Kitty’s unfortunate taxidermic quality
October 6, 2017 4:31 AM   Subscribe

In my grandmother’s world, there are few constants except for this robot cat, and I am eternally grateful for its existence.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em (19 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I wonder if they dream of electric mice?
posted by carter at 5:23 AM on October 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

Well, that was heart-breakingly painful and familiar to read. Both of my grandmothers suffered some form of age related memory loss before they passed away.

My father's mother would slip in and out of lucidity in the last few months of her life. Sometimes, she was perfectly aware of who she was, where she was, and why she was in the "rehabilitation" home she was in. Other times, she would be able to recognize people (though constantly called one son by the other's name, even if both were present), but be unaware of where she was, or have this odd, dreamlike awareness of reality. I remember her being afraid because she thought she was at the boarding school she'd attended as a child, and was confused as to why I was visiting her at school. Yet, the day she passed, according to her doctor, she was aware and fully present that morning. My aunt and uncle took over care of her dog, a little poodle, who my grandmother had adopted after a friend of hers had passed, leaving the dog behind. They would bring the dog to visit my grandmother when they could. She was always worried after the little dog if they visited and she wasn't with them.

My mother's mother had a series of strokes over a number of years, and her mental faculties failed gradually due to them. Most heartbreaking was to hear her call after cats of hers which had passed years before, or to forget that the cats had passed, and ask about them. She loved her cats, and always had owned at least one throughout my entire life. Her cats were as much of her as anything else. And even as my grandfather struggled to take care of her and himself (both in their 90s) they still cared for a rescue Persian named Angel. I often felt terrible, once she had been moved to hospice, that she couldn't see Angel, or that I couldn't bring one of my cats to visit her. She passed away from pneumonia, years after the person she had been had finally vanished from her body. When Angel passed after my grandmother, it was like the last bit of my grandmother had passed.

I guess the whole point of this (other than as a better reason for why I'm crying at 9 AM on a Friday) is that we greatly underestimate how much animals mean to the elderly, especially when their memories and personalities are changed by disease and failing bodies. It seems almost silly to us, to think that a fake cat could be so comforting, but at the same time, I remember how much my father's mother resisted going to the rehab center, after she broke her hip, because she was worried about her dog. Maybe we need to rethink the way we deal with the elderly and pets in care facilities. Or at least, find a way to bring something small, warm and furry into their lives again, just to make it a little better.
posted by strixus at 6:09 AM on October 6, 2017 [18 favorites]

I followed the link to the animatronic puppy, and bookmarked it for later. Mrs. Mogur can still tell the difference, but there will be a time not long from now when she won't be able to, and she's always loved dogs.

Also, goddamit. "It’s one of dementia’s cruelest collateral effects, where even everyday experiences leave you punch drunk and emotionally drained." Yes, indeed.
posted by Mogur at 6:29 AM on October 6, 2017 [12 favorites]

Don't you think a combination elder-friendly housing development/skilled nursing facility, animal rescue, and free school/tutoring facility would be awesome? Of course there are dangers that would have to be accommodated, but there always are, and I think I'd want to live in a place like that.
posted by amtho at 6:35 AM on October 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

Aw geez. I got trained as a volunteer to bring my big patient lab to a local eldercare facility in high school, to deal with my community service requirements. If I'm honest, I never really enjoyed taking him into the memory care part of the facility just because it was so hard to interact with anyone and getting clear consent for "hello, would you like to meet my 90 pound dog!" was one of the most crucial things to get right. But man, when that dog connected with someone it was a good day. Even if I just stood there awkwardly to one side hoping no one would think I was their granddaughter while some chair bound old lady stroked his head and muttered names of dogs who died six decades ago. My dog never cared. Sigh. He was such a good boy.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:37 AM on October 6, 2017 [25 favorites]

strixus, I haven't even read the article yet and you've made me cry.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 6:51 AM on October 6, 2017

Here is Qoobo, the latest (disturbingly streamlined) Japanese version.
posted by fairmettle at 6:54 AM on October 6, 2017

Don't you think a combination elder-friendly housing development/skilled nursing facility, animal rescue, and free school/tutoring facility would be awesome?

