A PLETHORA of perfect pets has been bringing lockdown smiles to the elderly and vulnerable throughout Pembrokeshire.

The robot companion therapy pets have been placed in care homes throughout Pembrokeshire where they are spreading happiness, companionship and comfort among the residents.

The scheme is an initiative of Cariad Pet Therapy CIC. As the country went into lockdown its usual visits to care homes with the pet therapy teams had had to be suspended.

These visits had made a huge difference to the wellbeing of residents; supporting the mental stimulation of people with memory challenges, helping break the ice between doctors, medical staff, caregivers and the residents, helping people relax during physical therapy exercises and offering gentle motivation.

With the visits on hold, Cariad started to look at alternatives and hit upon the idea of robot companion therapy pets. These are extremely life-like pets that respond to touch and sound. They had already been used successfully in the United States and in some parts of the UK.

"Could they replace the compassion and impact of actual therapy dog visits?" said Cariad's project manager, Robert Thomas.

"Maybe not, but can they provide comfort to the person receiving one and their families? We felt they could."

Cariad initially started off with one robot companion therapy dog and two cats. Further funding from Haverfordwest Town Council, allowed the purchase of five more.

The CIC then successfully applied for £6,600 from The National Lottery Community Fund which has allowed it to purchase 35 more pets. To date 30 of these have been placed in care homes, with the elderly, with those living with dementia and those socially isolated in the community.

These have been a great success, providing benefits for the user and the families where visits to care homes have been suspended of drastically limited due to coronavirus regulations.

Indeed, the feedback has been glowing with care homes and families describing the recipients as happy, elated and absolutely loving their new pets.

"As a pet therapy organisation, we cannot visit with our therapy dog teams and these pets have been a very welcome replacement," said Robert.

"We had seen the evidence that these robotic pets have a positive impact on our elderly population, especially those living with dementia, especially those who used to own cats or dogs.

"We trialled some and the feedback was incredible from the user, the families and the care home staff.

"One comment was that it is the best thing they have tried during Covid-19 for engagement and happiness in the care home."

Cariad is making the funded pets available throughout Wales. For more information on how to get one, visit Cariad’s www.lovethispet.net website.