Introduction: Automated Cat Feeder

Somedays no one can stay at home to feed the cat on the right times. This is especially annoying if you have a cat with a weak stomach, so he needs to eat several smaller meals a day, because with one big meal he will puke it out. For such days I made this device. It has a round feed with four segments, in which you can put four meals in the morning. During the day a disc on top will rotate, it has a gap leaving one segment open. The disc rotates on the hour point of a clock motor, giving it one revolution per twelve hours, so the cat gets access to another meal after every three hours. On top there is a cap with an image of a cat, which is connected to the second pointer of the clock motor, so you can see it moving. It is not only as an indication that the cat feeder is working, it is also to hold the disc below in place, because else the cat could push it off(the cap is connected more firmly than the disc) With a little power you can pull the cap out, and remove the disc. Then you can fill all segments at once, wash them, or replace the battery if needed.
The things I used for this are easy to get, the main piece is a clock motor, I used the most common clock motor there is, almost all clocks have it(A square black one saying QUARTZ) You probably already have multiple of these in your house.
In the next steps I'll explain how to build this. If you start building it, keep in mind that you need to make the rotating parts move smoothly over eachother, because these clock motors are build to rotate very light pointers, they do not have a lot of power. If the parts can't slide smoothly over eachother the mechanism will stop.
edit: user 'talty' commented below that it is uncertain if it's harmful to let polymer clay get in contact with food! So I recommend that if you use polymer clay, add a layer of harmless varnish(I don't know if that exists). You can also make the feed segments out of river clay, or completely out of wood.
edit #2: The cat feeder I made seems to stagnate sometimes, this is because the disc is too heavy for the motor. You don't want it to suddenly stop when you're gone, so make the disc as light as possible! I made a new disc out of a thin sheet of plastic, it works better. You can also look for a stronger clock motor, like this one.
edit #3: user 'spencerawr' had the idea that you could also make a small version of this, hang it upside down above the aquarium and use it as a fish feeder.

Step 1: What You Need

You'll need:
- clay(I used FIMO, which is a polymer clay and those are expensive if you use a lot. If you can get a cheaper clay that works fine aswell, use that) and an oven to bake the clay
- thin wood. This is for the cap on top, for the disc, and for a little block under the clock motor.
- from a clock: the motor, the second pointer, and the hour pointer
- a wide round cookie can you don't use anymore
- two nails
- cutting pliers

Step 2: Getting the Motor

1: I bought this cute clock for the motor. It was the cheapest I could find.
2: On the back was this motor. Almost all clocks have these, except the small clocks where they don't fit in.
3: Get the motor out of it, DON'T THROW AWAY THE SECOND POINTER AND HOUR POINTER! But you can throw away the rest.
4: This is how it looks on front. There are two white tubes in the middle around eachother, those are for the hour- and minute pointers, the pin in them is for the second pointer.

Step 3: The Lowest Part With the Segments

1: Get a wide cookie can that is about this wide.
2: Draw a line all around it on about 3.5 cm from the bottom.
3: cut the above part off. You can do this with a cutting pliers.
4: make a layer of clay on the side of it, and make it round on top. Try to make it flat, so the whole side on one height. Then bake it. You can later paint this side.
5: Get a piece of wood of about the size of the clock motor. If you lie the motor on top of it on the middle of the can, the black part of the motor should be below the sides of the can. But not too far below, best is about 1 mm, so the white thing in the middle is higher than the sides. This piece of wood is actually just to save clay.
6: Now make this with clay. Take the color of clay you want it to be in the end, because you shouldn't paint this part as else your cat could eat the paint, unless you have real good paint. Also, with clay you can just wash it out with water. I made the motor holder in the middle square-shaped on bottom, so the shape of the motor, and round on top, so the shape of the disc.
7: Fit in the motor. If it doesn't fit, you can vile the corners a bit out with a dremel, and you can later soften it with a polish bit. You can best use a polish bit on all of the clay, to make it smooth, that looks better. You probably had some fingerprints in it somewhere, you can wash them away.

