Millie, the Miller Center Cat

The lobby of the Miller Center for Student Disability Services
The lobby of the Miller Center for Student Disability Services Photo: Jen O'Brien

When you walk into the Miller Center for Student Disability Services on the third floor of the Shriver Center, you might notice the comfortable seating, the beverage station, or the beautiful artwork from local artists with disabilities. You might also notice the board games or the friendly student employee at the front desk. And if you look closely, you might notice the little orange and white cat resting comfortably on the bean bag chair in the corner.

The cat, named “Millie” after the Miller Center namesake, perks up when you get close. She purrs when you pet her between her ears or on the neck. She blinks and raises her paw. She doesn’t meow, because the staff turned off that feature when it started to be a little disruptive. Yes, “turned off” because Millie, as lifelike as she may seem, is actually a robot cat. 

Millie, the robot catMillie, the Robot Cat“When she arrived, everyone was so excited,” said Andrew Zeisler, Director of the Miller Center. “We pulled her out and fluffed her up - she comes with a brush and everything. And it’s so funny because everyone who comes in the Center will interact with this cat. They love it.”

The Center purchased the “companion pet” this fall with the goal to put people at ease in the lobby of the Miller Center. “These robots were designed because not everyone can care for a live animal,” said Zeisler. “But they can still benefit from being around an animal.”

Dan Darkow, Coordinator in the Miller Center, has noticed how positive the reaction with students has been. “Students are really loving the interaction. It comes off as this unexpected surprise. It looks so lifelike! It’s also been a huge talking point for us, to discuss the benefits of emotional support.”

Next time you’re having a bad day, or are missing your pet from back home, or just want to try something new, stop by the J. Scott and Susan MacDonald Miller Center for Student Disability Services in Shriver. “Folks are always welcome in the Miller Center to enjoy the space, enjoy artwork, a cup of hot coffee,” said Zeisler. “Or of course, to meet Millie.”