Automatic pet feeders are a great way to dispense a measured amount of food at regular times, but they don’t generally do much else. That’s okay if you only care about keeping your furry friend fed and happy. It is, however, missing an opportunity to gather valuable data about your pet — and even to train it. Most dogs and cats are very food-driven, which is why treats are used in training. Redditor DynamicallyInvokable took advantage of that fact to build an automatic feeder for their cat that gathers data and trains it at the same time.
DynamicallyInvokable cares about their kitty’s health, and wanted to make sure it got fed the proper amount of food on a regular schedule. That meant both dispensing a measured amount of food, and weighing the cat frequently to track its health. But how do you get a cat to stand on a scale every day? If you remember Pavlov’s dogs from your biology classes, then you already know the answer: use food to motivate the animal! DynamicallyInvokable just needed a way to let the cat know that food would be coming soon.
To accomplish that, they put a string of RGB LEDs around the pet feeder. Those light up in a spinning animation that starts by moving very slowly. But as it get closer to feeding time, the animation starts spinning faster. The cat was eventually able to figure out the pattern, and would go sit in front of the feeder a couple of minutes before it started dispensing food. All DynamicallyInvokable had to do was put a scale in that spot, and they could gather regular weight measurements.
To create the feeder, DynamicallyInvokable designed and 3D-printed most of the parts. That took more than 100 hours of 3D printing. The dispensing mechanism, scale monitoring, and LEDs are all controlled by an ESP32 board. The data that it collects is automatically uploaded to a web interface that display graphs and trends for the cat and every part of the feeding process. This results in the most fully-featured automatic pet feeder we’ve ever seen.