Feeding Fido & Fluffy: Designing an Automatic Pet Feeder *

Areas of Science Mechanical Engineering
Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites You need to have a cooperative pet that you can test your designs on.
Material Availability Depending on your design, you will have to order special parts or visit thrift shops and used-appliance stores to find a VCR. Simpler pet feeders can be made of materials found at home.
Cost Average ($50 - $100)
Safety If you are using an old VCR to make your pet feeder, then remember to use safety precautions. The VCR's capacitor, a component that stores energy, can discharge large amounts of electrical charge through you if you are not careful. If you decide to make a simpler pet feeder from plastic parts, you may still need to use tools. Follow all tool safety instructions and wear eye protection. Adult supervision is required.
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


An overnight trip to the beach or a quick two-day vacation can be lots of fun. What do you do to prepare? Pack your clothes, get sunscreen lotion, and borrow a book from the library. But wait! Who is going to feed your dog or cat? It would be irresponsible to let them go hungry. And you can't just leave food out, because it can get stale and start to grow bacteria, which can cause your pet to get sick. Also, it is not a good idea to leave bowls of food out because a pet might overeat, which is not at all healthy. What if there was a way to feed your pet automatically? That would be very helpful!

In this mechanical engineering science project, you will follow the engineering process to design and create an automatic pet feeder. What is the engineering process and how is it different from the scientific method? Read the Science Buddies Engineering Design Process Guide, which details the steps of the engineering process. Click through and read all of the documents to help you focus your thoughts and then start designing and building.

The first step in the engineering process is to Define the Problem. In this case, you need to find a reliable way of feeding your pet for two days. As you go through the different steps in the engineering process, you will have to think carefully about what you want your pet feeder to accomplish. For instance, how many times a day do you want to feed your pet? How much per feeding? How will you build the pet feeder? Will the pet feeder hang from a door or will it sit on the floor? You can build a pet feeder using simple materials like plastic containers, cardboard, pie plates, and glue. You can also employ electronic parts, robotic systems, or the Internet to build more expensive and complicated feeders.

Find pictures of pet feeders to get ideas. There are many sources online that you can view to get ideas on how to build an automatic pet feeder. Do you need to feed your pet cat? Watch this VCR cat feeder video to learn one way to build a feeder. When building your design, remember to wear safety glasses if you use tools and follow safety precautions if working with electronic parts.

Remember that it may take a couple of trials to build and test your designs, so don't give up! At the end of this project, you will end up with a cool way to feed your pet and the ability to go on a short vacation knowing that your pet is being taken care of.

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Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies

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MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Feeding Fido & Fluffy: Designing an Automatic Pet Feeder." Science Buddies, 28 July 2017, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/ApMech_p046/mechanical-engineering/designing-an-automatic-pet-feeder. Accessed 22 Oct. 2019.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2017, July 28). Feeding Fido & Fluffy: Designing an Automatic Pet Feeder. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/ApMech_p046/mechanical-engineering/designing-an-automatic-pet-feeder

Last edit date: 2017-07-28


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