Category Archives: Pets

About A Robot

This is a story about a robot. Actually, it’s a story about a new house, nine cats, and a robot.

When we got our new (old) house, we knew that we wanted tile floors. Even though the humidity isn’t as bad in Central Texas as it is near the coast, it’s still pretty high. And we have cats. A lot of cats. Which, as any cat owner knows, means hair and puke and other misadventures. So, carpet was out.

The house we found has tile in most of the main floor, but the bedrooms had carpet. So, before we moved in, we ripped out the carpet and put in “wood” (vinyl) flooring “boards”. Easy to install and clean.

Just sweep and mop! Except, I’m an extraordinarily lazy person. I make excuses about my excuses not to do something, especially something as mundane as cleaning a floor. Which really isn’t that good, considering the amount of cat hair our babies generate. In technical terms, it’s an assload of hair. Tumbleweeds of hair.

I did some research on cleaning non-carpeted floors and ran across a cat group. They had tried a number of things, but one that seems pretty successful was the Neato Robot.

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Unlike the iRobot, which just knocks around into things, the Neato is laser guided. It makes a map of the objects in the room and then follows that map. (It does have bump sensors for objects out of its view — too low.)

The other thing that sold me on the Neato was the price — I could get a high-end model for the price of a mid/low range iRobot. And, here is laziness coming in again, it has a pretty good sized dust bin.

We’ve had it for about 4 months now — long enough for me to give a proper review.

Long story short, it does a pretty darn  good job of keeping our home floors clean. It picks up a LOT of hair. And I do mean a LOT. Not perfect — it does blow tumbleweeds around sometimes — but very good. Whenever I clean the bin I’m always amazed by the amount of crap it picks up.

Downsides? It will take more than one charge to clean our modest 1500 square foot home (it’s actually cleaning less than that, as we have one room closed off). The good thing is that when it runs low on juice, it just docks, recharges, then starts up again. But that takes a while.

Because we have a lot of obsticles around, it does take time to clean. I think about an hour to do most of the rooms — but that’s an hour of machine time.

It’s not the quietest thing in the world, but it’s a vac, so you can’t fault that. The bin still needs to be cleaned at least once during a vac session, but, to be fair, we have a lot of cats and they generate a lot of loose hair.

It’s pretty rare for it to get stuck somewhere. The Neato is good at getting itself out of problem areas, but once in a while it beeps to get help (it also alerts you if the bin is full).

One thing it does force us to do is some “pre cleaning”. We have to pick up any rope-like toys that might tangle in the revolving brush. And we put away the snack trays or any other light furniture (it will push around some light stuff, especially if it gets stuck on the item). This is actually a good thing, in a way, as it forces us to maintain a certain level of non-messiness. Keeping crap off the floor is good! The Neato is also the reason why I designed all of our bookshelves to be 6″ off the ground — so it can clean under them.

Cleaning the Neato is a breeze. The bin is easy to empty. The filter gets some shop vac action to keep it clean (I do this once in a while, not every time). The brush/roller is extremely easy to remove and clean. Far easier than any traditional vac.

Spending hundreds of dollars on a robot vac seemed pretty crazy to me at first. But, I thought about it. Opportunity cost. The time we save not having to vac/sweep will pay for the robot within a year. That’s a pretty good return on investment. Plus, we don’t have to handle a task that we don’t like.

What about the cats? Amazingly, after a few runs, they get perfectly used to it. Doesn’t phase them a bit. They either follow it around, seeing where it will go next, or just hop up somewhere and take a nap. I has very glad of that — I didn’t need a house full of paniced cats!

DSCN4636 (Small)P.S. This blog posting was typed in my living room, on my recliner, on the antique AlphaSmart 3000. Cats can jump on my lap and I don’t worry about them screwing up my work or me dropping a laptop. I’m not typing this on the AS to be cool — but because a certain little kittie of mine decided that my chair was the ideal place for a nap. The things I do for my babies.

Cat Crib Stand

Our cats love the Cat Crib, but they really haven’t used them when attached under a chair. Instead, we made some inexpensive and easy to assemble stands for the cribs.

This version will make a unit about 20″ square and 34″ tall.

