Robotic cats are being used by researchers at Wrexham Glyndwr University to improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia.
Researchers from the University have joined forces with a US toy giant to conduct research into how robotic companion pets can have a positive impact on people suffering with the condition.
The robotic toy cats are designed to bring comfort, companionship and fun, and because they do not need cleaning or feeding, they are provide perfect companions for those living with dementia.
With realistic fur and pet-like sounds, the cats have sensors that mean they respond to petting and hugs with familiar pet-like actions such as purring and rolling over.
The cats can really help lift people's mood, as Dr Joanne Pike, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, observed for herself when her own mum, Gwladys (pictured right) – who sadly passed away last month aged 94, after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease – was given one of the pets to care for.
“I remember how mum would brighten up and her eyes sparkle when she talked to it,” said Dr Pike.
“She loved cats as we used to have them when she was younger, so she was familiar with them. The robotic companion had an identity, it reminded her of the past and made her smile.
“Towards her later days, even if she didn’t talk to us she would be talking to the cat and stroking it. Mum felt comfort in that, it made her come alive.”
Wrexham Glyndwr University's research aims to explore the benefits the robotic pets could make to the health industry.
Volunteers with dementia needed in North Wales to research the impact of the robotic cats
Researchers are now looking for people in the North Wales area to take part in the research. They are planning to give 10 of the ‘robocats’ to people living at home or in sheltered accommodation in the north east Wales region before visiting them over a six-month period.
“Ideally we want people living at home with dementia – or their families and carers – to get in touch if they’ve maybe had a cat in the past and can no longer look after one, or would like some company,” explains Professor Rich Picking, Lecturer in Computing.
“We will come along and introduce them to their new friend in their own surroundings, then come back after a few weeks, and then months to see how they’ve got on. Whether they’ve formed a bond, whether it’s made a difference.
“Of course they can keep the cat, we would not take it back from them. We would like to see what the level of interaction was, and then see how it can be developed further for research and health purposes.”