We take care of four feral cats: Gatito, Tuxi, Penguino, and Raisin. They already have houses with web-cams and heat lamps… what’s next? Sometimes it can be a challenge to find someone to feed them when we are away, so I wanted a backup plan – a web-controlled feeder! I looked at the commercial stuff, but there were two common problems: 1) Not enough capacity for more than a few days (for four cats who eat twice a day!) and 2) Nothing reliable for outdoor use (and by that I mostly mean “racoon-proof”).

This was a good opportunity to work up another design, plus play around with the an ESP8266-based microcontroller. It’s amazing; you can buy a chip for ~$4 that will let you wire up and control devices over the internet. It’s got 4MB of RAM, wifi, can run a web server.. incredible!

So far, so good. Tuxi (the smarty-pants that she is) immediately recognized it as a source of nummies. Raisin remains the most skeptical . I think they’ll all come around. No racoon damage yet, but I still think challenges are coming. And of course if a bear ever sniffs it out (they’ve been on our driveway in the past) then it probably won’t make it.

The feeder is a basic auger-driven design. Cat food is still prone to the occasional jam, so I have the motor reverse direction back-and-forth a few times during dispersion to (hopefully) free up any clogs.