Best faux cat for nursing home friend?
October 8, 2013 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy a fake cat for someone who loves cats but can't have one because she lives in a nursing home. Here's what she's looking for (cribbed from a newspaper column she writes): "I just long to hold a cat and enjoy their softness and purring. So, this is my solution: I’m going to look in Walmart for a stuffed cat that talks and meows and purrs. It must be softer than soft and I’ll call him Sammy." This seems like it would be purr... well, you know. But it's out of stock. Are there any MeFites out there who can advise me on the best fake cat for grown-ups?
posted by drzz to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It doesn't purr, but Husbunny's auntie loved this kitty that we got for her.

Here are a couple of kitties that purr.

I hope your friend enjoys her kitty.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:43 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

This page has the FurReal Friends cats, including a pretty convincing video, but it's not clear how they would feel if you were holding them. Still, pretty cute.
posted by amtho at 1:45 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

That one is very cute, but there are others.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:46 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Umm, have you thought of talking to the facility and see if she can have a real cat? There are several nursing homes near me that have pets, and not just one or two, but half a dozen cats and several dogs. The residents love them, and so far, the only downside is all the cats are fat, because the residents save food for treats! (BTW, the residents also help with llitter box cleaning as they are able and the staff is fully on board with this. I have seen some amazingly touching moments with the elderly, with dementia patients and the pets. Everyone wins.)
posted by LaBellaStella at 1:49 PM on October 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I own Lulu of the "furReal friends" and she most definitely is not soft. In fact she is downright creepy. YMMV of course but I would look into other options. Good luck!
posted by halfsorry at 1:51 PM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, have you looked into pet therapy? I do therapy visits with my dog, but there are therapy cats in our organization (albeit fewer cats than dogs). Googling " pet therapy," and your area should bring up local groups who would be happy to assist.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:55 PM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

How about contacting a pet therapy group? I think most of the pet therapy groups use dogs, but some have cats, too. It wouldn't be hers permanently, 24/7, but maybe a live cat now and then would be good.
posted by easily confused at 1:56 PM on October 8, 2013

@halfsorry: Thanks for the tip. I was looking at those. Creepy to the touch is not what I'm after with this purchase.
posted by drzz at 2:03 PM on October 8, 2013

Yeah, the cute ones that Ruthless Bunny linked to are not particularly soft either (they "breathe," and it's creepy, and their mechanisms make them heavy and hard).
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:27 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

This breaks my heart. Can someone talk to the facility about having visits from a local animal shelter? I knew of a humane society that did this - I'm not sure how frequently (once or twice a month? but that's just a guess), but it served the dual purpose of socializing the animals/giving them a break from cages and delighting the residents of the retirement community.

As a cat lover myself, I empathize with the woman in question and almost now want her to be able to commune with a real cat as badly as if I were she.

Gonna go pet my cat now.
posted by AthenaPolias at 2:40 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Those breathing cats are some uncanny valley shit. I was once in a gift store with like ten of them turned on and it freaked me out. Also they're permanently asleep.

In the 90s there were stuffed cats called Kitty Kitty Kittens that "purred" by some sort of marble thing that rolled around in their heads. It wasn't terribly convincing, but it was soothing without being creepy and robotic.

For realism, I'd avoid nearly anything with an on/off switch and instead go for size and weight. Something about 18" long, slightly floppy, perhaps with a beanbag belly.

But I also strongly nth looking into pet therapy or shelter visits. There's really no substitute for the real thing.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:46 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

For tactile bliss, Steiff's Soft/Plush line is wonderful. They are pricey but can be had affordably on ebay. They do not purr or move though.
posted by susanvance at 2:50 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it'd be difficult to find a cat that purrs/meows and is also incredibly soft. The FurReal pets are not soft at all - due to them being mechanical and needing batteries.

Not squishy soft, but very realistic: realistic cat.

