A care home in Bishopsteignton has found a creative way to maintain its pet therapy in between animal visits by introducing a robotic pet to its residents.
Moors Park House has a robotic cat which is shared among the residents, who have named him Joey. The life-size ginger tom, which was donated by the local Red Hat Society, includes a sensor which allows it to move in response to the residents’ voices, and the cat purrs and meows just like a real cat.
Earlier this year, the 37-bed residential care home hatched some ducklings which have now been re-homed to a small farm. Residents were missing the calming effects of stroking the ducklings, but robotic cat Joey has become a great substitute.
For resident Norma, Joey brings a lot of happiness to her daily life.
Norma said: “I used to have cats and they were always an important part of our family, so I love having Joey here. He is so soft and fluffy; I take him to my room sometimes and he sleeps on my bed. Knowing he’s there makes me feel happy.”
Linda Lowe, home manager at Moors Park House, has seen the special bond that residents have formed with the robotic cat and the benefits it brings.
She explained: “Most of our residents live with dementia and we’ve found over the years that animals bring a very calm and relaxing atmosphere.
“As well as the ducklings, we’ve had visits from dogs, giant snails, chickens and rabbits. The change in the residents when they see the animals in quite incredible, they are thrilled to see them.
“Joey the robotic cat is a lovely addition to the pet therapy animals we bring into the home, and he has a very positive impact on our residents’ day-to-day wellbeing.”
Pet therapy is known to have many long-term health benefits for older people, such as reducing anxiety and helping to lift their mood.
Robotic pets are also less likely to behave unpredictably, allowing people to relax. They provide company and residents can enjoy a sense of independence in ‘taking care’ of the animals as if they were their own pets.
Resident Rose has also taken a shine to the robotic cat.
Linda continues: “Rose really loves Joey, when he’s with her it calms her and she holds him almost like a baby, she’s very nurturing with him.
“Like real pets, they can be stroked, cuddled and pampered. Many of the residents talk to Joey and enjoy taking responsibility for him, which helps them to feel a sense of ownership and purpose.
“We all love our robotic cat and better still we don’t ever have to worry about feeding him or taking him to the vet!”