Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.
If you've ever wanted a dog or cat but lacked the time to care for one, there’s another option. Get a robotic pet! It’s not quite like having a real dog or cat but there are some advantages. For instance, they don't shed. Yet they have some of the same mental health benefits as adding a real dog to your family. Owning a robotic dog could provide comfort and unconditional love in a chaotic world.
Robotic Pets Offer Companionship
Loneliness is an issue for people who live alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 40% of adults over age 45 are affected by chronic loneliness, and 25% of adults between 18-64 report feeling lonely or isolated "often."
Robotic pets can be programmed to respond to your mood. If you're feeling down, they'll let you know they're there for you. This could be a source of comfort and calm for someone who lives alone and has no family.
Some robotic dogs, for example, look surprisingly realistic and even have the mannerisms of dogs. Their fur is soft against your fingers, and when you pet one, it feels like you’re caressing a dog. And some can wag their tail and nuzzle you. Plus, you can “train” them to move through your home without bumping into things.
Yet you don’t have the same responsibilities with a robot dog or cat as you do a real pet, like yearly vet visits and you don’t have to take them for a daily walk. Robots require minimal maintenance compared with living animals; this makes them ideal candidates if you don't have time on your hands but still want companionship.
Transitioning to a Real Pet
Another benefit of a robotic pet is that it can be a first step in taking care of a real pet. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue, you might have considered adopting a dog or cat but aren’t sure if you’re ready for the responsibility.
Having a robotic companion might help ease you into the idea. You could learn firsthand how much time and energy caring for another living creature requires without having to worry about being completely responsible for an animal.
Robotic pets are also great tools for teaching children how to take care of animals in preparation for taking on pets later in life. By learning from their experiences with robots and seeing how much fun they are, kids will be more likely to want (and handle) full-time responsibility when the time comes.
Learn to Care for a Real Pet
You can learn caregiver skills by caring for a robotic pet. When you take care of a robotic animal, you see how its needs change over time and can anticipate when it needs your help. You might even find you enjoy this process so much that you want to adopt a physical pet in the future! Robotic pets also help people learn patience, compassion, and responsibility
A robotic pet can even help humans better care for health issues. You can program robotic pets with reminders to take medication and eat healthy food, as well as remind their owners when it's time to go for a walk to stay fit. In addition, robots could help people manage health issues such as diabetes or heart disease by reminding them when they need to check their blood sugar levels.
Some nursing homes and memory care units are also adding robotic pets to their facilities. Researchers looked at how elderly residents with mild to moderate dementia responded to robotic cats.
The pet cats had collars and the residents were allowed to name their cats, just like real cats. After spending time with the robotic cats, the residents’ mood scores improved and their attention, calculation, and language abilities also improved.
Better Mental Health
Robotic pets are one way to improve mental health. They have been shown to have a positive impact on many people with various disorders, including:
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Why do they work? People suffering from these conditions can better relate to an animal than a human. Animals are non-judgmental and always there to provide love and support. Some people relate better to animals than humans.
A robotic pet is not a replacement for a real pet. Real animals are still many people's favorites, and they provide benefits that can't be replicated by technology. But robotic pets can be useful. One downside is the price. Robotic pets cost anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollars, depending on the brand and features. Fortunately, there are affordable ones out there and prices are coming down.
For now, robotic pets are still expensive and may not be an option for some people. But they could be a good first step before getting a real pet. If you’re considering buying one or have already done so, hopeful this article has given you some insight into why they might be beneficial for your mental health!
- "Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions."
- Brooks HL, Rushton K, Lovell K, et al. "The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence." BMC Psychiatry. 2018;18(1):31. doi:10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2.
- "Cat’s meow: Robotic pet boosts mood, behavior and ..." - ScienceDaily. 27 Oct. 2021, .
- "Robotic Pet Therapy: Why Not?" - Psychology Today. 16 Oct. 2020.
- "Robotic Pets, Real Comfort? What the Research Says." 26 Jul. 2022.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.