Smart Pet Feeder Is Well Engineered

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.

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Piston-Powered Pellet Pusher For Peckish Pets

We all have our new and interesting challenges in lockdown life. If you’ve had to relocate to ride it out, the chances are good that even your challenges have challenges. Lockdown left [Kanoah]’s sister in the lurch when it came to feeding her recently-adopted pet rat, so he came up with a temporary solution to ensure that the rat never misses a meal.

Most of the automated pet feeders we see around here use an auger to move the food. That’s all fine and good, but if you just need to move a singular mass, the screw seems like overkill. [Kanoah]’s feeder is more akin to a pellet-pushing piston. It runs on a Metro Mini, but an Arduino Nano or anything with enough I/O pins would work just fine. The microcontroller starts counting the hours as soon as it has power, and delivers pellets four times a day with a servo-driven piston arm. [Kanoah] has all the files up on Thingiverse if you need a similar solution.

There many ways of solving the problem of dry pet food delivery. Wet food is a completely different animal, but as it turns out, not impossible to automate.

A Simple Auger Pet Feeder

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.

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Raspberry Pi Catches The Early Bird

If you live in an area with high bird activity, setting up a bird feeder and watching some hungry little fellows visit you can be a nice and relaxing pastime. Throw in a Raspberry Pi with some sensors and it can also be the beginning of your next IoT project, as it was the case for [sbkirby] with his Bird Feeder Monitor project.

To track the arrival and departure times of his avian visitors, [sbkirby] attached a set of capacitive touch sensors to each side of his bird feeder, and hooked them up to a Raspberry Pi Zero W via a CAP1188 breakout board. The data is published via MQTT to another Raspberry Pi that serves as backend and stores the data, as well as to an optional additional camera-equipped Pi that will take a picture of each guest along the way. Taking into account that precipitation might affect the sensor readings, he also checks the current weather situation to re-calibrate the sensors if necessary, and also to observe a change in the birds’ presence and eating behavior based on weather conditions.

It seems that sensor-based animal feeding will always serve as inspiration for some new projects, whether feeding the animal itself is the goal, like most recently this fish feeder has shown, or whether the eating behavior is monitored and used for further research such as this squirrel-based weather forecast system.

This Arduino Is Feeding The Fishes

Fish are easy to keep as pets, requiring little more than regular feeding to keep them happy in the short-to-medium term. If you’re going on holiday, it can be nice to know that your pets are being taken care of, but finding someone to take on the chore can be hard. [Trevor_DIY] doesn’t need to worry about that, however – he’s built an automatic feeder to handle the job.

The build uses an Arduino Uno as the brains, with the only additional hardware required being a stepper motor and driver. The stepper motor drives a 3D printed wheel, with 14 slots – each one holding one meal for the fish. This allows the feeder to deliver two meals a day for a full week before requiring attention.

The feeder is configured to feed a breakfast meal, then a dinner meal 8 hours later, and then wait 16 hours before breakfast comes around again. Rather than use a real-time clock, this is simply handled with the Arduino’s built in delay function. While it isn’t super accurate, this should be close enough over a week to keep the fish alive. We’d be interested as to just how far it drifts over time.

Overall, it’s a quick and tidy way to keep the pets going without a lot of fuss. Pet feeders are a popular project, as they solve a common problem faced by owners the world over; this one can even handle wet cat food. Video after the break.

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This Arduino Feeds The Dog

Part of the joy of owning a dog is feeding it. How often do you get to make another living being that happy? However, sometimes you can’t be there when your best friend is hungry. [El Taller De TD] built an auto dog feeder using an Arduino and stepper motor. The video and links are in Spanish, but if your Spanish is rusty, YouTube’s caption autotranslation isn’t bad and Google Translate can help you with the web site.

The electronics are reasonably simple: an Arduino, a Bluetooth module, and a stepper motor driver. Mechanically, the motor and some PVC pipe are all you need. There’s a small phone application to drive the Bluetooth using App Inventor.

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Dog-Or-Catapult Controls The Speed Of The Feed

[NathanKing] has a cute, rambunctious pupper who eats way too fast for her own good. He’s tried various distribution methods intended to get her to slow down, but she’s just too excited to eat. [Nathan]’s latest solution is to launch the food piece by piece using a catapult. The dog loves the gamified feeding method, which is sort of like one-way fetch. She gets a bit of exercise, and everyone is amused for the half hour it takes to fling 1.5 cups of food one piece at a time.

Electronics-wise, this food flinger doesn’t use much more than three servos and an Arduino Uno. Servo #1 pulls the arm back until it hits a limit switch. Servo #2 holds the arm down , and servo #3 rotates the food tube until it drops a unit of kibble into the spoon. Then servo #2 lets the arm go, and the tasty morsel flies about 30 feet (10 meters).

[Nathan] doesn’t offer step-by-step instructions, but there is more than enough detail to replicate this project. He used what he had on hand, such as scrap aluminium from another project for the frame. Future plans include swapping out the 6V lantern battery for rechargeable AAs, and downsizing to a Nano. We’ve fetched a couple of videos for you and thrown them in after the break. Go get ’em, reader!

Pets need plenty of water, especially during the summer. Here’s a no-sweat automatic watering solution we saw a few years ago.

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