Cat Feeder 2.5
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single cat in possession of a good fortune must be in want of yet more breakfast. (Apologies, Ms. Austen.)
Rewind to 2015 - my girlfriend and I were spending alternating nights at each other's houses, which was cramping our cat's style. Paloma felt that the late breakfast some mornings was just terrible and took to protesting by attacking our feet early in the morning. Since all we really needed was a breakfast-on-a-timer, I built a cat feeder that we could fill nightly and would go off at the same time every morning. This worked fantastically! Paloma was much happier and our toes were unmolested. As you can see from the picture below (feeder on the left) the construction was, um, cost-optimized.
Little more than a drill that would lift a pot lid off a pre-loaded food bowl, the main drawbacks were having to refill the bowl and the quite loud drill going off every morning.
The beginning of cat feeder 2.0 is on the right. The white-and-silver appliance was designed to dispense human treats when a hand was placed under the dispenser. A little re-wiring and it fired a single serving per power cycle. With the addition of a wall timer it became a cat feeder that quiet and easy to program.
While it met my needs, Paloma disliked this setup—there isn't enough room to eat! Below is version 2.0 proper, with appropriately sized kitten headspace and still highly cost-optimized: the fancy bent-wood-Scandinavian-design base is top of an Ikea table leg with a sing off-cut screwed to it.. The top hopper is good for a few days of feeding and the wall timer has a backup battery. So while it won't function if the power is out it does retain its schedule and the time. Once again, all was right in the world…until I found a 15lb dry goods bin at Urban Ore and started in on version 2.5...
Below is the current incarnation, optimized for looking fresh in the kitchen while holding an entire bag of cat food. I don't know that Paloma likes it any more or less than the prior version—as long as the robots feed her on the regular she's happy. But we like that it holds a full sack of cat food, keeps it fresh, and makes it easy to dispense to the feeder when it needs a top-up. Version 3.0 will need a longer screw feed and a better motor so that it can pull directly from the hopper, but that's still in the works... (The plywood casing is sized for adding those features later, so it will stay in about the same footprint)