Cats get a bad rap when it comes to laziness. Lasagna-loving Garfield, for example. This cat is lazy and scoops its food out of its bowl so it can dine whilst lounging. This cat would rather not treadmill, thank mew very much.
But in the wild, cats are sleek and stealthy hunters, and will stalk their prey, whether it’s a roll of toilet paper or a Swiffer. When your cat is an indoor pet, anything is fair game. But while some cats will go chase after any reflection of sunlight that catches their eye, others need more motivation to move. To keep his cat’s hunting instincts sharp, Ben Millam built a device that triggers the cat feeder when Monkey, his cat, finds an RFID-equipped ball, according to Laughing Squid. And it’s not like the balls are in plain sight. Millam hides them in different places to ensure Monkey stays active. The idea occurred to him after he read that cats practice “mobile” hunting, sticking their whiskers in different spots while roaming around their territory in hopes of unsettling some prey. Instead of hiding bowls of food, he decided to train his cat to find the balls and get rewarded with a snack.
Using an RFID reader, an Arduino, a remote antenna, and relays (plus cat), the device activates the feeder whenever Monkey deposits a ball, equipped with an RFID tag, into the hole and past the reader.
Millam says he’s an amateur maker, but he’s clearly an expert cat trainer. In order get Monkey to learn this behavior, he went steps beyond Pavlov. He has a breakdown of his “clicker training” on his site. It will definitely take both time and patience to get your own little feline in fetch mode. For Millam, it was all worth it, because it brings Monkey “one step closer towards a more fulfilled and self-actualized indoor kitty existence.”