Studies have long touted the benefits of household pets for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Animals not only serve as a source of comfort and support but studies have shown that pets can decrease loneliness and stress. However, pets require exercise, food, water and frequent vet visits. Despite the benefits, maintaining a pet is a lot to ask of a caregiver and can be next to impossible for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
A recent study found that interacting with a robotic pet can offer many of the same benefits as live animals for patients with dementia. This study, which provided robotic cats to 12 people with Alzheimer’s or dementia attending an adult day care over 12 visits, showed that all participants benefited from improved mood scores over time and over half of the participants showed increased Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) test scores at the end of the study. Participants in the study were assigned a robotic cat and were encouraged to name, hold and interact with the pet. Though most participants remembered that the cats were not real, they seemed to find joy talking to, playing with, and stroking the cats. Participants said the cats made them feel good and continued to ask to spend time with the cats, and researchers found only positive outcomes and no known risks from the project.
Robotic pets can be a relatively inexpensive source of comfort and entertainment for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We took a look at some of the most popular robotic pets to find the best option for your loved one.
Joy For All Orange Tabby Cat ($125)
This robotic pet, which was used in the study, comes in four cute colors. As one of the most interactive choices on the market, this cat features a “vibrapurr” technology to give it an authentic purr that sounds and feels like a real cat. We like its impressive range of motion: It opens and closes its eyes, lifts its paw, opens its mouth and moves its head and body. It responds to motion and touch such as petting and hugging and features synthetic, soft fur inspired by real feline breeds. Joy For All companion pets won the “caregiver friendly” award from Today’s Caregiver in 2016 and 2017.
Ultra-realistic but not interactive, this cat was created by experienced master craftsmen and closely resembles a real animal. The cat comes with a comb to offer a similar “grooming” experience and could be a soothing presence for a cat lover.
This highly-rated kitty is designed to breathe and purr just like a real cat. It comes in various cat and dog styles and while reviewers report that dementia patients love the realistic breathing element, some have noted that the pets seem slightly smaller than expected.
A great alternative for dog lovers, this fuzzy pup features a 2.5 pound bodyweight that provides a calming presence for older adults struggling with dementia or Alzheimers. Its heavy, warm body feels lifelike and a pocket in its tummy holds ceramic beads that can be heated or cooled to emit a lavender scent.
In addition to individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia, these pets may also help individuals struggling with social isolation and loneliness and can be a great alternative when caring for a live animal is out of the question.