It's (sort of) been done, and it's definitely complicated, but the proponents swear it was revolutionary for their residents. I heard about it in this episode of Reply All. Here's the website of the guy featured in that, Dr. Bill Thomas. Here's an article about Thomas & co bringing dogs into a nursing home.

I'm sure there are other/better sources for info, and a quick google shows results for therapy dog organizations and the like. Definitely interesting!
posted by that's candlepin at 7:00 AM on October 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mogur, much love to you and Mrs. Mogur.
posted by anastasiav at 7:28 AM on October 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

That was lovely.

My mother in her dementia finds genuine and uncomplicated pleasure in her snuggles with her cat. He is a giant, and when he lies across her shrunken body he stretches from her knee to her neck, where he drools all over her while she gives him skritches. She remembers his name but not always mine. A demented relative will give you nothing if not humility.

Her cat, Gogo (after Estragon in Waiting for Godot), is also elderly and spends most of his day flopped across something, but he has a deep hatred for dogs. He has pinned my pitbull belly up on the floor, and when a dog is in the house, will come out limbs flying and claws bared from hidden recesses in my mom's piles of books, hoarded when her dementia was still early enough that she could compulsively order from Amazon and

They seem well matched, Gogo and my mom. She was always a pain in the ass. Now she's softer in her haze, though still resenting my help. He's still a massive pile of fluff, one who as a younger cat used to unpredictably and viciously attack humans, but now who reserves his hate for friendly dogs.
posted by latkes at 7:42 AM on October 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

My friend's dad is in a memory care unit at a local nursing home. They have at least one real live cat in there. My friend's dad isn't interested in pets but some other residents are.

They split the place into "neighborhoods" so the residents don't have to deal with too many people or too much territory. I suppose they have some neighborhoods with pets and some without, and if you are allergic or scared, you get assigned to one without any pets.
posted by elizilla at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

This has been here before (link) and while I'm slightly horrified at the prospect of a FutureMe who cannot tell a RoboKitty from a Real Kitty and/or doesn't mind the difference, the fact of the matter is that if a fairly primitive RoboKitty makes people who can't have real pets happy, then it is a good thing.

Also, if a primitive RoboKitty is a successful product, then in the future, we will likely have better, more realistic RoboKitty products and that will probably make even more people happy.
posted by which_chick at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

...I don't know; real cats are quite sustainably produced. The labor of cleaning litter boxes, etc., could be roboticized and/or performed by sustainably-produced humans.
posted by amtho at 10:09 AM on October 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thanks for this, it was simultaneously hilarious and heart wrenching, which is a tough act to pull off.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:43 AM on October 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

...I don't know; real cats are quite sustainably produced. The labor of cleaning litter boxes, etc., could be roboticized and/or performed by sustainably-produced humans.

Sure, but you'd be putting a real cat in danger if you left it alone with some dementia patients.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

beep boop
posted by robot cat at 10:57 AM on October 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

> beep boop

Thank you for your important work, robot cat.
posted by wires at 3:07 PM on October 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

Sure, but you'd be putting a real cat in danger if you left it alone with some dementia patients.

Cats can also be dangerous. A cat scratch/bite is (maybe) no big deal for someone who's completely alert, oriented, knows to tell a caregiver. If one went unnoticed and untreated, though, it could lead to serious illness or death.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:30 PM on October 6, 2017

Seconding the above mentioned, very interesting Reply All podcast re residential nursing care and the work of Dr. Thomas.

Two fails re robot cat: no calico/tortoise option. And the belly rub response detracts from supposed lifelike behavior. The cats I've known well would go for blood at such an attempt.

RIP Dorothy, Wally, & Janie (miss you, girl)
posted by she's not there at 6:17 PM on October 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

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