Build your own automatic tennis ball launcher for dogs.
By Dean Segovis
Several years ago I watched a viral YouTube video that starred Jerry the Dachshund, whose engineer owner had built him his very own automated ball launcher. I had two dogs at the time, and was also unemployed with some time on my hands, so I decided to try my hand at building one.
After a few days rummaging through some junk boxes, I hacked together a slingshot-style automatic ball launcher that actually worked! It was pretty busy with parts though, and nearly 5 feet long. I wanted to go simpler.
Then on Discovery Channel’s Prototype This I saw a small spring mechanism that I just “knew” would work in larger form for my launcher. It was based on a gearmotor that rotated an offset peg on a wheel. The peg pushed a whacker rod around the wheel and against a spring, until it reached a point where the rod could spring back freely the other way, whacking the ball. I had to build it, and build it I did. Now you can too.
The Fetch-O-Matic is the third and best version yet of this configuration. It will launch a tennis ball through the air about 25 feet with enough velocity to bounce and roll on for another 20–30 feet. It runs on 12–18 volts DC, so cordless drill batteries are an ideal rechargeable power source.
Make a cheery cat toy that sends tweets, and let your cat join the millions of other Twitter-critters who update the world regularly with their activities.
By Marc de Vinck
About 2 months ago, after years of begging and pleading from my family, I reluctantly agreed to get another cat from the local shelter. We already have a menagerie of beasts that share our home, but for some reason they felt we needed another.
I admit, I do like our new addition to the family. Chester is a spunky little stray who’s always looking for fun. Even if it means knocking a few things off my desk as I write this article. The only problem is, when my wife goes in to work, she misses her new cat and always wants to know his whereabouts.
She used to ask me for updates, but after a while I realized that I needed to make something that would take me out of the loop, and let the cat communicate with my wife directly via twitter.com. I needed a Twittering cat toy. And that’s how Kitty Twitty came to fruition, after some basic soldering and crafting with just a few parts.
Build a leather collar with style and substance.
By Paco Collars
I began working with leather seven years ago when I stumbled across it during the hunt for the perfect collar for my dog, Paco. Since I’ve never taken a class, most of the following techniques are either self-taught or passed on to me by old-time leather workers.
When working with leather, remember that it falls under the same rules as wood, metal, and stone: measure twice, cut once, and when you can’t beat it, learn to work with it.
Make a a flashy two-story cat rocket.
By Haley Pierson Cox
No matter how many fancy cat toys they have, there is nothing in this world that makes my cats happier than a good old fashioned cardboard box. So, taking a cue from them, I designed a cat tree that turns four regular cardboard boxes into a flashy two-story cat rocket, complete with carpet for scratching and a porthole to jumping into and spying out of. And, wouldn’t you know, it worked! I don’t think I’ve ever seen my cats more excited.
My husband has a soft spot for the Tintin books from his childhood, so we painted our rocket with the trademark red and white checkerboard design that he remembers so fondly. You don’t have to follow our lead, though. Feel free to paint your cat rocket to match any rocket ship you’d like!
Keep your pup warm and stylish in all kinds of weather.
By Lilly Shahravesh
My dogs love this traditional tweed coat for weekends in the country when the weather is crisp. Short-haired breeds and older dogs, in particular, benefit from an extra layer to keep them warm in winter. This coat’s woven tweed keeps out the chill on cold days, while its fleece lining makes it extra snuggly and soft to wear.
Tweed is the ideal choice for a country dog — perfect for romps through the woods and fields — but you can use any wool fabric for the outer layer. Something with texture and a pattern will make more of a statement, so think about your dog’s coloration, and choose a fabric that will complement his markings, to ensure that he’s the best-dressed hound on the hillside.
Excerpted from Canine Couture by Lilly Shahravesh (St. Martin’s Griffin).
Use an old VCR to automatically feed your pet on schedule.
By James Larsson
Any old VCR has a programmable timer that connects to motors for recording TV shows. This is analogous to feeding a cat, and following this principle, you can convert a VCR into a weekend pet feeder. You set the VCR’s timer, and when feeding time comes, the motor that would ordinarily spin the video head operates a food delivery mechanism instead. You can even program different size portions for different days, for times when you plan on returning midday. Like some vending machines, the feeder uses an auger mechanism, a helical shaft, to propel food from a hopper into the pet’s bowl. You can use the same basic mechanism to drop food into a fish tank.
Build a snack-dispensing scratching post that will make Kitty forget the couch and curtains.
By Larry Cotton and Phil Bowie
Has your cat left scratch marks on everything from grandmother’s kneecaps to your grandfather clock? It’s time to train Kitty to use this scratching post instead of everything else in your home.
A catnip cup in the top will attract your cat and place her in natural scratching position. Each time the cat claws downward on the spring-loaded carpeted cylinder, this device will deliver up to 4 special treats. Because you control the number of treats, you can keep your cat lean and gradually wean her off the treats altogether as she becomes accustomed to using the post, if you wish.
Turn corrugated cardboard into a sculptured cat pad.
By Julia Szabo
As a pet lifestyle expert, I’m often asked the question, “What do cats want?” The answer is simple: A fun outlet for their instinctive needs to scratch and climb.
Unfortunately, most commercial pet playgrounds consist of towers (aka “cat condos”) and scratching posts swathed in hideous nylon broadloom.
If you dread displaying these eyesores at home, you can now make your very own Catnip Castle. Easy to craft out of corrugated cardboard, it mounts to the wall, niftily saving room in small spaces. While the Castle’s sculptural lines are aesthetically appealing, it also works as furniture insurance, keeping Kitty’s claws gainfully occupied.