About one year ago a feral mother cat had a litter of kittens in my yard. I managed to capture all of them and at the appropriate time had them all neutered and spayed. The kittens grew up to be tame, while the feral mother cat comes and goes. I feed my cats at set intervals during the day and it has always been a challenge at feeding time to keep them from invading their neighbor's bowl. So, I came up with an idea to use recycled tin cans to make a feeding station with blinders to keep their focus and their noses in their own feeding bowl!
Step 1: Getting Started: Tools and Materials.
This a very simple project that anyone who enjoys using simple hand tools can make. It is inexpensive as the materials needed to create the feeder are recycled and unwanted items. Finishing touches will involve some cost but it can be as little or as lavish as you desire.
Permanent marker (red shows up nicely)
Small nails (2 or 3 are needed)
Awl or ice pick
Staples 3/8 inch (10 mm)...these staples are used in a staple gun. Office staples are too thin. About 40 are needed.
Pliers - needle nose and regular
Clamps About 3 or 4 are needed.
Silicone sealer. One small tube is needed.
Spray paint. One can of your color choice is sufficient.
Wire coat hanger. Use a thin-wire coat hanger as it is easier to cut and shape. One is needed.
Tall cans 7 inches (178 mm) tall, 4 1/4 inches (108 mm) in diameter. These cans typically contain fruit juice. Four of these tall cans are needed.
Short cans 2 1/4 inches (57 mm) tall, 4 inches (101 mm) in diameter. These cans typically contain chicken or tuna. Four of these short cans are needed. Ensure that the short cans fit inside the tall cans, as these serve as removable bowls that fit inside the feeder. All cans should have the tops removed and the bottoms in place. Remove paper labels from the cans and wash thoroughly to remove food residue from the inside and glue from the outside. Dry the cleaned cans immediately.
Step 2: Cut-line Layout on Tall Cans.
Locate the seam on one of the tall cans. We will use this seam as a reference point to layout the cut-lines. Starting from the bottom of the can use the ruler to measure along the seam and with the permanent marker make a point on the seam at 2 3/8 inches (60 mm). Rotate the can a quarter of a turn and make another point 2 3/8 inches (60 mm) from the bottom of the can. Return to the seam and rotate the can a quarter of a turn in the opposite direction and make a point 2 3/8 inches (60 mm) from the bottom of the can. You should now have 3 points on the tall can, each 2 3/8 inches (60 mm) from the bottom of the can.
Take a slip of paper (I used the back side of an unneeded sales receipt ) and measure 5 inches ( 127 mm) from the short edge and with a pencil draw a line across the slip of paper as shown in the photo. We will use it as a flexible ruler to draw the horizontal cut-lines on the can.
Place the short edge of the paper along the seam and align the long edge of the paper so that it is 2 3/8 inch (60 mm) from the bottom of the can, using the points you made earlier on the can as a guide. Wrap the slip of paper around the can and make a mark at the 5 inch (127 mm) line. Now you can draw a horizontal line connecting all of the marks you made on the can. Return to the seam and repeat this procedure on the other side of the seam. You should now have 2 horizontal cut-lines, 5 inches (127 mm) long on either side of the seam and both should be 2 3/8 inch (60 mm) from the bottom.
Now return to the seam and draw a vertical line along the seam from the top of the can to the horizontal cut-lines. You should now have 3 cut-lines, as shown in the photo. Follow this procedure for the remaining three tall cans.
Step 3: Cutting the Tall Cans.
This next step involves cutting the tall cans along the cut-lines.
SAFETY: Please use gloves from this point on when cutting and handling the cut cans. The cut edges are very thin and sharp! The final steps involve covering the cut edges with silicone sealer so that the feeder can be safely handled and used.
Using the hacksaw, cut along the horizontal cut-lines as seen in the photo. Next use the tin snips to cut along the vertical cut-line starting from the top down to the horizontal cut-lines.
Now take the cut can and slowly and carefully spread out the side sections, hereafter known as the "wings". At this point the wings are easily bent if handled too roughly so take time to work carefully. The wings don't need to be spread out flat but just enough so that we can fasten the wings of one can to those of another can.
Step 4: Fastening the Tall Cans Together.
I will start this section by referring you to the first photo in this step. In this view from the top, you will see that the wings of each tall can are fastened to the wings of the adjacent cans. This creates mini partitions that keep the cats from barging in on their neighbor's food. The fastening, of course, also unifies and solidifies the feeder. Now that you know what the fastened cans will look like we can proceed with the instructions on how to do it.
The cans are held together with staples. My staple gun was not powerful enough, nor were the staples to pierce the tin cans. I instead used small nails and a hammer to punch holes through the two tin layers. I then inserted the staples and bent the ends over with pliers.
