Robotic pet cats can boost cognition and mood and decrease feelings of fear and anxiety for people with anxiety, according to researchers at Florida Atlantic University.
Having a furry friend is an obvious mood booster for many; but, for some, having a pet isn’t a viable option.
Whether due to impairments which mean they can’t adequately look after the pet without putting the pet or themselves at health risks or due to financial costs, a recent study has been looking into how robotic animals can have therapeutic qualities.
The study focused on adults with dementia which, in the UK, number over 850,000 people, with one in 14 at risk of developing dementia over the age of 65.
Researchers would go on to test how the robotic pet cats, placed in an adult day centre over the course of 12 visits, could help improve moods, behaviour, and cognition. The participants involved were all informed that the cat was not a live animal.
Each participant was allowed to select a name for their cat, as well as a collar and personalised name tag, and the researchers found that many of the participants smiled and talked to their robotic cats, expressing loving sentiments.
One participant even slept with her robot pet cat while she was hospitalised, and several of the caregivers reported seeing the participants having conversations with the pets or playing with them and feeling soothed by their presence.
About the project researchers wrote: ‘Results from this therapeutic and affordable pet intervention were positive. The cost for these publicly available therapeutic pets is substantially less than others built specifically for medical use.
‘Also, TIP provided participants with an alternative way to express themselves. It appeared to provide participants with a companion, as they often spoke to the pet and shared their feelings.’
For those who cannot have a pet as a viable option, studies such as these are showing that technology is bringing our love of animals firmly into the future – to the benefit of our mental health and therapeutic practices.
Photo by Daria Shatova