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Fake pets give real love to dementia patients

Patient plays with mechanical cat

August 02, 2018

Fake cat comforting Hospice patient (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Dementia patients at the Hospice of the Valley have been given the gift of companionship with mechanical pets.

Robotic dogs and cats the purr and wiggle like real animals and have brought love are friendship during a time that is most needed.

Robotic cat created to give companionship to those in need (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

“A lot of times dementia patients will be very stoic and quiet and kind of lost in their own little world, but you bring one of these mechanical pets and put it in front of them, put it in their lap and it starts moving, maybe it’s meowing or purring, and they just come alive,” explained Lin Sue Cooney, director of community engagement at Hospice of the Valley. “Their faces light up. Their hands start to stroke the fur. They cuddle. They hug. It makes all the difference in their life and there is nothing like that beautiful joy.”

Both patients and family members appreciate the impact that these faux fur friends give. Loved ones can’t always be with their family members suffering from dementia, to know that they don’t feel alone while they are away can bring a great comfort.

David, husband to Hospice of the Valley patient (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

David, whose wife is a patient at Hospice of Valley, said he happy his wife has her robotic cat.

“It makes me feel very good, and feel happy, because she’s happy,” David said. “She’s joyful and that is just a tremendous feeling to know that she’s been taken care of well and that she has a companion when I’m not here.”

Dementia patient takes a nap with his robot dog (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Some of the benefits of having a mechanical pet are that the patients don’t have to train, feed or walk them. But despite their furry friends being battery-operated, many dementia patients aren’t aware that the animals are not alive.

Lin Sue Cooney, Director of community engagement at Hospice of the Valley (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

“They’re not real but our patients feel like they are real," Cooney said. “They don’t feel like they are alone. [The pets are] comforting. What is better than having that sweet vibration of a cat’s purr in your lap? It just brings it all back if you have ever loved a real pet.”