My cat loves to be petted, but the comfort is mine, too | Hannah Jane Parkinson

I have a cat. He is called Miles. He is a rescue cat who languished in his cage because he was extremely shy and therefore no visitors bonded enough with him to give him a chance. Eventually I took him home, with a “pet pack” I bought from the cattery. This included a “food scoop”, which was, in fact, just a plastic shot glass. Miles arrived in my flat and bolted under the desk and didn’t come out for days. Then, in the dead of night, he bolted under the cooker, and didn’t come out for… weeks.

Months later, Miles loves me. He does not love or trust anybody else, and still responds to the front door unlocking the same way he would to a firework. But I am allowed to pet him. He adores being petted. He does not like being groomed, which is a problem, because he has a Shakespearean ruff and furry britches. His fur knots like a cat’s cradle. He likes petting, which has no practical purpose except his own comfort and pleasure.

That comfort and pleasure is as much mine as it is his. I like to rub his ears between my thumb and forefinger, as though it is a swatch of material I am considering for a reupholstery project. He likes it, too. I like pressing the little jellybean pads on the underside of his paws, cold to the touch after he trots in. He likes it, too. I like scratching under his chin, his purr vibrating against my fingers. He likes it, too.

There’s a spot on his back that if scratched causes him to fall to the floor and roll over sideways, the kind of move an eccentric drama teacher would dream up. Sometimes I hold him like a baby, and his big, gold eyes stare into mine, mildly pissed off. (Miles is a jet-black, long-haired cat. He strongly resembles an owl, facially.)

Is it a duck…or a dog? The Newfoundland breed has a water resistant coat and webbed feet. This dog was originally bred to help haul nets for fishermen and rescuing people at risk of drowning.

Everyone knows the joy of pets; otherwise we would not share our homes with these animals that brazenly claw at our favourite clothes, or tear through furniture, or poo up walls or whatever mischief they get up to from one day to the next. The ubiquity of emotional support animals has now tipped into peacocks-on-planes absurdity, but owning pets, and stroking and cuddling them, have health benefits.

One 2017 Swedish study even found that the risk of heart attack was 11% lower in pet owners. Puppies have been introduced to relax finals students at universities . Cats are said to gravitate towards dying patients in care homes, to comfort them in their final hours. And without a doubt, burying my face in Miles’s hot belly is just as effective as benzodiazepines. It’s also possibly more addictive.

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  • Pets
  • The joy of small things
  • Health & wellbeing
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