Are you a cat person or a dog person? This is one of the key debates when choosing a pet, and you may fall into one of the categories, or you may love both equally. When it comes to choosing pets for people with dementia to look after, though, it is often an obvious choice. Cats provide a lot of benefits and companionship, while also having a certain level of independence so that they don’t need to be walked or constantly looked after.
Though it may not be immediately obvious how cats can provide meaningful activities for dementia patients, they are one of the most effective ways to create a daily structure and routine, all while providing the sort of stimulation that people with dementia may need.
Let’s dive into some of the reasons cats can be such a good option for people with dementia.
A lot of dementia patients benefit greatly from sensory stimulation, helping to provide grounding as well as certain positive emotions and feelings. This is something cats can provide, particularly if they are affectionate cats.
They tend to have soft fur and provide tactile experiences such as stroking or rubbing up against your legs. This can be a positive experience, it helps people with dementia stay present in the moment. The immediate surroundings are important for those with dementia, including any pets that may provide stroking experiences!
Cats have also been shown to have a calming effect. There is even scientific evidence that being around a cat can help to lower blood pressure. Either way, the soft feel and delicate purr of a cat can be positive experiences for people with dementia.
Both cats and dogs can provide a feeling of emotional support and companionship. Pets help the brain to release serotonin as well as oxytocin, which is known as the love hormone. This can ease the kind of feelings people may have if they are spending time alone, such as stress and isolation.
These can be replaced by positive feelings such as companionship, and boosting chemicals made in your brain that can be reassuring and generally improve the mood.
Cats can be a great option in this respect as even though they give a feeling of companionship they do not require a great deal of care besides feeding. Cats can take themselves off to exercise, for instance, and don’t always require the same care with things like grooming and housetraining that dogs need. Dogs also provide the same level of emotional support, but cats do so in a less demanding way.
Something that is absolutely crucial for people who are suffering from dementia is routine. They need a way to fill their days with certain routines, and allow them to stay grounded and feel more stable.
On top of this, it is a good idea for people with dementia to have a sense of purpose in their life, and being responsible for an animal is an excellent way to do this. Particularly in the earlier stages of dementia, it is likely that the person in question will be more than capable of all the steps required to care for a cat.
The daily routines for a cat can be very simple. For indoor cats, it may involve changing the litter, but other than this, providing food and water are the main parts of the routine, along with things like letting the cat in and out if you don’t have a cat flap.
Predictability can also come from the cat’s own routines, as many of our feline friends like to do things at certain times during the day. Your cat may wake you up at a certain time every day or expect feeding at a specific time in the morning and the evening.
The stability of having an accomplice throughout the days can make all the difference for a pet owner. A lot of people with dementia have to deal with things like isolation and feelings of loneliness, and cats can be one of the best ways to tackle this without too many care steps required.