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The Automatic Cat Faucet

The lengths we go to for our pets...

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If there's one thing that the internet has taught us, it's that the 90% of the world's population loves watching videos of cats doing stupid and/or funny things. I actually think my Aunt Sarah thinks watching cat videos is what the internet was designed for...but I digress.

This SparkFun customer project will speak to all you pet owners out there with a cat that is a little finicky (what cat isn't?). In the above video, you'll see a cat that only will drink out of a running faucet. As you can imagine, the owners found this a little annoying when they had to turn on and off the sink every time kitty wanted to take a drink. Like any good SparkFunner, an opportunity was found and a project was born.

The goals of the project were four-fold. From the project website:

  • Extensible – Something where I can add new sensors of any time of function. Say I want an ambient temperature history. Sure a SQL schema can be designed to be extensible and flexible but I wanted something super generic like a big hashtable
  • Analysis – I wanted to know what hour of the day my cat drinks the most.
  • Control – I wanted a protocol coming from the Arduino that would be flexible enough to not only collect metrics but also accept commands.
  • Temporary – Any installation had to be easily undone. No holes in the wall, no new pipes and nothing I can’t undo.

Using an IR sensor, metal frame work (similar to MakerBeam), an Arduino, servos, and some nice design work, Dillon built a nifty device that turns on the faucet when the cat jumps up on the sink and turns the faucet off when he leaves. The project wasn't without its problems (which are very well -documented on the project website), but ultimately the Automatic Cat Faucet works like a champ.

Check out the website for more pictures, code, and a well-documented build that will allow you to create your very own automatic faucet (or use the technology to cater to your pet's other idiosyncrasies). Nice work!

Comments 23 comments

  • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago * / 2

    Now if we can get one that flushes the toilet and lift the lid for the dog to get a drink... Then put the lid down for the human female members of the pack.
    I have to admit I have one better then that. I set up my drip irrigation system to fill the outside water bowl for the dog, along with autofilling/cleaning the bird bath too. I am still working on how to get my system to just drip for the bird bath.

    • Member #167681 / about 12 years ago / 1

      I +1 that project. Since the female members of the pack operate at a higher body temp. could the sensor be a touch thermometer? So then the female get's close to the toilet, the seat goes down. And when the female leaves the seat goes back up?

      • BB / about 12 years ago / 1

        I'm sorry, but that idea rates down there with the Facebook Lego "Like" light in shear uselessness.
        It's already absurd that some women can't be expected to flick the toilet seat down whenever they want to go pee, but now to cater to and encourage that stupidity by making some gizmo that automatically drops the seat when a human is in close proximity? They're not pets.

  • Member #105131 / about 12 years ago / 1

    When I was a boy, we had simple $5 mechanical valves (a bit more money in those days than now, but hardly expensive, and you could get them cheaper on clearance) where a dog or cat could press a tongue/paw on a rod protruding from the faucet nozzle to displace a ball that allowed water to pass. A spring or water pressure shut it off when the animal quit drinking. Flooding was little concern because the animal would have to sit there and get drenched to flood the bathroom.
    I'd trust those over any electronic gizmo any day, and they have decades of track record. I never heard a disaster story

  • Exonerd / about 12 years ago / 1

    My own cat has made me want to build something like this, but call me paranoid...I'm pretty sure my place would end up on the news due to creating a minor flood. Meanwhile, I'd find the cat by the sink, perfectly fine, looking at me as if to say "What? Problem?"

  • rmeyer / about 12 years ago * / 1

    He he- it just kills me how much our cats make us work. I wish mine would get a job and pull her weight around here.
    Automation is great, though. As long as it is done safely it can be lots of fun. My wife and I frequently travel for a week or more at a time, and I had gotten tired of imposing on friends and family to watch our animals. I already had our dogs on automatic watering, but I wanted to set up an automated hopper feeder as well.
    Such a setup obviously would require supervision, though. My answer was to set up a webcam pointed at the feeder and water dish. The Linksys webcam I used has a feature that allows the indicator light on the camera to be triggered by the user over the Internet.
    I rigged an optoisolator to the indicator LED and tied that to a Basic Stamp controller. The controller monitors the status of the light and triggers the feeder to cycle when the light comes on, then to reset when it shuts off. Of course, the feeding cycle itself is monitored, both by sound and video, over the Internet from anywhere in the world.
    The Stamp controller board also cycles the power to the webcam twice a day (a hard reset), which I have heard is good practice to ensure the WiFi connection does not "hang" and become completely inaccessible.
    I have used the system many times from as far as 2000 miles away and it has never failed me. One additional safety measure I take nonetheless is to have a "sitter" prearranged whom I can contact if the system were to fail or if I were to otherwise lose contact with it.

