How robotic cats can improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia

Robotic cats are being used by researchers at Wrexham Glyndwr University to improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia.

Researchers from the University have joined forces with a US toy giant to conduct research into how robotic companion pets can have a positive impact on people suffering with the condition.

The robotic toy cats are designed to bring comfort, companionship and fun, and because they do not need cleaning or feeding, they are provide perfect companions for those living with dementia.

With realistic fur and pet-like sounds, the cats have sensors that mean they respond to petting and hugs with familiar pet-like actions such as purring and rolling over.

The cats can really help lift people's mood. Dr Joanne Pike, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, observed this for herself when her own mum, Gwladys (pictured right) was given one of the pets to care for.

“I remember how mum would brighten up and her eyes sparkle when she talked to it,” said Dr Pike.

She loved cats as we used to have them when she was younger, so she was familiar with them. The robotic companion had an identity, it reminded her of the past and made her smile."

Robotic cats help people cope with the symptoms of dementia

Gwladys with her robotic cat

Towards her later days, even if she didn’t talk to us she would be talking to the cat and stroking it. Mum felt comfort in that, it made her come alive.”

“We know that pets can have a big impact on therapy and a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of an individual. These robotic companion pets are not a substitute but they are great company, particularly for someone elderly or living with dementia.”

The robotic cats were built and sold initially as toys, until the company began to explore benefits they could make to the health industry.

Lecturer in Computing, Professor Picking added that the study of robotic companion pets – which he labelled ‘companotics’ – could have a major say on future development of the product and research into the illness, which is a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes and impaired reasoning.