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Automatic Cat Feeder

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So we have these two cats, named Mulder and Scully, they're the best cats ever but they always want to eat. When I used to free-feed them, they gained a lot of weight. Now I feed them once in the morning and once in the evening, giving them a controlled portion each time. The problem is, around the time they're scheduled to eat, they get really annoying. For example, they learned that when we wake up in the morning, they get their meal, so come 6am, they start intentionally jumping on my fiancée or knocking things over or doing anything that would wake us up. The other problem is they have an insatiable appetite and my fiancée feels bad for them so she gives larger portions to make them happy.

What I am trying to design is a cat feeder that I can previously fill up with food, that will give them access to their food every 12 hours. The design I am thinking about is a shallow round dish, that is divided into 8 pie-shaped sectors. The dish will be covered by a round cover that has two-openings, each opening corresponding to the size of the sector. The openings expose two of the compartments and give the cats access to their food. On the next scheduled meal, the cover will rotate, exposing two more compartments. You get the idea...

My question is what would be the easiest way to do that? I thought about using my BSII and interfacing it to a stepper motor, but by the time I buy a stepper motor controller this project will end up being a rather expensive one (when you factor in the price of the BSII, stepper motor, etc.) I know you can buy a commercial cat feeder but I am trying to save money and design something convenient, hopefully using something that I already have. Is there a way to do that with servos? I have a bunch of those. I could probably design a basic timer circuit based on a 555 and have it send a short pulse to the servo every 12 hours but I am not sure how practical that would be (how to make the opening line up over the sector I am trying to expose without blocking half of it or exposing another sector).

The other concern is how to keep the circuit powered? Should I just use batteries or an AC adaptor of some sort?



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You have a lot of options.

Feeding is a very social thing for the cats. It is you giving them attention. My outside cats run to the food bowl when I come outside even if it still contails food. They are not hungry, they want attention.

I would try setting up a buzzer of some sort that announced feeding time. IFF you feed them just after it sounds they will start waiting for the buzzer instead of you.

If you still want to build a feeder might want to think contraption.

A purely mechanical device the tips the food into the bowl.

Feeding a cat does not have to happen at an exact time so a water or sand drip that adds weight which builds to feeding time and then trips would work. You would have to fill the hopper and reset the clock/sand/water twice a day.... but you should be able to build one from junk you would be tossing out.

Or salvage the timer motor from an old clothes dryer. You could gear it down or use it with a TTL counter to determine when to feed. Then use a seloniod to release the food.

If you can find selonids cheap enough you would have several hoppers so that you will not have to fill the bins twice a day.

If you want to go with a microprocessor you can buy a small PIC that can be used with a crystal on an internal timer to keep time. The entire controller board can be hadn wired for maybe 2 or 3 dollars.

You do not have to use a stepper motor. Any DC motor that can drive the dish will work. Use an optical sensor and a sloted disk to determine when to start and stop.

Like I said ... lots of options.

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