Keeping your cat fed while you are busy or on vacation can be somewhat difficult if your aren't able to have a pet sitter. Cat feeders are cheap and easy to make using common recyclable material found in most homes.
Doing it Cheap
While you can buy a manufactureed cat feeder, it is relatively easy to make your own out of recyclable materials. The techno-crafting site makezine.com has instructions on making an automated cat feeder using VCR parts. But for those who are less technologically savvy, you just need are some scissors, a two-liter soda bottle and an oval pet food bowl.
Cut the top off of the soda bottle just below the curve of the spout (about 2-3 inches from the top of the bottle), then cut a 2-inch-wide-by-3-inch-high round "door" (think of the shape of a mouse hole in old cartoons). Make sure that the bottle fits snugly into the oval pet food bowl. The bottle should lodge tightly enough not to move around while also leaving enough room for the cat's head. A higher lipped bowl will help keep the bottle steady.
To use, fill the bottle with cat food, fit the bowl over it like a lid and turn it over. The cat food should spill out of the hole into the bowl.
Most automatic pet feeders rely on gravity to work, which means that as your cat eats, more food trickles down to take up the space she has just emptied. For this to work optimally, the container holding the food needs to stay in an upright position. This can be hard with playful felines who seem to love knocking things over. Because of this, you should take time to find (or make) an area to put the feeder. A recessed niche might be a good option, although under a bookshelf or in a cabinet can work, too. if at all possible, try to cover the top of the feeder as well. The idea is to protect the top heavy container from being knocked over, broken into or spilt.
Cats can gain a great deal of weight using a feeder, since there is always food available and nothing to limit overeating. This can be terrible for their health, so you may want to fill the feeder once a day with only a normal amount of food for each day. If you are using the feeder to feed your pets while you are away you might want to look into more complex feeder designs that limit the output. Instructables.com, a do it yourself site, has a tutorial on making a "cat-powered automatic cat feeder." This unique design works similar to zoo feeders for primates by making your cat learn the trick of getting a treat, providing exercise as well as forcing the cat to slow down enough to realise he is already full.
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