A new resident joined Collington’s memory care neighborhood last month, and he’s caught everyone’s attention. He spends his days curled up, being stroked along his back, and letting out the occasional purr. But this new resident isn’t what you might think, it’s actually a realistic animatronic pet. These robots have the ability to purr, wag their tails, blink their eyes, and even move their heads. The lifelike feline helps seniors who suffer from loneliness, anxiety, or dementia.

The Arbor, Collington’s memory care neighborhood, was helping one of their residents adjust to her new home when the idea of the animatronic cat first came up. The resident had been in independent living with her own cat for some time. She was very attached to her pet; however, memory care does not currently allow pets to live with the residents for health and safety reasons. Chief Operating Officer, Megan Barbour, along with Assistant Living Manager, Michelle McKenzie and the interdisciplinary team racked their brains trying to find a solution to their current problem. The resident was not doing well being separated from her companion, she constantly said how much she missed her cat, was having challenges sleeping, and was becoming very anxious.

Megan had some knowledge about robotic pets and how helpful they can be to Alzheimer and dementia patients, but she had never used one before. She, along with the rest of the team, decided it would be the best idea to give it a try and see how the resident would respond to the animatronic cat. To their surprise, she immediately fell in love with her new furry friend. Not only that, but the other memory care residents seemed to be positively affected by the cat as well. Residents who don’t normally perk up were instantly wide-eyed and curious, and those who tend to suffer from sundowning were much calmer.

The resident and her robot cat are nothing short of stars around the memory care neighborhood. The pair have become the heads of the “Cat Committee”, and the feline has become a staple of giving people in the Arbor purpose and meaning in their lives. As for the cat’s owner, she has seen incredible improvements in her sleep, anxiety, and was even able to reduce her need for extra care.

The situation was a big win for the interdisciplinary team. Transitions for memory care residents can be extremely difficult, but with the help of the cat, they were able to successfully adjust her to her new environment while also helping the other residents in the process. Though they currently offer animal therapy to their residents, having a pet that could live with them full time created a different kind of advantage. Memory care hopes to eventually let animals live with residents full time.