Dementia Patients Respond Eagerly to Lifelike Kittens that Remind Them of Their Pets

The residents of The Atrium at Rocky Hill have been benefitting from spending time with baby dolls since early 2020. The dolls provided them with a sense of purpose and gave them something to love and care for.

“This program gives a sense of purpose and creates meaningful connections for our residents,” says Executive Director Allyson Sweeney.

Photo: News 8 WTNH

However, the project came to a grinding halt when COVID-19 hit. New dolls were no longer being brought in, and there weren’t enough to go around to every resident who wanted one. On top of that, the inability to have gatherings and visitors dampened spirits quite a bit.

Now that COVID-19 restrictions have mostly lifted, however, the program is back on track, this time introducing fake kittens to remind residents of their favorite furry friends. They meow, purr, and even knead like real cats.

Photo: News 8 WTNH

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“What we’re always looking for is a way for [the residents] to do something they’ve always done whether it’s nurturing a baby or a pet,” says Allyson.

Many of the residents had to give up their pets in order to move into the nursing home. It’s not uncommon for a resident, even a dementia patient, to miss pets from their past.

Photo: News 8 WTNH

Marcia Piwarzyk, for example, has already developed a whole personality for her kitten after having had her for only a week. She claims Maggie has been with her for a few years and loves to roam around outside.

“I’m a cat person. They’re friendlier. She loves to brush up against you and purr,” says Marcia. “She makes me happy.”

“This is a way for them to still feel connected to that animal,” says Allyson.

Photo: News 8 WTNH

Raising the funds for the project was not easy during COVID, as the cats each cost about $100, but the Rotary Club of Wethersfield-Rocky Hill believes it was necessary. They’ve been shown to reduce agitation and improve mood and cognition. So far, 27 residents have been gifted one of the robotic cats.

The Rotary Club is now working on getting to know the residents of the home on a more personal basis so they can do kind things for them that will better suit their individual needs.

Check out the video below to see the patients with their beloved kitties.

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