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Robot cat hopes to bond with lonely seniors

In another effort to provide companionship for elderly people, a global toy company has released a robotic cat that responds to the actions of its owner – hopefully allowing them to be less lonely with a pet around.

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Robot cat hopes to bond with lonely seniors

In another effort to provide companionship for elderly people, a global toy company has released a robotic cat that responds to the actions of its owner – hopefully allowing them to be less lonely with a pet around.

Designed with built-in sensors that allow a life-like response to a person’s actions, the Joy for All Companion Pet cat reacts to hugs, tickles, and strokes. Creator Hasbro is selling the cat for £65.

"We heard from seniors across the country that companionship was important to their happiness,” said Ted Fisher, vice president of business development at Hasbro. "Many live alone, miss having a pet, or are no longer able to care for a pet.”

"While it's not a replacement for a pet, the Joy For All Companion Pet cat is a life-like alternative that can provide the joy and companionship of owning a real pet, without the often cumbersome responsibilities," he said.

When interacting with the cat, the goal is to create a calming environment. When the cat’s back is stroked, it purrs happily. If its face is touched, the cat will nuzzle its head into their hand. If you keep stroking it, it rolls on its back for a belly rub. If the owner continues to interact with the cat, it will eventually fall asleep.

But unlike other pets, these cats don’t need to be fed or use the litter tray.

The battery-powered tabby cat comes in cream, silver and orange and has been described as being a soothing presence by its new owners, who often engage in conversation with their new pet.

One lady who spent time with the cat said: “It’s so relaxing, it just relaxes you completely.”

This is Hasbro’s first venture into the elderly market. There is a growing trend within the elderly care sector to use robotic care support. There are currently other robotic animals in use. The Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has been working with the University of Brighton in the use of “PARO”, a robotic baby seal used by people living with dementia in hospitals and care homes.

PARO, unlike Hasbro’s cat, reacts to the sound of its owner’s voice and costs upwards of £4,000. It can also “learn” and respond to the names patients and users give it. With an aging population in the UK, the development of new technology is seen as a key to modernising elderly care system. More than just robotic cuddly toys, driverless cars, cheaper stairlift technology, and other advancements are helping to push for better care in the future.

Image Credit: R∂lf Κλενγελ (flickr.com)

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