Are these the purr-fect pals? The robotic animals replacing real therapy pets during the pandemic

Video: Cariad Pet Therapy

This may not be the in-person pet therapy visit Barbara is used to, but her new cat companion is having a hugely positive impact on her life.

For years now, pets have been used in hospitals, schools and care homes to bring comfort and companionship to those in need.

The benefits can't be overestimated; petting therapy dogs, for example, is thought to help mental stimulation, and relaxation.

In Pembrokeshire, charity 'Cariad Pet Therapy', has been providing such visits since 2018.

Ianto and his owner Janet are just one of over 30 volunteer teams who work with the charity Credit: ITV Wales

But when the pandemic put a halt to their work, they decided to think outside the box.

The result? Automated cats and dogs.

The pets have sensors and respond to touch and sound.

One care home told the charity it was the best thing they'd tried during the pandemic to engage residents Credit: ITV Wales

The home just called and said Dad has received his dog, he burst into tears he was so happy.

Feedback from one recipient to Cariad Pet Therapy

At Brooklands Residential Home near Saundersfoot, staff said they'd been a fantastic addition, adding they were surprised how well their residents had taken to them.

Sammi Otten, the home's Activities Organiser, said "as much as it's not a replacement for a real-life visit, it's a good substitute while we're going through this time."

The idea came from Cariad Pet Therapy's Project Manager Robert Thomas, after he saw they'd already been successfully used in America.

To date, thanks to National Lottery funding, the charity has placed 30 automated pets with new owners, and they say they still have more to hand out.

They say the pets have been "a revelation."

Meet Georgie the therapy dog, who's delighting pupils at a Welsh high school