Here’s what you need:

  • Three 10′ pieces of 3/4″ PVC Schedule 40 pipe. This is the kind you get for plumbing. They are about $2.28 each at Lowes.
  • Four 3/4″ Schedule 40 couplings. $2.61 for a pack of 10.
  • Eight 3/4″ Schedule 40 90 degree Side Outlet Elbow. $1.60 each.






Total cost will be about $22.25 + tax.

The only tool you’ll need is a saw. I do mine on a miter saw, because it’s so quick. But you can use a hack saw, sabre saw, or PVC pipe cutters (if you own them already). I would not recommend a table saw and definitely don’t use a circular saw — too dangerous.

  1. Cut eight pieces 18″ long.  This makes the size of the square and is the smallest size for a Cat Crib to work. I’ve make some with 21″ spans, and that works fine, too. You’ll use all of one piece of 10′ PVC pipe and some of another.
  2. Cut four pieces 28″ long. These make the legs. You can adjust to just about any height. As little as 6 inches, but I wouldn’t go over 28″ (it becomes too tippy). You’ll use most of one piece of a 10′ PVC pipe.
  3. Cut four pieces 3″ long. These are used, with the couplings, to keep the crib from slipping down. Don’t go any less than 3″, or the straps won’t fit. Anything from 3″ to 6″ is fine.


  1. Use four 90 degree side output elbows and four 18″ pieces of PVC pipe to make a square. Make sure the open outlets all face the same direction (ex. “up”) and that everything is square and tight. Tap together the pieces with a rubber mallet for a tight fit — but don’t bang too hard, or you’ll crack the elbows.
  2. Repeat the above step to make a second square.
  3. Attach a coupling to the end of a 28″ piece of pipe. Attach the 3″ piece to the open end of the coupling. So, you have 28″ + coupling + 3″ piece.
  4. Repeat the above step for the other three legs. You’ll have four in total.
  5. Using the four legs, make an elongated cube using the two squares. I usually put the four legs into one of the cubes, then align the other on top, and tap together. Make sure that the couplings (near the 3″ piece) are all on the same side (ex. “top”).

You’ll notice that I didn’t use any PVC cement on this. I’ve found that with 3/4″ you really don’t need it. The friction fit is pretty strong. And it allows you to play with the height of the unit, if you want. If you find it’s not tight, then use cement.

That’s it. Now, hang the crib from the upper part (the couplings keep it from sliding) and you’re set. Very simple design and easy for kids to assemble.

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And remarkably sturdy. Our 20# cat jumps into it without a problem. If you are going to have it outside, just drill some holes in some of the bottom pieces and screw into a deck. Or stake down. The cribs aren’t rated for outdoor use, so I’d keep it under cover. Or, make your own, out of canvas or whatnot.

Here’s a shorty version I made. This one is even easier, as you don’t need a bottom square.

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A modified version, using 90 degree elbows at two corners. So it would fit around the back of our Precor.

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Bouncing Thingie Prototype Arm

Here’s a prototype of the arm. The arm is PVC and the box is 1×3.

In this photo you can see I’m using wooden dowels for the stops. I used a wine cork (with a dowel in the center) for the upper limit stop, so that it won’t be noisy when the spring returns the arm.

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In this photo you can see the unit upright. The spring returns the arm to the up position. The cam assembly (yet to be built — I might use one of my old props) will push from the top (against the spring) to move the arm down.

DSCN3894 (Large)The pipe pivots via a hole drilled in it, with a dowel as an axle.


Next Automated Cat Toy: The Bouncing Thingie

Sketching out an idea for the next automated cat toy. A motor with a cam will cause the rod to bounce up and down, with the rope and toy attached to the end. Rod has a spring return.

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Doing this instead of directly connecting to a motor, otherwise if the cat grabs on, the motor will bog. This will hopefully prevent that. (If the cat is hanging on, the cam just won’t do anything, as it won’t touch the rod.)


Cat Shelves

Been having some issues with cat fighting / aggression. Came up out of the blue, with two of our cats who’ve been together for years. Our lover boy Ari is being a terror. I think that part-Bengal is showing. So, I’m in the shop working on shelves for the cats. Luckily, our dining room has some “lovely” wood paneling, so putting shelves in there will not distract from the ambiance.