Tired of feeding his cat in the usual way, Ben Millam created a primal, yet techie alternative for his cat, Monkey. Millam said the project started when he began to read about why cats repeatedly explore the same areas. He found out that it's partly taking care of their territory, and partly hunting. Like most modern cats, Monkey didn't have anything to hunt other than random bits of lint or crinkly wrappers so Millam decided to use his cat's instincts for their mutual benefit.
Millam hacked an automatic feeder with the help of an Arduino set to respond when a little wiffle ball was dropped into a bowl. The wiffle balls are each embedded with an RFID tag and have to be dropped into the bowl hooked up to the feeder a certain way. When it’s done correctly, the ball passes an Adafruit RFID reader which triggers food to come out of the machine, and the hunt is complete.
Before Monkey started this new routine, Millam says he used clicker training to prepare the cat for the change. First she had to know to look for the ball before she could be expected to hunt for it to eat.
Millam also programmed the feeder to respond to a keyfob remote for days when he forgets to hide the wiffle balls. For other geeky pet owners out there, Millam posted step-by-step instructions for the clicker training and hacking on his blog.