Feral cat feeder cam

I wanted to be able to see how much food is left in the feral cats’ dish overnight, to help prevent attracting raccoons and such. Ideally, there would be just enough food for all of the cats to eat in the evening, and no leftovers to attract unwelcome visitors.

So, naturally I decided to add a cheap camera in the feeding area, so I could monitor that. Plus, it’s fun to watch the cats coming in to eat. I do love my cams; I now have 13 of them around the property, watching the driveway, dog, chickens, and cats.

Here I’m testing the positioning, looking at the view on my iPhone:

Before I mounted it, I put it in the storage area above the feeder, and captured this view of a cat outside, lazing below the outdoor camera:

Below is the new camera installed. I considered building an enclosure to protect it, but decided not to bother. The cats haven’t shown any interest in messing with it (and raccoons haven’t visited in a while; I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t so considerate). You can also see the feeder tube, that carries the food from the automatic dispenser above, along with the metal food dish, and the water dispenser:

The first cat that evening did briefly glance at the camera, but most totally ignore it:

One cat eating, two queued (a more clear picture in infrared night mode):

One of the queued ones pushed their way in:

The next evening, one cat waiting outside:

While another eats; they’re so polite how they usually take turns:

Seeing two crowded together, I decided to remove the curved end of the pipe, to give them a bit more room:

This morning, two rushed up when they heard the food dispensing:

Inside:

It’s not ideal that the tube deposits the food at the back of the dish; they don’t mind stepping into it to eat, but a smaller dish would be better. Perhaps 10×5 inches. I haven’t found one yet, but haven’t looked very hard.

Or I could build a divider to reduce the size of the dish. Something to consider.

Yet more pictures of the feral cats

I just can’t help myself; I know I said two weeks ago that I didn’t want to overdo the cat pictures… but who doesn’t love cat pics?! You’ve come to the wrong place if you don’t.

Happy cat:

Kisses:

Three cats:

Three again:

Yawn:

Lazing about (this is from the same time as the video in the previous post):

Looking at the camera:

Maybe a little hard to see, but there are two on the tree, plus one having just eaten:

Exploring inside the shelter:

I was excited that two cats spent the night (about five hours or so) inside for the first time, cutely snuggled together:

And one slept there the following night, too:

More pictures of the feral cats

I’m still enjoying watching the feral cats using the new cat house, so thought I’d share some more pictures for others who also like that. Please let me know in comments (on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Micro.blog) if you want to see more, or are sick of cat pics.

Here are three cats exploring inside the shelter after dark:

Poppy after eating:

Exploring the Cat House Saloon shelter in daylight hours:

Coming out of the shelter:

Traffic jam in the feeder:

Happy smile:

Still getting visits from the family of raccoons in the wee small hours:

Disappointed that the food wasn’t available yet at 05:17; I’ve just adjusted the timer to dispense breakfast at 05:00, since that’s when the cats start turning up for food:

A satisfied customer:

I hope you enjoyed those photos. I have lots more, and will continue to capture them from the cameras watching the cat house, if only for my own interest and future reference. No doubt I’ll post more periodically, but don’t want to overdo it.

Feral cats using the new cat house

Our little colony of feral cats have quickly taken to eating from the feeder in the new cat house. They aren’t living there yet, as expected, but I’m hopeful that once the weather gets cooler, and I plug in the heating pads, they’ll enjoy the warmth.

Here is the first cat to eat in the new feeder, the night of installation:

A couple of cats exploring inside the shelter:

Four at once:

Contented smile:

I was moving the old feeder towards the new location, with a breadcrumb trail of wet food dishes guiding the way, but since they very quickly found and explored the new house, I decided to accelerate the move.

Yesterday, I transferred the food dispenser into the new feeder, and discontinued the old one.