Step 4: The Disc

1: Take the hour pointer.
2: Bend it in half and put tape around it. This makes it stronger but it needed to be shortened anyway. If you hour pointer is still too long you can cut a part off.
3: Mount it to the motor. Also, make things on the sides that can hold the motor in place(Don't glue the motor to the clay, because later you may want to replace the battery) I used metal wires, they are inserted in a hole in the clay. Actually I used too big wire, you should use a thinner, more bendable type. This may work better with thin metal strips, if you have those.
4: Bended inside.
5: Make this disc out of thin wood. There should be a hole in the middle that fits around the white thing on the motor. Also cut a quarter out, till the motor part, you can best leave that covered.
6: Take two nails and smash them into the wood near the hole, so that on the other side the hour pointer fit between them. You can best make the heads as flat as possible, to make the surface flat. You can vile them flatter with a Dremel, and also smash them in some deeper by holding something sharp between the nail head and the hammer.
7: So you have this.
8: Cut the nails off so they dont touch the motor,but leave them as long as possible.
9: Put the disc on the cat feeder, with the nails around the hour pointer.

Step 5: The Cap

1: Take the second pointer and place in around the second pin. It should tick. If it doesn't reach the second pin(so when it doesn't tick), you should make the hole in the disc bigger, and follow the instructions in this step, only then you make something between the second pointer and the cap, so it comes deeper and reaches the second pin.
2: Cut the sides of the second pointer off.
3: Make a cap from wood about this size.
4: Put the second pointer upside down on it. I had to make a little pit in the middle of the wood with a drill to make it fit.
5: Connect it to the wood. I did it in a very unproffesional way, but it's effective. You can do it differently if you like.
6: Mount it back to the second pin. It should again tick.

Step 6:

1: You can now add paint and varnish.Only paint the feed segments if you have paint that doesn't dissolve in water and that's hard to get off.
2: I glued an instructions manual(handleiding) on bottom because I'm giving this as a present.
3: And four mats so it stands more stabile and the bottom keeps clean.

Comments

author
talty (author)2009-08-10

I'm really concerned about using polymer clay for the plate! I use polymer clay for several crafts I make for myself, family or to sell, but one thing everyone tells you is that you should never use polymer clay for anything that will be in direct contact with food! It's the first advice given to beginners, actually. As a chemist, I can tell you that polymer clay is NOT food-safe. It's basically PVC, and as any other compound with chlorine, it must be used with serious consideration; PVC is a suspected carcinogen under heavy study. Moreover, the plasticizer used to make PVC workable, the phthalates, have been linked to birth defect and neurological damage. If you search online, you will find numerous researches and articles claiming that polymer clay is both safe and not safe for food. To me, the uncertainty is enough to shun polymer clay plates, until a study is strong enough to convince me that it's safe. Up to this date, there isn't one. As a scientist, I highly advice you to find food-safe options. As a cat lover, I beg you to look for a safer method, for your cats sake.

author
CourtneyC14 (author)talty2015-11-27

It's not unsafe because it's a carcinogenic, just because something contains chlorine doesn't make it unsafe - both aspartame and CFCs contain chlorine and are perfectly safe for humans. The reason polymer clay is unsafe is because it's porous and the food will absorb into the polymer, meaning you cannot wash it properly and make it sanitary again. I would appreciate if you didn't convince people that everything is carcinogenic, I feel as a scientist, it's important to not spread fear about chemicals. Plastics are perfectly safe if you don't heat them up or set them on fire, only then does the plasticizer come out, we use PVC pipes for our water constantly and it's okay because the water is sanitary.

author
merijnvw (author)talty2009-08-11

Thanks a lot for this information, I will add it in a warning that people can better make it out of wood, or polymer clay but add a layer of harmless varnish on it. Thanks!
I will search for it too

author
talty (author)merijnvw2009-08-11

Thank you a lot for your consideration, I think that the warning is perfect.

