Classroom pets typically consist of hamsters and turtles, but at one elementary school the pets happen to be cats. Cats that are actually robots. No, it’s not science fiction. It’s real and it’s having a real impact on how the students learn.

photo: Hasbro

Robot cats are an important part of one first grade class at Loma Vista Environmental Science Academy in Vallejo, California. Michael Jackson and Cuddles, as the classrooms two cats are named, work as comfort animals to the kids. They help kids stay focused on learning and as well as assisting with behavior. Teacher Sadie Leslie decided to investigate therapy animals as a way to help her students deal with emotional struggles and distraction.

In order to address the problem of feeding and caring for a live animal, not to mention the issue of allergies, Leslie opted to go a different route. Her mom gifted her with a $100 Joy For All Companion Pet, a robotic comfort animal made by Hasbro as a companion for the elderly and the new class pet was born.

The first cat was a hit, so Leslie quickly added a second. “They act as a therapy animal,” Leslie said. “So when kids are getting frustrated or upset, they can pet the cat, and it helps relax them and calm them down.” The kids also spend time reading aloud to the cats when they finish their work. The kids love the cats and the benefits have been so great that another class has adopted their robot cat.

What unique methods do your kids’ teachers use to help students stay focused? Tell us in the comments below.

—Shahrzad Warkentin