TECHCAT: RISE OF THE AUTO-FEEDER
Technology can't stand between my cats and their food.
My two cats Samantha and Bob are often outsmarted by technology. To date they've been foiled by the laser pointer, freaked out by the sound of an inkjet printer, fooled by YouTube into believing their home was being invaded by invisible ghost cats... And then there's the story of the auto-feeder. Not too long ago, when our family went for an overnight stay-cation, I bought an auto-feeder for the cats. It was designed like a round dish, and segmented the way you'd slice a pie. Covering the dish was a rotating lid with a wedge-shaped cutout, such that the lid vaguely resembled Pac-Man. The idea was to program the auto-feeder so that the lid would turn at fixed intervals, revealing a new pie-segment with dry cat food in it.
So we set it up and loaded it with kibble. We even filled an extra segment just in case we were running late. As luck would have it, we arrived home earlier than planned - to the scene of a successful cat burglary. The auto-feeder was lying askew, its rotating lid pried off completely. There was no cat food left inside. (The litter-box was overflowing; I'll spare you the details, gentle reader.) And, as you might have guessed, two cats with bloated bellies were passed out on the sofa, blissfully sleeping off a food coma.
It was the first recorded instance of collaboration between the feline residents of my household. It was also our last recorded instance of auto-feeder usage.
I consulted the owners of some local celebrity cats – catterati? – and found that they owned auto-feeders of a different, sturdier build. A prime example is the Perfect Petfeeder, which dispenses kibble from a pet-proof tank large enough to hold cat food for a week or two.
I also found out that celebrities really are just like the rest of us. I spoke to Lee Amizadai, better known as the Minion of feline fundraiser and office cat Duke Orange. Since Duke lives in an office, an autofeeder helps ensure he's fed on weekends when the office is empty. The cat took to it instantly, but the humans had initial doubts about its reliability.
As a failsafe, Amizadai installed a motiondetecting webcam so that she could remotely check that the auto-feeder was working. She would also drop by during long weekends to ensure that Duke wasn't lacking for food or water. “It took a few weeks, but I ended up trusting the auto-feeder,” she said. “Duke only ever missed meals when I programmed it wrongly.” And as a side benefit, using the autofeeder helped Amizadai discover that her cat wasn't just using her for food – even though Duke received his meals from a machine, he continued to affectionately pester her and her colleagues for pats.
Thanks to Amizadai I also learnt about an upcoming auto-feeder product that appears to combine hardware sturdiness with a robust AI. Called Pintofeed, it lets owners feed their pets remotely via a smartphone app. It can also tweet to let you know your pet has eaten. Now, let's see how it'll fare versus my two greedy gluttons.
"The auto-feeder was lying askew, its rotating lid pried off completely. "