author
Meesy7 (author)2009-09-05

its all right but i have cats and they can eat themselves

author

self-cannibalisim?

author
katiedae (author)Meesy72011-04-15

Wow... really?

author
ckat (author)2011-03-17

I love the look of that cat feeder!
-Kat
Pet Auto Feeders

author
Meesy7 (author)2010-07-02

ur mean and i just dont see how this appliance is helpful at all.

author
divad135 (author)2009-12-15

idea: use the bottom of a styrofoam or paper plate for the disk, just cut off the edges so you have the smooth flat bottom

author
Plaid Demon (author)2009-10-26

i tried this one time but my maine coon just ripped it apart and when he was finished he oppend the door to the garage and got into the big bag of cat food.... it sucked

author
wiillii (author)2009-09-20

and i have a question every cat can turn disk i think you should make geared it can turn only one way, am i right?

author
_kira_ (author)2009-09-01

just go to any dollar store and buy a clock looool

author
spencerawr (author)2009-08-27

Could this be made out of cardboard, made smaller, and used upside down for a goldfish feeder?

author
merijnvw (author)spencerawr2009-08-28

Yea it could! Good idea! I really didn't think of that. But fishes are less a problem with feeding when you're gone for one day, and for more days you can give them a lick block or something. If you could find a motor that would rotate in 1 week or so, and make more segments, that would be really useful. But don't forget to make the disc really lightweight because else it may fall out of the motor pin. I'll implement your idea on the first page if you don't mind.

author
CharlesB123 (author)2009-08-25

I want to know how to make a daily one for when I go out of town.

author
VLOEIBEER (author)2009-08-23

there is also a house that turns around on a clock motor but it is a real strong clock motor so you have a different view out the window in every room after each hour good job on this

author
Earendilgrey (author)2009-08-20

You can buy just the clock motor at craft stores so you don't waste the rest of the clock. Unless you have another use for it.

author
merijnvw (author)Earendilgrey2009-08-21

I wouldn't be surprised if it is cheaper with a clock around it, than without. Those clocks are already really cheap and they are massively produced; while there is much less interest for only a motor part, they would have to raise the prices to still get profit.
But if you are concerced about the trash the rest of the clock would give which is bad for the earth, I understand it.

author
Earendilgrey (author)merijnvw2009-08-21

They are generally around 3-6 dollars depending on how big of one you get.

author
merijnvw (author)Earendilgrey2009-08-22

I got the clock for 2 euros, which is cheaper than 3 dollars and I bet I could find one for 1 euro aswell. In every case it's really cheap so no real reason to worry about the price.

author
Earendilgrey (author)merijnvw2009-08-23

That's a good price. Around here I can't find a wall clock for under 9-10 bucks usually. If you can find the cheep clock I say go for that, but I was just mentioning another option.

author
hot-fresh-rider (author)2009-08-20

Some days I feel like I can't be bothered to feed "the cat" but then I am reminded he won't be around forever so I should make even feeding time special.

author
merijnvw (author)hot-fresh-rider2009-08-21

How nice of you, you can put a sparkler in it and wear a birthday hat. So an automated cat feeder wouldn't be something for you.

author
hot-fresh-rider (author)merijnvw2009-08-21

don't get me wrong, in the future I may look again at automated feeding but felix (lol) eats wet food and so automating that in hot weather could be tricky.

author
kittym77 (author)2009-08-20

when I saw this ible, I thought it was made from a dvd on top and a cake box top on the bottom..maybe a dvd disc would solve the weight problem on the top. Great idea!

author
merijnvw (author)kittym772009-08-21

Yes that would be an good option but it would be too small, An LP album would fit, maybe you would have to make it some smaller.