Here you can see the dispenser on the drawer:

With the drawer pushed into place, the dispenser is above the tube that leads to the food dish below. You can see storage of spare food, too, and the water dispenser below:

Here’s a view of the dispenser through the window. That’ll be handy to quickly see the level and such:

Yesterday evening, the cats had no problem eating from the new location:

Midnight snack:

The masked bandits found the feeder… but there was probably no (or very little) food left by then. The dispenser is safely out of reach:

Breakfast is dispensed at 06:00:

I do enjoy watching the cats, and hope they like their new restaurant, the Cat House Mercantile, and in due course move in to the Cat House Saloon.

Building a cat shelter: decorations, electrical, carpet, installation

The new cat house has now been completed and installed!

Where we last left the construction progress, I installed the windows, doors, and feeder.

Next, I worked on some decorative touches. Firstly I made some shutters for the windows:

But I had misgivings about them, since they’re a bit busy, and not particularly western-themed (based on pictures of old west buildings). So after trying them (without attaching):

Jenn and I decided it looked better without them:

I could always add them later if I change my mind.

I also added some decorations by the shelter entrance, including fake saloon doors, wagon wheels, and barrels (the latter two of which I got via Etsy). The barrels have a functional purpose too: they help hold the maintenance door in place:

A closer view of a wagon wheel and the barrels:

Next I added the two heating pads to the lower level of the shelter, plus a camera inside the shelter. The wires go inside the facades:

I added a power strip in the storage area of the feeder side:

The heating pads are now unplugged, since they don’t need extra warmth in these summer months, but I’ll re-connect them when it gets cooler.

All of the holes the cords go through are closed with screwed plywood panels:

Then I started adding carpeting to the floor and walls of the shelter:

The carpeting not only makes it more cozy inside, it also helps cover the wires for the heating pads. On the upper level, there are also a couple of thermal blankets, that reflect the heat of the cat:

That was the last step of the construction!

It was finally time to install it. As you may recall, I built the cat house in multiple pieces, so it could be moved from the workshop to the final location. We changed where we wanted it; originally it was going to be just below our deck, where the old shelter was. But the cats haven’t used that much of late, both because they didn’t need the heat as the weather has warmed up, and also they aren’t too keen on us and our dog Rory being nearby, as we enjoy the deck in the summer. They are still feral, after all.

So we decided to install it by our small pond. Still close enough to the house so they can pay their rent by taking care of mice etc, but hopefully far enough away to avoid crowding them. We’ll see!

Anyway, here we’ve brought over the facade and maintenance doors:

The floor, leveled and on concrete footings:

The walls, still sitting on the cart for transport:

Much appreciation to Jenn for her assistance in moving the heavy components!

The walls and roof added to the floor:

Fully assembled:

A slightly different angle:

The back:

The various components were then screwed together:

Very basic back steps; in the original location, they wouldn’t have needed steps here (since it sloped the opposite way), but now they do; I might build some nicer steps sometime, but this will do for now:

I moved the old shelter to next to the new cat house, as a hint for the cats. You can see how much more space they’ll have in their new digs:

Lastly, I moved the old feeder a little down the path. I’ll slowly move it towards the new shelter, to show the cats where it is. We’ll see how quickly they figure it out:

It’s exciting to have completed this project. Like with the chicken coop, I may have gotten a little carried away with my design… but I really like how it turned out. I started back in February this year, so it’s taken me about 5 months of part-time work. But it has been a fun hobby project.

Now I just hope that the cats approve. They may or may not move into the shelter for a while, but they’ll hopefully accept the feeder, and may enjoy the warmth of the shelter once the weather cools off.

Building a cat shelter: windows, doors, and feeder

More progress on the new cat house. (Previous post: roofing.)

