Robotic cat brings joy to memory loss seniors
When Julie Nader brought her robotic cat Cuddles to a local memory care facility in early November, residents readily seemed to adopt the furry faux creature with many vying for its attention.
"I have a question, 'where's her litter box?'" joked one resident.
Ilene Holloway and Betty Chambers, both residents of the facility, fussed over the animal as others asked if they could be next to hold the critter, which is part of Hasbro toys' Joy for All Companion Pets collection.
"He's cute as the Dickens," said Holloway as she petted Cuddles, who in turn purred and lifted her paw. "I wouldn't mind getting two of them."
"I saw an article in the New York Times last December and I just thought it was a wonderful idea," said Nader, a Sherwood resident and voice coach. "The thing is it's good for all ages."
Or as a New York Times Magazine writer Jeremy Larson wrote in its March 27, 2016, issue: "Cat love is blithe and mysterious, like an old spy novel with more puking. Nevertheless, I am powerless but to adore my troubled and possibly haunted cat, which is why I have become increasingly intrigued by my grandmother's robot cat …"
So in January, Nader plunked down the $100 needed to purchase the Joy for All Companion Pet, which runs on four "C" sized batteries, opting for an orange tabby. (The toy company also offers a silver or white cat as well.)
Soon after, Nader decided it would be nice to attempt to find nonprofit organizations and civic groups willing to donate for the purchase of robotic cats for local dementia care facilities to keep.
But her more noble task was to see if she couldn't bring some joy to those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. So she started calling up numerous care facilities in the Portland area to see if they were interested in a visit from herself and Cuddles. So far, she has visited more than 10 area senior care communities and is winding up her visits.
Nader said the trips to dementia care facilities give her great satisfaction because they seem to bring many residents back to a time when they had a pet.
During her visit in Newberg, as Nader passed the animal around, one woman who normally has extreme anxiety immediately responded to the animal, calming her down.
"There's a real kitty sitting in my lap," she said several times. "She's so cute."
A moment later as the cat purred she assured the animal she was still there for her.
Jordan Hunter, a life enrichment assistant at the Newberg facility, said the woman often doesn't talk too much so the experience was good for her. Hunter later joked to one resident that one of the cat's attributes was she didn't cause allergies.
Sheri King, who works at the same senior care community that caters to those with memory loss, said that Cuddles seemed to relax the residents she came in contact with.
As Nader placed Cuddles in a basket and headed for her next destination, a woman approached her in a corridor to thank her for the visit.
"That was great," the woman said. "All those little faces lit up."