They pounce, they purr, they play, but they don’t poop. Robotic cats have gained attention in the last several years because they’re a low maintenance option for would-be pet owners who can’t own a cat for various reasons. But critics are quick to point out that a robot cat lacks the features that attract some people to cats to begin with, namely their quirky personalities and ability to love you. Still, with the cost of cat food and litter on the rise, is it worth choosing a digital version instead? Let’s check it out.


What Are the Different Types of Robot Cats?

Robotic cats have different functions and intended uses depending on the model. For example, some of the less expensive ones are basically toys. MarsJoy and Smalody are specifically marketed towards kids and generally cost less than $50. These mechanical cats may purr, knead blankets, or meow like a live cat would. Some are more fantastical creatures who can even sing. Toy robotic cats make excellent gifts for children who love animals, or who can’t have a fur baby of their own due to allergies or other reasons.

Joy For All by Hasbro costs around $120,1 making it a middle-of-the-road model. These robot cats became especially popular during the pandemic because they were proven to benefit elderly people who were confined to nursing homes during lock down. Studies showed that seniors who engaged with robotic pets were less likely to feel depressed compared to those who didn’t.2 Arguably, it wasn’t because the cat was a robot, but rather because they were the closest thing they could get to a real live animal.

Other brands have made similar models that serve the same function, but they all basically serve as a replacement for a real pet with varying degrees of success.

a pink robot cat pet
Image Credit: ilapinto, Shutterstock

The Marscat: The Exception to the Rule

According to the description, the Marscat uses facial recognition, and adapts its behavior depending on your actions. This model costs over $1,200 but seems to behave the most similarly to a real cat. The Kickstarter video even shows a real cat engaging with the Marscat as if it were a fellow feline. The biggest difference? The creators didn’t try so hard to make this machine look convincing. The Marscat, while behaving the way a cat is supposed to act, would never be mistaken for a true feline. It’s completely bald and moves like the mechanical device that it is. The creators aren’t trying to hide the fact that it’s not a real cat, which is a good thing. In fact, the informational video reveals that it has a Raspberry processor that allows programmers to set their own functions.

Advantages of Robot Cats

There are many reasons you might want to invest in a robotic cat. If your kid has been clamoring for an animal, a robotic cat can be a good first step to see if they’re ready for pet ownership, or a compromise if a live cat is a hard no. After all, there won’t be any arguments over who failed to scoop the poop, or if Fluffy was given three cans of cat food in a day instead of one.

They’re also great for people that love cats, but can’t have one due to allergies, landlord requirements, etc. In some situations, such as in schools and assisted living centers, a robot cat may be the closest thing to a real animal that rules will allow. Besides helping elderly people cope with loneliness and the loss of their personal animals, studies have shown that robotic pets can even improve the cognitive function and moods of patients suffering from dementia.

Disadvantages of Robot Cats

Some robotic cats have received a lot of criticism because they’re eerily similar to actual felines while not quite as conforming. This can give them a rather unnerving appearance, as their cold eyes lack the emotion of even the most apathetic cat. The MetaCat with its glowing eyes and fur that really sheds especially drew some negative comments. The creators tried—maybe a little too hard—to make it seem like a real Ragdoll cat.  For example, though the MetaCat eats, it’s not quite the same experience as feeding a live cat. The MetaCat feasts on silica gel instead of salmon. If you’re still curious, you can explore them on Amazon here.

Of course, the main disadvantage of a robot cat is that it displaces actual cats who need homes. However, pet ownership isn’t always on the table for everyone, so they might benefit certain individuals who would love a cat but can’t have one.

Expense is another factor. While toy robot cats start around $20, some models may cost over $1,000. A robot cat may have a hefty initial cost. However, the average lifetime expense of an actual cat hovers around $12,500, so that’s nothing compared to what you’ll eventually spend on a pet.

  • Tests if you’re ready for pet ownership
  • No litter box or poop issues
  • No need for cat food
  • No allergies
  • Helps elderly people cope with loneliness and the loss of their personal animals
  • Improves the cognitive function and moods of patients suffering from dementia.
  • Lacks the emotion of even the most apathetic cat.
  • Displaces actual cats who need homes.
  • Some models may cost over $1,000.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What can a robot cat do?

A typical robot cat responds to your actions, such as petting, by meowing, purring, kneading, or moving its body. Some models are more realistic than others, such as the Joy for All animals by Hasbro, while others are more obviously robots. For example, the Marscat looks like a robot instead of a live cat because it has no fur. However, it has some extra perks, including being fairly autonomous which is more like a real cat than a robot that obeys your every command. However, unlike a real cat, we haven’t heard any tales of them throwing vases or scratching up your furniture.

a robot cat and mouse on white background
Image Credit: LIORIKI, Shutterstock

How much does a robot cat cost?

A toy robot cat starts around $20 and goes up from there. The advanced Marscat fetches an astronomical price that’s over $1,200. If you’re an elderly person, or researching for an elderly person who could use a robot cat for therapeutic purposes, you should know that Medicare may cover the cost.

Who would benefit from having a robot cat?

If you’re unable to own a real cat, a robot cat can be a good alternative. People who live in apartments or nursing homes where pets aren’t allowed may benefit from a robot cat, which has been proven to have mental health benefits. Children who are too young to care for a live animal or who are allergic may also enjoy having a “live” stuffed animal robot. Even commuters or people who frequently go on trips may find a robot cat more conducive to their schedules.

Should you choose a robot cat or a real cat?

If you can adopt a live cat, then we say go for it. Caring for an animal is a symbiotic relationship that can save the life of a cat and make yours better. However, robot cats are a great choice if you can’t have a live cat for whatever reason.


A Quick Reference Guide

So, should you adopt a cat? Or is it time to invest in a robot kitty? Here’s a chart that breaks down common reasons why you might prefer one option over the other.

When Cat Adoption Is the Best Choice When to Buy a Robot Cat
You’re willing to give time, money, and love to a living creature.You’re always on the road, or don’t want to commit to the financial responsibility for caring for an animal.
Your living situation allows a cat.Your landlord or other housing authority doesn’t permit animals.
You can tolerate allergies (if any) and pet hair.You or someone in your household is seriously allergic to cats or will find grievance with tufts of fur floating through the house.
Any pre-existing pets would be happy to welcome another animal into your home.Your pets hate cats (or other felines).



While robot cats have proven benefits for certain populations, we’re not convinced that they’re the future of cat ownership at large. If you’re able to adopt a real cat, a robotic cat certainly won’t be a better option. Of course, you don’t have to worry about leaving them too long or finding a pet sitter when you leave town, but there’s nothing that can substitute the loyal love of your very own furry friend. Pet ownership is a sacrifice of time and money, but it’s worth it. Plus, it gives an animal a home. On the other hand, if caring for a live cat is out of the question, modern technology has enabled you to enjoy the next best thing. A robot cat gives you the animal experience without the responsibility…or the mess.

Featured Image Credit: higyou, Shutterstock