author
DanJeffrey (author)2009-08-20

Nice Instructable. Thanks. I have been noodling through the design of an automatic dog feeder. My problem is -- I don't know where to learn about mechanical devices for moving materials -- dog food in this case. I have thought about little conveyers and screw-type delivery systems, but I don't know where to buy the parts and I want to see if there is something I had not considered. Where do you go for stuff like that? -- Dan

author
merijnvw (author)DanJeffrey2009-08-21

You can buy the parts in DIY stores, I know them here in my country, but you don't seem to be Dutch so you can better ask it in the 'craft' section here on Instructables.

author
InvaderDig (author)2009-08-12

I don't know if this would be heavy duty enough for my cat, who routinely bites through tupperware containers to open them up and get at the food inside and knows how to open cupboard doors. This instructable is great, no bones about it. I would like to see one that opens a new section every 24 hours and does it not gradually, but in one fluid motion so that owners can be out of town for three or four days and still feed their kitties.

author
nagutron (author)InvaderDig2009-08-20

For that, you need the VCR cat feeder.

author
merijnvw (author)InvaderDig2009-08-12

Thanks Yes that would maybe be better, but harder to make. And what if the cat is sticking his paw in an old section at the moment that the disc makes a turn? If the motor is strong he can get stuck. But that's probably not going to happen.

author
FabioBurkard (author)2009-08-20

great! and the materials are so cheap... also a great idea to use the seconds' pointer as a spinning thing...

author
Saltygal (author)2009-08-20

great project! I know a kitty that could use one of these.

author
Thinkenstein (author)2009-08-19

I like the basic principle. Nice idea.

author
unbentcrayfish (author)2009-08-15

SWEET

no clue why i have ""'s ...

author
9lucky2 (author)2009-08-14

I am planning on making this today but don't have clay is there anything else i can use instead? Thanks

author
merijnvw (author)9lucky22009-08-15

You can make it from wood if you can make it the feed segments flat on top. You can also make it from legos. And don't forget to make the rotating disc as light as possible.

author
Redgerr (author)9lucky22009-08-14

probly anything, try like plastic or wood or anything :)

author
Redgerr (author)Redgerr2009-08-14

maybe even a few sheets of paper? or c-d/dvd cases :)

author
miked2001 (author)2009-08-15

I like this, simplistic and cool. I have thought of one that works similar using a clock that drops the food at regular intervals. Kind of like a gumball machine that doesn't need coins :-)

author
piaferre (author)2009-08-12

Now THIS is design, love it! A simple but effective solution at a very low cost, excellent.

author
merijnvw (author)piaferre2009-08-12

thanks!

author
HippoDan (author)2009-08-12

I had one of these that was commercially made (cat-mate ... even though I fed my dog with it) They used a spring load, and a cam, so the turning of the bowl was on the spring, and the clock motor only had to slowly pull back the pin. There were 6 sections, and each one had it's pin pulled in turn, then you had to manually reset it. If that makes sense, it's a good solution to the clock motor problem. My dog knew exactly what time it was going to open, and stood on the bowl because he was so excited. A clock motor wouldn't handle that. Great Instructable!

author
jamesjamesjames (author)2009-08-12

you can buy high torque mechanisms online, made for moving large or heavy clock hands but they are a little expensive, around £10 http://www.craftmaterialsupplies.co.uk/acatalog/High_Torque_Clock_Movements.html

author
merijnvw (author)jamesjamesjames2009-08-12

thanks for the link! I'll add it on the first page.

author
imshanedulong (author)2009-08-10

This is an awesome idea! You should make a version that goes by days!

author
Gamer917 (author)imshanedulong2009-08-11

also make it alot thicker on the outside,like armor

author
Flea (author)2009-08-09

Very clever! My only problem is that one of the three cats eats more than his fair share of food.

author
scoochmaroo (author)Flea2009-08-09

I had that same problem!! One tiny cat and one enormous cat, literally twice the other's size. I spent months training them to be fed separately. I fed the little one on a high counter, and with the help of a water pistol, I trained the big one to stay off the counter and eat from the floor. That way he didn't gobble up both their food! I highly recommend the water pistol training system ;)

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