To start, take two cans and line up the wings and hold them together with clamps. Then lay the clamped wings on top of a block of wood. Starting in a corner, place the nail about 3/8 inches (10 mm) from the edge and tap lightly with the hammer to create a small dent. Strike the second time with enough force to pierce both layers of tin with just the tip of the nail to create a small hole. Use the awl to enlargen any hole that seems too small. Then lay a staple next to the punched hole so that one leg of the staple is lined up with the punched hole, as shown in the photo. Use the marker to mark a point on the can where the second hole is to be punched, using the staple as a guide. Using the technique previously described, make a second hole. Insert the staple into the punched holes and bend the ends of the staple over with pliers. You will need one staple along the top edge, in the corner, four staples along the side edge and four staples along the bottom edge of the joined wings. Only fasten about 3/4 of the entire bottom edge starting from the corner. You will need to readjust the clamps as you punch holes along the wings. As seen in the photos, I punched the holes first and then inserted the staples. I now think it best not to do it that way because I had alignment difficulties when I tried to insert the staples. The edges of the wings shifted, ever so slightly, when I readjusted the clamps. Instead punch the two holes as described, insert and fasten the staple, then proceed with the next two holes. The can stability is much improved this way and it makes the job easier.
Once you have the wings fastened, take the third can and fasten its wing to the second can. Then attach the wing of the fourth can to the third can. Finally attach the wing of the fourth can to the first can to unite everything together. The last photo in this section shows the fastened wings. If your fastening job doesn't look as neat as you would have like it to, don't fret, it will be covered up by the silicone sealer at the very end of the project. You will also notice in the photo that the bottoms of the cans do not sit entirely on the bench top. This is due to the tops of the cans bowing outward because they are not fastened together. We will fasten the tops in the next step.
Step 5: Fastening the Tops of the Tall Cans.
Take an unwanted wire coat hanger and with pliers untwist the ends. Using pliers straighten the wire. Starting about 5 inches (127 mm) from the straighten end of the wire, form a loop. I wrapped the wire around a shovel handle to give me a nice round loop. Twist the wire loop ends a couple of times to keep the loop in place, as seen in the second photo. Now take the joined cans, hereafter referred to as the "feeder" and at the center of one partition punch a hole about 1 inch (25 mm) from the top edge. Do the same to the opposite partition. Use the awl to enlargen the holes so the ends of the wire loop can pass through. Now take the longest end of the wire loop and starting from the inside of the feeder, insert it through the hole in one of the feeder partitions. Push the wire through all the way until the loop is against the partition. Insert the other end of the wire loop into the hole in the opposite partition. You will have to bend the wire first to get it through the hole in the opposite partition. Once through the hole, straighten the bent wire. With one hand squeeze the tops of the two opposite partitions until the bottoms of the cans rest on the benchtop. Then while still squeezing the tops of the partitions with one hand, use the other hand to center the wire loop and bend both wire ends upward, one at a time. Once both wire loop ends are bent upward, you may release your hold on the tops of the partitions as the bent wire ends will keep them in place. Use pliers to get a nice 90 degree bend in the wire as seen in photo 4.
Starting with one wire end, clip it to about 4 inches (100 mm) long and wrap it over the top of the partition and down the backside. Use pliers to crimp the wire as close to the partition wall as possible. Then wrap the wire end around the horizontal part of the wire three times and face the wire end downward as seen in photo 5. Do the same to the other wire end. Take care when wrapping the wire over the partition backs as the tin could rip right where the wire passes through the hole. Photo 6 shows the partition tops wired together.
Step 6: Forming the Wire Hook.
The next step is to use the remainder of the wire coat hanger to form a hook that can be used to raise and lower the feeder. This feature is useful to those who have difficulty reaching down to the floor to fill a bowl with cat food.
Take the remaining wire and, using pliers, form a loop at the end. Twist the wire ends so that the loop will remain in place as seen in photo 1. Using pliers, form a hook at the opposite end as seen in photo 2. The finished hook is shown in photo 3.
Step 7: Finishing the Feeder.
The final step is to finish the feeder with a pleasing color. One could choose a more industrial look and leave the feeder unpainted, but I opted for a two-color scheme with a black border of silicone sealer. As seen in photo 1, I gave the feeder two coats of paint. I let it dry completely and then coated all edges of the feeder with silicone sealer to cover all sharp edges and staples as seen in photo 2. I didn't coat the top and very bottom of the can edges because these edges are factory made to be smooth and safe to handle. I used a toothpick and a cut up plastic gift card to apply the silicone sealer to the edges. It is impossible to get a silky-smooth finish but do the best that you can. This is a homemade project that celebrates creativity and innovation above all else! I still want to decorate it a bit more (photo 3). I could use magnets or stickers or paint a design freehand or with stencils. The last photo shows how the hook is used to raise the feeder from the bench top. Again this would allow people with difficulties reaching the floor to use the hook to raise the feeder, fill it with food and then lower it to the floor.
Step 8: Will They Like It???
So there you have it, you now know how to make your very own Hungry Cat Tin Can Feeder! And in doing so you will have made use of unwanted items and used only the energy of your own two hands to create a unique and useful item. But will they like it???
That was the question in the back of my mind when I finished the project. There was only one way to find out. I fitted the small cans into the feeder and filled them with cat food. I called the hungry cats out for their mid-day meal...and they liked it!!! ......at least three of them did, that is. One was definitely not interested at all. She may not have liked the smell of the new paint or the two-toned color scheme...not sure what was so objectionable. With time I am sure that she will be won over and will post a final photo of everyone enjoying their Hungry Cat Tin Can Feeder.