the Home Assistant.
But by far the most effort he needed was in getting the mechanical design perfected. He had to go through several rounds of prototype iterations – after all, his cat deserved the very best in feeder design. The basic parts of the design are simple – a stepper motor drives an auger that pushes the cat food from the main container and deposits it in the bowl. Check out the detailed assembly instructions and pictures on his blog. The best part of his design is how easy it is to take it apart the feeder for cleaning. The stepper motor is held in place by a snap fit end piece without using any screws. The main body then just slides out from the top of the electronics box. Check out [Sebastian]’s cat feeder video after the break for details.
If this design makes you hanker to make one for your cat too, head over to his blog post and provide your mail address and [Sebastian] will send all the files for the project.
If your cat isn’t satisfied with dry food nuggets, you probably ought to build this Automated Cat Feeder That Handles Wet Food With Aplomb.
Continue reading “Smart Pet Feeder Is Well Engineered” →
Pet feeders are a popular maker project. One can speculate that this shows the great self-confidence common to the maker set, who are willing to trust their own work to keep their animal companions alive for many days at a a time. [Darren Tarbard] is one such maker, who put together this simple auger build.
The project consists of a hopper for dry pet food, into which a screw auger is inserted. Both parts are 3D printed, making them easy to produce at home for the average maker. The build was designed specifically around the parts [Darren] had to hand, namely a 28BYJ-48 stepper motor, which is charged with turning the auger. Running the show is an Arduino, which can be run with whatever suitable timing code is necessary to feed the particular pet in question. There’s also a remixed version that adds a larger food storage dish on top for longer periods of unattended operation, created by [szuchid].
It’s a basic build, but one that would be readily achievable by most makers with little more than some junkbox components and a roll of filament. Of course, if your pet prefers wet food, you might need a different design. Video after the break.
Continue reading “A Simple Auger Pet Feeder” →
We often like to say that if something is worth doing, then it’s worth overdoing. This automatic cat feeder built by [krizzli] is a perfect example of the principle. It packs in far more sensors and functions than its simple and sleek outward appearance might suggest, to the point that we think this build might just set the standard for future projects.
The defining feature of the project is a load cell located under the bowl, which allows the device to accurately measure out how much feed is being dispensed by weight. This allows the feeder to do things such as detect jams or send an alert once it runs out of food, as well as easily adjust how much is dispensed according to the animal’s dietary needs. To prevent any curious paws from getting into the machine while it’s doling out the food, the lid will automatically open and close during the filling process, complete with optical sensors to confirm that it moved as expected.
All of the major components of the feeder were printed out on a Prusa i3 MK3S, and [krizzli] says that the feed hopper can be scaled vertically if necessary. Though at the current size, it’s already packing around a week’s worth of food. Of course, this does depend on the particular feline you’re dealing with.
In terms of electronics, the feeder’s primary control comes from an ESP8266 (specifically, the Wemos D1 Mini), though [krizzli] also has a Arduino Pro Mini onboard so there’s a few more GPIO pins to play with. The food is dispensed with a NEMA 17, and a 28-BYJ48 stepper is in charge of moving the lid. A small OLED on the side of the feeder gives some basic information like the time until the next feeding and the dispensed weight, but there’s also a simple API that lets you talk to the device over the network. Being online also means the feeder can pull the time from NTP, so kitty’s mealtime will always be on the dot.
Over the years we’ve seen an incredible array of automatic cat feeders, some of which featuring the sort of in-depth metrics possible when you’ve got on onboard scale. But we can’t help but be impressed with how normal this build looks. If nothing else, of all the feeders we’ve seen, this one is probably the most likely to get cloned and sold commercially. They say it’s the most sincere form of flattery.
If there’s one thing any cat will work for, it’s food. Usually, this just consists of meowing and/or standing on your chest until you give up the goods. [DynamicallyInvokable] has a beautiful cat, Emma, who meows loudly for food at obscene hours of the morning. As she ages, it’s getting harder and more important to control her weight. Clearly, it was time to build the ultimate automatic cat feeder—one that allows him to get lazy while at the same time getting smart about Emma’s weight.
