Does the arrival of high tech hypoallergenic animal-like robots you can switch off on a whim herald the end for real pets?

Robotic cat to help treat dementia

Yet another company has launched a pet-like robot for the healthcare market, hoping to harness the positive effects that animal companions demonstrably have on ill people while avoiding maintenance costs and possible allergy issues.

Unlike the bearoid robot ROBEAR, introduced earlier this week in Japan, the JustoCat, developed by researchers at Mälardalen University in Sweden, has no other purpose but to become a furry companion of dementia patients.

Expected to appear in Sweden’s mental care facilities soon, the robocat is designed to evoke positive recollections people may have associated with spending time with the felines, thus unblocking access to seemingly forgotten memories.

The cat breathes, purrs and meows, just like a real one, compared to which it offers certain advantages. Its hypoallergenic coat is washable and easily meets the high hygienic demands of the hospital environment. The robocat doesn’t need to be fed, doesn’t produce any waste and can be easily replaced with an identical unit in case of death. It also doesn't carry infectious disease and cannot hurt anyone, an obvious risk associated with sometimes unpredictable animals.

The robopet’s proponents say positive effects of the creature on patients with intellectual disabilities have been demonstrated. In a pilot research study, the robocat proved it can help calm down agitated patients, thus improving the quality of life of both the dementia sufferers and their carers.

According to the preliminary study carried out by researcher Marcus Persson at Mälardalen University, the robotic cat, resembling a child’s toy, can also contribute to a better psychosocial work environment for health care personnel.

So far, the cat only comes in grey and white, but the makers say different colours will be available soon.


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