NORTHUMBERLAND, England — A British cat owner, tired of being woken up by his ‘ruthless serial killer’ cat who delivers gifts in the middle of the night, has invented an artificial intelligence-based cat flap, OnlyCat, that prevents her from taking prey home.
Martin Rosinski tore his hair out at the mischievous feline Jinx, who regularly woke him and his partner, Michelle Bowyer, up to four times a night, proudly dropping off prey and meowing loudly. Tired of sleeping in, trying to save and then clean up the poor victims of Jinx, the 37-year-old technology researcher decided to put his knowledge to good use and come up with a practical solution.
“It’s something I originally built as a prototype for my own use, because we were bombarded with two or three mouse deliveries every night. Jinx decided to move in with us two years ago in December 2020. After a few months, she started expressing her gratitude for having a new home by bringing us gifts,” Rosinski explained in an interview with South West News Service. “The first time I was working from home, I heard Michelle making a commotion because Jinx had come in with a mouse and dumped it on the carpet for her as a ‘thank you’. That’s their way of expressing love. You can’t turn her down, so we thanked her for it and took it from her.
“Then this started happening more and more to the point where we woke up at 2 a.m. to Jinx meowing loudly and announcing, ‘Hey, I have a present,’” he continues. “If we didn’t catch her soon enough, she’d decide to eat it herself, which would mean piles of mouse parts smeared into the carpet. This happened at 2am, then again at 4am on many nights and we wouldn’t sleep if we had to deal with this. Her record was four in one night — that night was a frenzy of three mice and one bird. It was something that was a real cause of stress.”
Rosinski says he was desperate for a solution to the problem he and Bowyer, a 33-year-old web developer, faced regularly. Putting into practice his love of software and electronics, he came up with an idea to keep her from going in with prey. He created his microchip-run cat flap by installing a camera and developing AI software that detects the presence of prey. If prey is detected, the cat flap will temporarily lock and a notification will be sent to his and Bowyer’s phones. A photo of the attempted entry is even included.
Since the installation of the OnlyCat prototype at his home in June of last year, Jinx, a 12-year-old domestic shorthair, has been able to bring in as many as 42 victims!
“Because I was both hobbyist and professional with software and electronics and making things, I thought I had the skills and the tools to solve this problem,” explains Roskinski. “I modified my cat flap by installing a camera and software that analyzes the image from the camera and decides whether it is an empty mouth or a mouth that contains a gift. In the event that it is a mouth containing a gift, two things would happen, one is that the cat flap would be temporarily locked. The other thing that would happen is it would send a notification to our phones and we would immediately get a little picture saying that there has been another delivery attempt. It has worked incredibly well and this past year has just been a different story.”
Having had personal success with the project, Martin has now turned to engineering company Transmission Dynamics to bring the product to market and help other pet owners enjoy the benefits of a victim-free home. His brother, Tom, is the company’s Chief Operations Officer.
“We want to be the first to take on that challenge and have all the expertise and skill to hopefully create a truly wonderful product that can change other people’s lives,” says Tom Rosinski. “We are looking at the launch on August 16, it is a very exciting time for us.”
A hilarious promo video shows owners bemoaning the gift situation, with an anonymous man telling the camera, “We really struggled to accept that our beloved cat was a ruthless serial killer.”
“Michelle and I go out and we get a message [that] another mouse was tried and blocked. In addition, we had a sense of connection with our cat, where we get a video of her face when she leaves the house or comes in when we are home or not,” Rosinski says. “After a year of installing the cat flap, we have 42 video clips of her attempts to bring in different bits of prey — some dead, some alive, and some somewhere in between.”
He believes the invention may have even helped the cat stop the horrific habit. “Two months ago I think something clicked and she realized, ‘I can’t take this one home. It’s just not going to work,” he says. “She still catches them outside, but she’s learned there’s no point even bringing them home, which is a relief.”
The Rosinski brothers and the Transmission Dynamics team are now looking to fulfill Martin’s prototype dream. They now want to crowdfund the project and get the OnlyCat cat flap on the market by April 2023. You can find more information on the OnlyCat crowdfunding page.
Report from South West News Service writer Helen Le Caplain.