These look great and look soft to boot. Could you record some kitty cat sounds to accompany the stuffed animal?
posted by Sassyfras at 4:00 PM on October 8, 2013

So what I would do is contact your local Hackerspace (google it, if you don't know what that is), and ask around if anyone there would like to take this on as a project. If I lived on the same continent as you, I would. I would probably need (besides the very soft stuffed toy cat), an old mp3 player, an arduino, and if you want movement, a couple of servos. The cost for those parts should be under $50. (But obviously ask your potential Makers what they need rather than going off my plans.) I reckon you'd find a bunch of people very excited to try their hand at a fun project for such a good cause, and you could get something made exactly to spec!
posted by lollusc at 4:29 PM on October 8, 2013

OK, I've been looking around, and the state of faux cat technology is sad. I mean, we sent a man to the moon, we have fake puppies that walk around, but most of the stuffed kitties look like aliens. There are some good ones, but the ones that purr are just -- geez.

How about getting a reasonable looking-and-feeling plush cat and adding your own sound module? You'd need a relatively big one to get a good low purr going, I'd think.
posted by amtho at 4:30 PM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Kitty Kitty Kittens if you have to get a fake cat. I remember having a couple of a child, and they were cute and purred (though not necessarily when they were being pet) and I think they were pretty soft too. I remember thinking at the time that the purr was unrealistic, until I got a cat, and realized that it was quite realistic for some breeds of cats.

But I also second looking into therapy animals. Some people train and certify cats to go around to nursing homes for this exact purpose.
posted by ethidda at 5:17 PM on October 8, 2013

If price is no object, the best fake pet is probably Paro, the robot baby seal.
posted by steinwald at 6:16 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend has a Steiff cat. It's a lovely toy, but no substitute for a cat.

I would be tempted to smuggle in a kitteh once in a while.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:21 PM on October 8, 2013

When my tuxedo cat died, a friend found a hot water bottle with a tuxedo cat cover -- it's a real hot water bottle, and not a neck pillow. It warmed me and soothed me and was a great substitute while I was in deep mourning for my kitteh. I don't have the brand name on me, but I've found them on line in the past, so if you're interested, hit my memail and I'll look for the brand tag on mine & find you a link.
posted by janey47 at 6:29 PM on October 8, 2013

I was in a rehab/nursing home for 6 weeks on IV antibiotics after an amputation. There was a 90 year old woman there in mild dementia who carried a baby doll in her arms like a real baby. Everyone smiled at it and her.

The doll didn't open and close its eyes, cry or suck a bottle and wet its diaper. It was there to receive her love and attention. Anything the doll did would interfere with what she did.

I think you should give your friend a cat doll that's soft and furry, but with no extras. Let her make up her own stories and express her own love. The doll is just there to receive it.
posted by KRS at 7:23 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love the Jellycat stuffed animals! They may not look super-realistic, but their fur is silky soft and so lovely to pet. Maybe this one?
posted by amileighs at 9:32 PM on October 8, 2013

I also had a Kitty Kitty Kitten as a child, which I thought of when I read this question. They are very cute, although very small (kitten sized, I suppose). The one I had was definitely 'softer than soft'. I would suggest they're probably the best option if the cat needs to purr.
posted by Acheman at 4:48 AM on October 9, 2013

My mum is a dog lover and was very much taken by Biscuit, the FurReal puppy. In my experience - I work somewhere where we have to examine and test toys - the cats aren't quite as responsive. There was one called Lulu a couple of years ago which would roll around and move her head, and you could get her to purr, and it was reasonably realistic. However, it has a 'hard' plastic feel under the fur, as all the bits that enable that to happen are under there.

However, Lulu is not as creepy as the rabbit version.
posted by mippy at 10:08 AM on October 9, 2013

The Japanese are known for making realistic stuffed cats. This one's pretty cute and cuddly, as is this one. There's also Dream Cat Venus. They may be more expensive than what you were looking for. (It's actually been a trend in Japan for a while to use cuddly lifelike robots like Paro in nursing homes.)

This site has some realistic cats as well, if you scroll down, imported from China (including one that breathes).

Also there's this page.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 1:37 PM on October 10, 2013

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