I installed the Lexan clear plastic windows, the window trim, and decorative muntins:

I also installed cat doors in the front and back, plus ventilation grilles:

The vents can be closed in winter to keep it nice and toasty inside:

The cat door on the front is held open with a short bungee cord, to encourage the cats to enter. Eventually, once they get used to going through the door, the cord will be removed:

I installed the side door on the feeder part, with a continuous hinge, gate latch, and handle:

Inside the feeder, I installed a 2″ pipe to take the dry cat food from the dispenser to a metal dish (cake pan). Here you can see the tube (with excess pipe at the top) with the central shelf removed:

I made a drawer on top of the shelf, with notches for the tube:

Here’s the shelf re-installed, with the drawer pulled out. This will make it easy to refill the feeder:

The drawer pushed back in. I’ll store spare food in the space to the right:

Here you can see the nozzle of the food dispenser positioned above the end of the tube:

The food drops down the tube into the dish:

I also attached the signs to the facades with construction adhesive and screws from the back:

I added several roller catches to hold the front of the facades on:

I had planned to have the facades hinge down, but the roller catches seem to hold it securely, so I’ll just remove the front entirely when accessing inside the facades (which will be very rare; it’s basically just a conduit for power cords):

Here’s the (almost) completed front, with the windows, facades, signs, etc:

Front view:

The exterior is now basically complete, other than some decorative touches… which is probably the next step. It’ll be a week or two before I can get back to that, though. Stay tuned!

Building a cat shelter: roofing

Continuing my series on building a new cat house (previous post: finished painting), over the last few days I did the roofing.

But first, I put the walls back onto the floor:

Here’s a view inside, showing the feeder storage area on the left, and the shelter on the right:

The roof and facades also back on:

I then added metal drip strip to the edges of the roof. This helps protect the edges from rain:

Also on the awnings:

Then added roofing underlayment tar paper, which serves as a layer of waterproofing:

Tar paper on the roof:

Next is a shingles starter strip, which has self-adhesive underneath, and a strip of adhesive at the bottom of the top side, to help secure the first course of shingles. While not strictly necessary, without this starter strip, the bottom edge of the shingles wouldn’t be as securely attached, so could blow up in the wind:

Then the asphalt shingles were added, with each course offset (for a nicer appearance, and so the gaps aren’t all in a line):

The shingles are nailed in the center, so the nails are hidden under the subsequent row. They have adhesive at the bottom, which sticks when the shingles heat up once they are exposed to the sun:

Here’s the roof almost completed (just the very top course not installed yet):

Starter strips on the awnings:

Shingles in progress:

The roof fully completed:

With the facades added back, you can see the wall-to-roof flashing on top of the shingles:

The awnings finished. The nails at the top of the awnings will be hidden under trim boards. The one on the shelter (left) side will also serve as the bottom frame of the windows:

I may have over-strained myself doing the roofing yesterday; my hand was feeling pins-and-needles for hours afterwards, and is still slightly tingly, though improving. So I’m taking a day off construction and other garden projects today to rest.

Like painting, doing the roofing was a major milestone; it’s looking much closer to being finished now.

Next up: installing the windows, window trim, doors, etc.

Building a cat shelter: finished painting

I’ve now completed painting the new cat house, including two coats of the four colors, and touch-ups. (Previous post about painting here.)

Here you can see several of the pieces: in the foreground is the feeder side door and several bits of trim for around windows; behind them is the floor, then the walls, and in the top-left is the facade front door:

Here’s a closer look at the facade front door (sitting on a pile of wood):

The walls, from the front-right side. The unpainted top of the awning will be covered by roofing materials:

The back-right of the walls:

The back of the facades:

I was supervised by Pepper, one of the two feral cats that live in the shop:

Next up: roofing for the awnings and roof!

Building a cat shelter: floor & roof painting

I thought I wouldn’t do any more till next weekend after Sunday’s painting, but I decided to do more painting yesterday afternoon.

I started by separating the components; this is the first time I’ve removed the walls from the floor since building them. As expected, it’s a little heavy, but not too heavy for me to lift, so that’s a relief for installation:

I then painted the floor a dark brown color:

I also painted the underside of the deck; not entirely pointful, but it’ll help protect the untreated deck boards from ground moisture:

I painted the edges and underside of the awnings with the same color (which closely matches the metal drip strip that will go around the edges):

Plus the roof eaves:

And finally the top of the facades:

(By the way, I made a mistake when painting the front of the facades: the right side in the above picture should be red, not blue. I’ll fix that when doing the second coat.)

Now I’m really done till the weekend (plus or minus a few days; weekdays have no meaning for me).