  • pikachu / about 12 years ago / 1


  • TeslaFan / about 12 years ago * / 1

    Boo Ya! Nothing says "Bachelor pad" like a mini-T bar system connected to your faucet.
    I can't use something like that, though. My spoiled-ass cat only drinks bottled spring water.
    Oh... and to the commenter suggesting a similar construct be attached to the toilet: Check out the special features part of the "Galaxy Quest" DVD to get a feel on how people would react to that.
    Hint: They would be confused and concerned.
    Edited to add:
    I gotta say, I'm impressed with your documentation. That's how you do this stuff... with complete documentation.
    How easy do you find the Microrax to use? I use the Maker Beam system sold here, and it connects differently. Instead of screws into captive nuts like the microrax, it's nuts onto captive screws. I find that the screws are sometimes difficult to slide into the channels. (The screw has to navigate the channel AND the slot. Whereas the captive nut only has to navigate the channel.)

  • ThomasCouey / about 12 years ago / 1

    So I take it you've dedicated that sink to the cat? It doesn't seem usable by people anymore...

  • sethborders / about 12 years ago / 1

    they dont seem to go into detail in the sensor. is it some sort of pressure thing on the sink

  • Kuy / about 12 years ago / 1

    This is one of those projects that must use a watchdog and/or other failsafes. If the microcontroller's code goes off the rails for whatever reason (bugs, electrical upsets like ESD) and the servo is incorrectly given the signal for full deflection, it could leave the faucet on for extended periods while the house is empty, leading to massive water bills. Not convinced of the importance of watchdogs? These stories of real-world incidents should change your mind. No project is too small for good failsafe design!

    • trialex / about 12 years ago / 2

      Wouldn't the watchdog scare away the cat, thereby defeating the purpose of the project?

    • "Sure enough after rebooting the Boeing 737 the pilot announced that all systems were up and working properly.
      Nobody saw it fit to leave the aircraft at that time but I certainly considered it."
      Hahaha. Genius.

  • StrixA / about 12 years ago / 1

    Very nice, I'm sure your cat is going to love it. But what if your cat figures out how to close the sink?

  • Tori / about 12 years ago / 1

    Lucky. Our cat turns the water on, sips a bit, and then walks away. With absolutely zero regard for anything (it's a cat allright). Long story short, $2500 in water bills convinced us that classic taps are better than levers.

  • Denis / about 12 years ago / 1

    Interesting. I am building automatic for aquarium:)

    • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago / 1

      So are you using flakes or pellets for your fish? Or are you doing something else, like reptiles, or other creatures?
      How far are you planning to control your tank?
      And what is the size of your tank?

      • Denis / about 12 years ago / 1

        It is 56L fish tank.At the moment I got just fishes and plants, but I am already develpoing controll unit for temperature, water level, water changing, feeding, day-night simulation. For lightning I use RGB strip and neon lights (have to upgread them to dimm)controlled with MOSFET Power Control Kit , Temperatur sensor DS18S20, for feeding i will use this device http://www.juwel-aquarium.de/de/juwel_feeder477.htm with small changes to operate it with arduino or computer. For water change I am gona to use two electrodes made from copper strips plated with silver or some other metal. Arduino reads input value of each electrode. I using also rtc module for time simulation and schaduale, micro sd card for storing all informations at failure and bluetooth for monitoring over phone and pc... also for wireless programing... But I still have some problems with bluetooth communication while module is presented as one way device in my computer.

        • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago / 1

          be careful with Copper, it will kill fish. You might want to look into something stainless steel. My last tank was 240 gallon Fresh Water tank.

          • Denis / about 12 years ago / 1

            I know about copper, so i will plate it with some other metal less dangerous for fishes:)

  • NewsparkFunCusty / about 12 years ago / 1

    8020 aluminum rules. I built a cnc milling machine frame from that stuff.

  • Protocol / about 12 years ago / 1

    Nice! and to think I just paid 55$ for a fountain to solve the same problem.

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