Unbelievably realistic pets bringing unbelievable joy to Burnbrae residents

A resident at OMNI Health Care's Burnbrae Gardens sits with a life-size mechanical cat on her lap. She softly strokes the cat, which happily purrs in response.

“I wish you were real,” the resident chuckles, still petting away. 

The cat the resident is holding is one of four realistic stuffed animals from Hasbro’s Joy for All Companion Pet series that Burnbrae Gardens recently purchased from Amazon. There are two cats and two dogs.

Everything about the Companion Pets is lifelike. The fur feels realistic, they bark and meow, they have heartbeats, they move their ears and eyes, and they will even roll over. The stuffed animals also respond to being touched and petted.

April Faux, the Campbellford long-term care home’s administrator and life enrichment co-ordinator, bought the Companion Pets with money she had left in her programming budget for this year. In only two weeks, it has been one of the best investments she has made for resident programming, she says.

“The reactions the residents gave were heartwarming; it almost brought tears to your eyes how much the residents connected with (the Companion Pets),” she tells The OMNIway. “It has surprised me, in a sense, the reaction they have with the residents.”

While the focus is for the Companion Pets to be used as part of Burnbrae Gardens’ Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) program, which aims to enhance quality of life for people with cognitive impairment, residents of all cognitive abilities are enjoying them, April says.

“Even though the residents who do not have cognitive impairment know (the Companion Pets) are not real, they still enjoy holding them and cuddling with them,” April says.
Burnbrae Gardens resident Frank Trombley sits in his wheelchair, holding one of the cat Companion Pets
Residents with cognitive impairment are finding it comforting to hold the animals and pet them, April says. Other residents are amazed at how realistic the stuffed animals are, she adds.

“We had one lady who picked up one of the cats and went down to kiss it, and the cat raised its paw and touched the resident’s face, which got quite a reaction,” April says.

One resident who is receiving palliative care has been given one of the cats to hold, and this is having a calming effect, April adds.

The Companion Pets have even had a positive impact on staff members, April says.

“The morale has increased with the staff, just by seeing how happy the residents (have been) when providing the four (Companion Pets) to them,” she says.

“One staff member even asked where I purchased them, because they want to buy one for residents out of their own money for Christmas.”

Click here to read more about the Companion Pets.

In photo: Resident Frank Trombley can be seen holding one of the Companion Pets that the home recently purchased.

This story was published by Axiom News, originally on OMNI Health Care's website. Reposted with permission.