Robotic Therapy Pets

Animals are part of daily life; many of the residents in our services have grown and lived working with farm animals, may have had a profession as a vet; they’ve owned fluffy cats and lovable dogs. 

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, our residents used to receive a weekly visit from Pets As Therapy (PAT) dogs into the home. This was hugely beneficial for some of the residents, in terms of their well-being. The pets provided sensory stimulation, particularly for residents with dementia who would stroke and talk to the PAT dogs. Due to the pandemic, these visits had to stop, so we have decided to purchase robotic therapy pets as a substitute for the PAT dogs.

Many residents just ‘know’ to be gentle: to pat a dog on the head, or stroke their soft ears, to lower their tone of voice and to be kind. It’s that similar response that they have towards babies, which fills a resident with content and warmth. 

The use of robotic therapy pets can have that similar reaction on the residents, they are safe to use and can enhance person centred care rather than replacing human contact. The robotic animals don’t shed fur, they’re allergy free and there is no mess, so no need to keep letting them outside. Evidence suggests that robotic animals can enhance quality of life for anyone who may be socially isolated, calming their anxiety, giving them something to ‘hold and nurture’ whilst providing the companionship that a resident may not have felt for some time. 

We have already purchased a few of these robotic therapy pets and found that residents become attached, they stroke, talk and kiss, the animals will purr, meow, move heads and sigh.  The animals can be used to increase interactions with others, including residents, loved ones and staff. It helps to stimulate conversation, adding a point of focus and discussion. 

Case study:

One resident is so attached to one of the cats that she keeps it in her room and is always talking to it. She calls it ‘The Cat’ and spends a lot of time holding and cuddling it. It has had a huge positive impact on her general well-being and she is very comforted by it. 

Another resident is so attached to one of the dogs that he carries it around with him, with the dog’s head on his shoulder. He is often stroking and talking to it. When the resident has left the dog in his room, he regularly goes back to check the dog is OK! Kay Reid is the Activities Coordinator at Brendoncare Froxfield:

“It’s lovely seeing the residents that use the pets, they are always smiling and enjoy conversations with their particular pet. The mechanical cats and dogs have been an excellent alternative to PAT dogs.”