IT’S MOST NOTICEABLE JUST BEFORE THE START OF A TRIP, after the pet sitter had picked them up to stay with him at his farm. Once the pets have gone, gone too are the rustlings, the rolling around, the relocating to and from different corners of the home, and the nuances that have come to make the house whole. "I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul." said Jean Cocteau. Indeed, for creatures who spend half the time sleeping, pets sure know how to make both their presence and absence felt.
We’ve had Sunny and Kitty since puppy and kittenhood in three apartments across two continents. Sunny is a seven-year-old golden retriever and Kitty Bang Bang is an eight-year-old Persian cat. Like all well-loved pets, they are very much family, taken into consideration for most any decision on lifestyle and living. The color of our linens camouflage the cat hair. The Roomba deals with both pets shedding. Having a terrace and a nearby park were decisions made mostly with the dog in mind. The country we live in too had to have permitted their entry. Waste is a chore. Travel is a chore. As we are a household of two, both of us going on trips means the pets need a sitter able to watch them. We’ve grown accustomed to the planning and expenses by now, but more and more with each new trip, the attachment grows.
It would be stating the obvious to list the joys of pet companionship. But studies do in fact show strong points for having a pet, on top of the pleasure their company brings. A study by the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition and the United States Food and Drug Administration revealed that the heart rates and blood pressures of pet owners increased less when they had to solve math problems with their pets around. Another study by the State University of New York at Buffalo found that when people with hypertension adopted a cat or a dog, they had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did those without pets. Cat purring has also been found to help lower stress and blood pressure, while playing with both cat and dog species elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
The positive effects pets have on humans make you wonder why society hasn’t set up life to maximize the benefits of animal companionship. Why can't we have pets around during job interviews? At court hearings? At airports? Or during exams? Perhaps if we were all a little less stressed in our daily dealings, the world would be a happier place to live in. Until then, we can head home for some cuddles.
Illustrations from Fantasio, by Jacques (Lehmann) Nam, Vald'Es (Valvérane & D'Espagnat) and René Préjelan. Available on hprints.com