Second Chance: Therapeutic Robotic Cats!

Second Chance: Therapeutic Robotic Cats!

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I read an article in the New York Times about the use of robotic cats for therapeutic purposes with Alzheimer’s patients. At first, I thought it was offensive to the elderly patients, as well as to living cats who should be providing the therapy themselves. But as I read further, I pushed judgment aside, recognizing it actually honors both…

In the United States, more than 1 in 3 older adults dies with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, for which there is no cure. Dementia affects more than 50 million people worldwide. The disease is often accompanied by behavioral and psychological symptoms, including depression, aggression, and anxiety. Medications used to treat these symptoms can have side effects, so alternatives are sought before relying on medication. This is how robotic cat therapy was born.

The Times article described a situation when a nursing home got its first robotic cat and tried it out on a resident in her late 70s who was searching in a panic for her long-deceased parents. Rather than the usual intervention of a tranquilizer, the patient was handed the robotic cat, and immediately calmed down.

The facility has since acquired 24 more, with plans to potentially triple that number. A staff member of the facility shared, “For a lot of our residents, it’s a chance to be a caregiver, and to be in an active, empowered role again, a lot of times this disease causes passivity, and we’re always looking for ways to combat that.” At times the program participants believe the cats are real, a caregiver explains, “as long as it’s a source of tremendous joy, we just follow the narrative.”

So why use robots instead of real cats? Those with Alzheimer’s are usually unable to provide proper care for a pet. The robotic cats are built to mimic live cats. They purr, blink their eyes in response to being spoken to, expose their bellies, and are soft and cuddly.

Additionally, although many care facilities are engaging in animal-assisted therapy during certain hours of the week, robotic pets provide benefits during the times of isolation, when awake at 3 in the morning and there is not an aide or therapy dog available.

Early studies on the application of therapeutic robotic cats are showing not only a reduction in the major impacts of the disease, such as depression, anxiety, and agitation, but a significant improvement in mood, behaviors, and mental acuity. They are proving to provide an alternative way for participants to express themselves. These improvements are translating to an improved quality of life for caregivers and family members too.

One of the researchers looking into the efficacy of these programs stated, “You wouldn’t think that a furry little movable cat would really make a difference, but it evokes emotional responses in persons with cognitive impairment who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience something as delightful as just playing with a pet.”

People with Alzheimer’s disease should always be treated with dignity, respect and recognized as a whole person, regardless of their disease stage. Devices like robotic pets should be used to enhance relationships and not act as a substitute for relationships. When this is happening, I am all for these programs.

About me.

My name is Lollipop. I am still young enough to be called a kitten. I was abandoned but fortunately found my way to Second Chance because I am super friendly and love people. I would be very therapeutic to anyone willing to love me back.

Come meet me!

AND… To continue the new Second Chance Highlights section we wanted to share the following:

Thank You For Being a Friend… 

We are proud to be participants of the viral campaign #BettyWhiteChallenge. Betty White’s decades of tireless animal advocacy has left an indelible legacy. The viral campaign urges donations to animal welfare organizations, like Second Chance Humane Society, on January 17 in honor of her 100th birthday.
Consider a donation today (add #BettyWhiteChallenge in the memo)...

Thank you so much, Teri Gibson Butler, for sharing Sam’s sweet story with us! We appreciate you!

We adopted Sam the dachshund from you 9 years ago today. He was supposedly 6-7 years old then, so that puts him around 15-16 now with more adventures in store. We love our Old Man Sammy, and we are so glad he’s part of our family! 

Happy Adoption Day Sam – You Lucky Dog (and Family)!

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