Although automated pet feeders seem to be a dime a dozen these days, Benjamin Millam’s project is on a whole ‘nother level. Last year, the Maker created a system that caters to the primal instincts of his indoor cat, Monkey, by training him to look for plastic balls hidden around the house and then drop them into the machine. Once the apparatus recognizes the RFID-tagged balls, food gets dispensed into the bowl.
The system is comprised of a modified Super Feeder, an Adafruit RFID reader, a remote antenna, a few relays and an Arduino Uno. Millam writes that he conceived the idea after learning why cats repeatedly scour the same area.
What if my cat, while out on patrol, actually found its prey? Surely this would bring him one step closer towards a more fulfilled and self-actualized indoor kitty existence. I imagined hiding little bowls of food around the house… then I imagined me actually refilling these bowls. Then I imagined having to move them around to different hiding spots, spilling, forgetting, and every so often, perhaps only after following a trail of ants, finding one undiscovered and rancid. Hmmm, maybe there’s a way to hide something else, a way to hide something other than food, a way to make something not-food = food…
Throughout the day, the feline seeks out a series of embedded balls and plops them into a blue bowl on top of the makeshift device. From there, gravity takes over. As the ball makes its way down the shoot, the RFID tag is scanned and and the program is initiated. The Arduino switches on the relay that closes the feeder’s power circuit, and voila!
The Maker does note, however, that a little training is needed in order for this method work. While we’ll have to wait and see if this becomes an actual product, you can watch Monkey go after some Wiffle Balls right meow!