Cat-Powered Automatic Cat Feeder




Problem: Yoshi was gorging himself on cat food from his gravity-powered feeder, gaining a lot of weight even on weight-loss formula food, and even vomiting from overconsumption (yeuagh).

Solution: An automatic feeder that takes 5 minutes to make, and requires no soldering, no motors, and no batteries. Your cat's own clever paws knock just a few pellets out at a time, so this dispenser is self-regulating according to a simple algorithm: while your cat's hunger exceeds his laziness, he shakes the feeder, eats the pellets, repeats.

In addition to pulling the feeder by the lip of its base, Yoshi has also learned to lift and drop the feeder, pull it forward and drop it back, and even knock it on its side and then lift it upright again if nothing else works. He almost always gets a few pellets out each time, and can even run through a nearly full 8 oz cup in a day if he's really hungry. The idea isn't to deny your cat food -- just to slow him down so he notices that he's full.

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Step 1: Eat at Baja Fresh

Yes, eating at Baja Fresh is the first step. I like their grilled vegetarian burrito.

Well, okay, you don't *have* to eat at Baja Fresh. Anyway, their grilled vegetarian burrito does not come in an 8oz tub, so you'll have to buy their salsa or guacamole if you want this particular part. You'll probably find that your local deli sells cream cheese or chopped liver in a tub like this, and they probably have better matzo ball soup than Baja Fresh, too.

The key thing is that you find a tub that has a flat lip along the top edge, and fits into the top of your cat food dispenser, resting on that lip, so that the lid of the dispenser will close over it.

You'll also need a cat food dispenser with a circular, flexible pop top that snaps down over the tub from Baja or your deli. This sounds like a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, but I got it right on my first try, so hopefully you will too.

Finally, you'll need some cat food, and a pair of scissors. Without these, any attempts your cat may make to obtain food from your Yoshimatic Cat Feeder will be frustrated.

Step 2: Snip, Snip! Create Magical Food-Dispensing Baffles

Since this is a cat food dispenser, our measurements will be in units approved by the council of feline chefs: food pellets.

Here's where the scissors come in; snip the bottom of the tub at the corner, to create a slit. Make a second cut about two pellets' length away from the first one.

Next, insert the point of the scissors and expand each slit until it's about four times as long as your cat food pellets. About half of each slit should be above the bottom corner (on the side of the tub), and about half below it (on the bottom of the tub). Try to make each slit straight across the corner (perpendicular to the bottom of the tub), but if they're off by ten or fifteen degrees, don't sweat it.

Push in the middle part with your finger to make a loop, then crease the plastic by pinching it upwards to keep it from popping back into its original position.

Step 3: Make Two More Baffles

Really, you can make as many of these loops (baffles) as you like, but we've found that three is about right; cut two more, push them in, and pinch them open.

You're all done making the dispenser now -- just pop the tub into the feeder.

Now it's time to get your cat interested.

Step 4: It Even Trains Your Cat

More than likely, your level of interest in this dispenser directly corresponds with that of your cat for food, so it'll probably be very easy to train your cat to use it. Here's what I did:

1. Fill the tub at the top of your feeder, but don't pack it to the top, or the pellets will be wedged in place. They need to be loose enough to easily spill through the baffles when your cat bumps the feeder.

2. Put some pellets of food in the back of the feeder's base, so your cat will have to reach up inside with his paw to get them. During one of these food-reaching endeavors, the feeder will probably get bumped and a learning event will occur.

3. If your cat doesn't seem to be getting it, try bumping the feeder yourself to show how it's done.

4. Make sure your cat's getting enough to eat by opening the lid and checking the food level. Put a limited amount of food into the base of the feeder each day -- just make sure your cat will run out at some point during the day, so that he'll have a reason to try to get the pellets in the tub.

5. Let nature take its course! Your cat will take a few weeks to get good at manipulating the feeder to drop pellets. Yoshi gets a refill once a day, whether he needs it or not, and we still put a few pellets into the base, just to give him the satisfaction of knowing he's been fed.

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72 Discussions


3 years ago

Your machine does not appear to feed on cats at all. Very let down. BOOOOOO!


3 years ago

looks good where did you buy the dispenser? what brand

can't find that style in canada


6 years ago on Introduction

i have a question, if there's a pedal for the cat, let just say 20x20 woodboard for the cat to press, is it possible for the to press on it ?? so the system i working on could work??

i'm just wanted to know does the cat able to press the board.

thanks it's for my 2nd design project class


7 years ago on Introduction

That's a great idea with dogs, not so much with cats. Cats can easily go into liver failure from not eating (though there's no hard and fast rule, you should generally take the cat to the vet if he hasn't eaten anything in 24 hours). But you CAN make it into a game to get your cat to learn, and that also carries an added bonus f a great bonding experience with your cat.


8 years ago on Introduction

This is cool. I don't have a cat, but I might get one someday, and I'll build this for him/her. Also, Yoshi is a good name for a cat.


9 years ago on Introduction

after reading this. I made a feeder for my cat. I used a small water bottle and cat a few holes in it and put normal cat food in it. My cat started to use it at once. It looks like he is having fun :-)
That was fast and very easy to make so now my little friend has a new toy :-)


 my cats are a little lazey and i dont think they will want to take the time to learn about it! lol


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

Neat idea! I think the problem is probably overstimulation -- would you notice the plink of a few pellets dropping into your bowl after being dazzled by a laser pointer and then having your ears blasted by the buzz of the vibration motor rattling the food tub? I'd try running the motor more slowly, and with a larger cam on it, to produce less noise and more motion. You might also want to put some other attractor (moving LEDs? some fake fur?) into the switch instead of using the all-too-exciting laser. The added value of your project is the education you're giving them about switches -- let us know when they can turn the bedroom lights on and off for you on command. ;o)

Another idea might be to attach a lever with a paddle that will open a hole in the food container when the kitty paws it.  The lever would have a spring to pull it back into place, requiring more pawing to get more food. Out drops a few pellets of food when the lever is pressed.

I'm thinking about something like this for my kitty, Doozi - she already opens cupboards and drawers and is very persistent until she gets what she wants. Oh yes, she also turns my living room and kitchen lights on and off if she thinks I am ignoring her - she can jump up and toggle the light switches.

Doozi is also not shy about letting me know when she needs more fresh food.


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Oh, if he's not having any success with more delicate methods, he does knock it over! And then he rights it again. What he's doing in the video requires more finesse, but less effort.


10 years ago on Step 4

Love it! Trying to figure a way to add a little exercise to this 'fun feeding'! But I guess my laughter will be exercise

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

 A lovely instructable!

@littleangels... easy way to add exercise to the mix is to remove the lip from the base feeder. So when the pellets drop out, they roll out of the dispenser, and onto the floor (or whatever surface it's on).

The cat will scurry to catch the two or three pellets that pop off in various directions.

Blue skies


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

Weird... My cat attacks the tv all of the time. Especially when there are animals onscreen. :)


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

We have some special videos for him to watch. They were pricey and hard to come by but we ripped and shared with friends and it's all worth it just to know he's not bored.