Robotic cats helps dementia patients

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ROBOTIC therapy cats are bringing comfort to dementia patients in Aireborough.

The realistic ‘pets’ are being supplied to local organisations by Aireborough Rotary after fundraising by its members.

The group has presented therapy cats to Memory Lane Day Care Centre in Yeadon and Sunningdale Nursing Home in Rawdon. They were bought with the proceeds of two fundraising walks organised by the group’s community chairperson Sally Mohan and carried out by her dog Jake.

They are already proving a hit with their new owners.

The first cat, named Hope, was presented to Memory Lane in January.

Aireborough Rotary spokesman Robert Mirfield said: “It was marvellous to hear from the centre that one of the members spent the whole afternoon petting Hope and enjoying talking to this interactive cat.”

The second feline – Jake – was donated to Sunningdale later in the month.

Katie Friel from the nursing home said: “Jake is an absolute success here at Sunningdale. He has brought great joy to many residents and has been cuddled a great deal.”

In October, funds will be raised again for robotic cats in Guiseley and Horsforth.

The inspiration for the venture came from Sheila Wainwright, President of the Wakefield Rotary Club whose husband John died seven years ago from early onset dementia after becoming increasingly violent as the illness progressed.

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Mr Mirfield said: “A massive amount of comfort, advice and dedication came from an Admiral Nurse leading her to fund-raise to secure such trained mental health nurses for her local hospice. But along the way she also remembered how when John became violent, their little cat jumped on his knee and he would begin to stroke her. She seemed to give him peace and calm.

“At a dementia conference in Kirklees she discovered robotic cats sold by an American company to provide comfort for people with dementia. In a recent Rotary magazine article she wrote ‘run on batteries the cats are hugely realistic. They miaow, roll over, purr, lick their paws and bring a smile to anyone who sees them. And what’s more, they don’t need feeding or litter trays.’

Mr Mirfield added: “They encourage people to respond, sometimes to speak for the first time in a long time and help to break the barrier of social isolation.”

Mrs Wainwright borrowed a robotic cat and began to show it to groups.

Writing in the magazine she said: “The response from people everywhere was amazing with so many asking me to buy them a cat, I couldn’t cope.

“Encouraged by a fellow Rotarian, who had found another article about the value of these cats, I began to think what a good project this would be for Rotarians to take on board.

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“I remembered how, when John was violent, our little cat often jumped on his knee and he would begin to stroke her. She seemed to give him peace and calm.”

She appeared on the BBC1 show Let’s Get a Good Thing Going and was overwhelmed by reaction.

“The responses after the programme were astonishing,” she said. “I was overwhelmed by people writing from all over the country, as well as from Spain, all requesting information about the cats and asking how they could obtain one.

“I even had an envelope addressed to ‘The Robotic Cat Lady near Wakefield’.

“And there were many donations from people who said they had watched the programme and wanted to give something towards buying a cat for someone who would enjoy having one.”

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