Introducing the Cat Feeder Concept

When I first acquired an Arduino, along with some cheap motors at Radio Shack, I decided I wanted to build a cat feeder for when my wife and I go away for the weekend. We have two cats – one that won’t stop eating until all food is devoured, and one that won’t continue eating until the other has had her fill. This means that left unsupervised, we would have one fat cat and one of skin and bones.

My cat feeder will dispense a predetermined amount of food into two bowls on opposite sides of the feeder. Unfortunately I cannot monitor if one cat is eating all of the food, but I can limit the amount that one cat has at a time, and hopefully the other will be too hungry next meal time to wait for the other cat to eat.

While there are plenty of additional features I have thought of, I initially want to make he project as simple (least amount of hardware/electric components) as possible. The user (myself) will input the current time at startup using a USB connection. The feeder will initially have the alarm times already programmed into it. When an alarm is reached, food will be dispensed and a sound will play, calling the cats to the feeder.

I’m making this post after already playing with some cat feeder ideas and concepts, and have half of the first 3D model complete in SolidWorks, though I will share that in a later post.

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Food will be pushed by two augers, similar to the 3D printed one above (that was my first custom CAD drawing to physical object, and so it was super exciting to get it from the print shop where my wife works). I then created a cardboard tube and hopper and attached the auger to a stepper motor. I filled up the hopper and created an Arduino sketch (program) so that when I pressed a button, food would come out.

Cat Feeder auger concept test.

Cat Feeder auger concept test.

You will notice in the above photo that there is a 3 digit display I was using with three input buttons to set the time and test the motors. I needed my breadboard space, so I built a permanent 3 digit display as a separate project. More about that in another post.

Arduino Comparison

Arduino Micro (Left, Blue) and Sparkfun Redboard (Right, Red)

I plan to do without the display and buttons for now. While I would like to do away with using an Arduino in the final product, for now I will use an Arduino Micro due to it’s small size (and make it removable).

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