Programming the Cat

Programming the Cat

I’ve had a bit of down time lately, and thought I’d try to teach my old cat a new trick. So I downloaded the cat food dispenser from thingiverse and printed it. Now came the tricky part, teaching to cat to use it.

Training the cat is really just like programming in a new language. You just have to figure out how to do something really simple first before you move on to the final goal. You need to just try things until something works. With Max, the trick was getting him to raise his paw for food. Once he could do that, I had a tool of communication to work with.

It wasn’t easy at first. I had to bat at his head with my hand until he was annoyed enough to strike back. Luckily Max just thought were playing and didn’t scratch the heck out of me, but he’s a good cat. As soon as he raised his paw to play back I would give him some food. It took a good thirty minutes and several sessions before he really caught on to what I was doing. I could now put out my hand, he would touch mine, and he got a treat. I had trained my cat to fist bump for food.

The hard part was transitioning from touching my hand for food to pulling a lever for food. I had to print a second lever as a prop. I used this to train him to touch the lever instead of my hand to get food. Eventually he figured that out, but I was still holding the lever. To get him to touch the lever on the food dispenser I had to sit on the ground next to it and hold out the lever. I did the same trick over and over bringing the lever ever closer to the dispenser until I could finally take it away. He had made the connection between touching the lever and getting food. This all took about a week. Cats just don’t have the patience to sit there and do tricks for food for more than maybe five minutes.

The video below shows the final moments of him making the transition from me giving him food to the dispenser giving it to him. You can really see him thinking about it. Now I can hear the occasional sound of the falling cat food, and its weird to think that I’ve somehow trained a cat.


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