Courtney Giordano demonstrates the Kitten Scanner to a young patient...

Courtney Giordano demonstrates the Kitten Scanner to a young patient at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. Credit: Stony Brook Children’s Hospital / Juliana Thomas

Kids can give a CAT scan to a chicken — or an elephant, crocodile or robot — at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital using a toy CAT scan machine and a character.

The activity is designed to put children at ease if they have to have a computer-aided tomography scan or a magnetic resonance imaging scan. The miniature machine, dubbed the Kitten Scanner, is one of three in the Northeast and the only one on Long Island, says Cassandra Huneke, medicine media relations coordinator for the hospital.

Each toy character has a computer chip inside, and when the kids place the toy on the scanner bed and slide it into the machine, an animated video projects onto a wall-mounted screen to show the child a view of what’s inside the toy body.

“It teaches them in child-friendly language what to expect when they have their own scan,” says Joan Alpers, director of child life services at the hospital. Geared toward preschool and young school-aged kids, the experience helps children see what the purpose of the test is.

“It makes the procedures easier for the adults performing them if the children are calm, relaxed and ready to participate,” Alpers says.

Adds Huneke: “It’s a really great tool. It’s a way to slow things down and have some fun.”

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital is at 101 Nicolls Rd., Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-444-5437 or visit