Wednesday, December 1, 2010

cat feeder FAIL

I live with three cats. Of the three, the older of the two males has food issues. He was found, nearly starved, as a kitten, and apparently learned from that harsh lesson to never take the future availability of food for granted. He has a special weakness for crunchies, which he loves. These have the further disadvantage of being calorie dense: he can consume a lot more of them before reaching stomach capacity.

So to keep him at a healthy weight it's important to control how much he gets. With this in mind, before leaving for a three-day mini-vacation back in October (which included some fantastic riding; okay, mandatory cycling content), it was time to break out the automated feeder.

The feeder has a reservoir of food connected to the outside world with a tube containing a rotating screw. The screw turns on when programmed to do so, channeling food down the tube, where it pushes open a one-way door and then falls into a feeding tray, where it is quickly consumed by enthusiastic kitties.

Normally programming this wonder of mechanical engineering is absolutely something I want to do at least a day early. It's important to make sure everything is working before trusting it with the cats' well-being. For example, sometimes it gets into a mode where it ignores a programmed dispense cycle. This is solved with a hard-reset followed by reprogramming, but obviously the cats don't know how to do this. Not yet, anyway (the female is quite clever, however: I wouldn't put it past her).

So after doing the hard-reset, I programmed it with two feeding cycles plus a quick "test cycle" to make sure it was working. The test cycle rotated the dispensing screw for the 10 seconds I requested, so I figured the unit was in working order. Here's what I wanted to program:

  1. on: 6:00 am
  2. off: 6:03 am
  3. on: 5:00 pm
  4. off: 5:04 pm

So a three-minute "morning snack" followed by a four-minute "evening meal". However, I made a mistake, something I didn't catch in any of the numerous times I reviewed my program:

  1. on: 6:00 am
  2. off: 6:03 am
  3. on: 6:00 pm
  4. off: 5:04 pm

The result? It all ended in tears:


Needless to say, the older male was a happy furry. And the several piles of vomited crunchies attested to what happens when a stomach jammed with dry crunchies is supplemented with water from the drinking fountain: absorb, expand, eject.

So note to self: always beta-test code, even if it's something as simple as a cat feeder.

1 comment:

NadiaMac said...

love the picture!!!