WHEN Doris Talbot reminisced about the pet cats she used to have, her family decided to bring the next best thing to her nursing home.

Doris, 88, was given a robotic ‘companion pet’ by her family as a Christmas present last year. She got so much pleasure from the lifelike pet cat, while in Cottingley Hall Nursing Home, that her family decided to raise money to buy some more for other residents at the home.

When Doris, who had dementia, died this year her family raised enough money from donations in lieu of flowers and a collection at her funeral and bought eight Joy For All Companion Pets - four cats and four puppies - in memory of their mother and grandmother. The companion pets are made by Hasbro in America. Because they are not on sale in the UK, the family bought them on eBay from the US.

Staff at Cottingley Hall Nursing Home were so impressed with Doris’s cat, they asked if they could keep it for other residents with dementia to use. Now the family is planning to present Cottingley Hall with four more companion pets, and will donate two to The Glen in Baildon, one to Steeton Court and one to Well Springs in Heaton.

The Joy For All Companion cats are battery-operated but look, feel and sound like real cats. They are covered in fake fur, they purr and meow and respond to petting, hugging and motion.

Doris and her late husband Ernest had four children, John, Roy, Ann and Kay. Doris and Ernest moved to Menston from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, 30 years ago to be near their children who had settled in West Yorkshire. John Talbot and wife Candy live in Menston, Roy and wife Niki live in Utley, near Keighley, and previously lived in Burley in Wharfedale, Ann lives in Haworth, and Kay Remmer, headteacher of St Matthew’s Ce Primary School in Bradford, lives in Morley with her husband, Peter. Doris and Ernest had eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

John said: “Mum lived with ever-increasing disabilities for many years and on her own after Dad died in 2006. She gradually became so disabled, coupled with the onset of dementia, that she became unsafe in her own home.

“She moved to an assisted living flat at Rowanberries in Clayton. After a year there she needed to move into a nursing home and we chose Cottingley Hall as much for accessibility to the rest of the family as for its services and skills.

“We thought we would give four of the newly-acquired Companion Pets to Cottingley Hall because we know they will make really good use of them and they can then tie directly to Mum’s memory there.”

Ann came up with the idea of buying a Joy For All Companion cat for Doris. She said: “I saw them on the news years ago, but the idea stayed with me. I had already seen lots about how pets, particularly cats, were excellent companions to elderly or poorly people, often calming and having a positive impact.

“I realised a toy one overcame the practical difficulties of allergies, feeding and cleaning, so it was all positive. Mum often reminisced about when they had cats and how she would love one but couldn’t.

“It seemed such a good idea to try, so we bought one as a Christmas present. I think it is something about the mutual benefit of making a cat purr, feeling and hearing it, giving and receiving comfort, life and happiness.

“We would recommend the Companion Pets to carers of people with dementia and people who have dementia and hope that our story will encourage Hasbro to release them over here.”

Lorraine Tinkler, manager at Cottingley Hall Nursing Home, said: “Doris really loved the Companion Pet cat, it made her feel calm and comfortable when she became agitated.

"We are very grateful to the Talbot family for donating an additional four Companion Pets. The pets are very lifelike and our residents really enjoy having them. They provide comfort, stimulation and a lot of joy. When people with dementia become agitated, the Companion Pets are very therapeutic.

“They also give pleasure to residents who do not have dementia and I would recommend them to families with older relatives who cannot look after a real cat or dog.”

* For more about Joy For All Companion Pets visit hasbro.com