After a year and a half of work, the feeder is complete. Not only does it deliver the goods several times a day, it sends a heap of data to the cloud about Emma’s eating habits. There’s a scale built into the platform, and another in the food bowl. Together, they provide metrics galore that get automatically uploaded to AWS. Everything is controlled with an ESP32 Arduino, including a rainbow of WS2812s that chases its tail around the base of the feeder. The faster it goes, the closer it is to feeding time.
The best part about this unique feeder is that nearly every piece is 3D printed, including the gears. Be sure to check out the build gallery, where you can watch it come together piece by piece. Oh, and claw your way past the break to see Emma get fed.
Emma doesn’t have to worry about sharing her food. If she did, maybe [DynamicallyInvokable] could use facial recognition to meet the needs of multiple cats.
Continue reading “Cat Feeder Adds Metrics To Meow Mix” →
A feline’s appetite is rarely sated, and cat owners around the world are routinely treated to an early morning wake up call to remind them of this fact. To solve this problem, many turn to automated feeders. However, such devices usually handle only dry foods, with a simple hopper system. [Vikram Hao] instead went above and beyond, building a fully automated wet food cat feeder.
The device is a great example of effective automation. It’s fully capable of dispensing a single can of cat food, as well as opening the can, serving the food and disposing of the waste in an integrated bin. Currently, it has a maximum capacity of 9 cans, though this can be increased by simple alterations to the hopper and trash bin. Unsurprisingly, all manner of steppers, servos and brushed motors work in concert to achieve this feat. An Arduino Mega 2560 serves as the brains, providing plenty of IO to run everything as easily as possible.
[Vikram] reports that both the owner and the cat are overjoyed with the invention. We’ve seen a few builds before, with some even featuring armor plating. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Automated Cat Feeder Handles Wet Food With Aplomb” →
Feeding things in the outside world is difficult, especially when there are clever creatures like raccoons out there that will break in and steal everything given half a chance. [_ah6] wanted to build a feeder for feral cats that would dispense food, but without encouraging the local raccoons. So, they built a feeder that included a webcam that could see who was waiting for dinner, and dispense food remotely without spooking the cat.
The feeder is built around a modified cereal dispenser that is connected to a Raspberry Pi. This is also connected to a webcam and an IR light source. The camera view can be checked through a web browser, and the feeding can be triggered from a voice assistant. Cats are creatures of routine, so [_ah6] feeds them twice a day and the cats quickly figured out the routine. The feeder only dispenses small amounts of food, and the heavyweight construction of the feeder means that the local raccoons can’t get into the stored food. [_ah6] had originally planned to use a solar power source, but that remains a project for another day.
We’ve come a long way, but cat-facial recognition was en vogue eight years ago for guarding the cat door — keeping the dead mice out rather than the racoons.
You know the saying: “Dogs have people, cats have servants.” This is especially true when your feline overlord loses track of time and insists on being fed at oh-dark-thirty. You’re tempted to stay in bed feigning death, but that’s a tall order with the cat sitting on your chest and staring into your soul.
An automatic cat feeder would be nice at moments like these, but off-the-shelf units are pricey. [Mom Will Be Proud] decided to roll his own cat feeder, and the results are pretty impressive for what amounts to a trash can build. Two old food cans form the body — a Pringles can on top to hold the food and a nut can below for the servo. The metal ends of the cans nest together nicely, and with a large section removed from each, an aperture opens every time the hopper rotates, dropping food down a chute. A BeagleBone Black controls the servo, but anything with PWM outputs should do the trick. We’d lean toward the ESP8266 ecosystem for WiFi support for remotely controlling feedings, and we’d probably beef up the structure with PVC tube to prevent unauthorized access. But it’s a simple concept, and simple is a good place to start.
You shall not want for pet feeder builds around these parts. Take your pick — snazzy Steampunk, super cheap, or with an Archimedean twist.
Continue reading “Eat Some Pringles, Feed The Cat” →