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DAN'S PAPERS, September 25, 2009 Page 44


Living in the Lap of Luxury By Ellen Dioguardi There are all sorts of theories about how holding and petting a cat can reduce your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Cats were being brought into nursing homes and other healthcare facilities to offer companionship to residents even before this added benefit was explored. Experts suggest that rhythmic purring may help produce a meditative type of breathing, and that slowly stroking a cat’s soft fur may help put one at ease. Whatever the reason, it seems that sitting with a cat on your lap is good for your health as well as your soul. Now, as I’ve mentioned before in this space, I have two wonderful Maine Coon cats. Members of this large and loyal breed are not known for being lap cats. They would much rather sit next to their loved ones or anywhere within view. They are very affectionate and make sure they get in their fair share of petting each day, but you’ll rarely meet a Maine Coon that loves sitting in laps. Our cats are no different. I could go on and on about the hoops our

female cat Roxie puts us through regarding when, how and where we can be affectionate with her, but I’ll save that for another time. Our big boy Robbie is much easier to snuggle with, but is still not a lap cat. From my description you’re probably thinking we never get the above-mentioned benefit from our cats. Yet, while they aren’t lap cats, I’ve noticed something else going on. When I get home from work the first thing I do is pick up Robbie, who typically meets me at the front door. I toss his bulk over my left shoulder, he rests his head on me and I stand there and hug him. As he purrs, I feel the stress of the day slowly recede from my body. Yes, my breathing does fall in synch with his purring, but my muscles also relax and my shoulders lower. It is, without a doubt, five minutes of cat therapy for me. So, how do cats look at this? Do they also benefit from lap-sitting or holding? For 21 years I had a little one-woman calico named Kitty Foyle. She didn’t like anyone and let it be known on many occasions.

However, she loved me to death. I couldn’t sit down to put on my shoes without her trying to jump into my lap. It was almost comical. My housemate at the time called her “the lap monster.” There was obviously a big need in Foyle to sit in my lap. I would often gently push her off and continue to pet her, only to have her worm her way back up. In early August I had an accident, and my left arm is in a brace. I have very little use of that arm and can’t pick Robbie up when I get home, or any other time. At first when he’d meet me at the door I’d lean down and pet him, but he’d cry and circle around me, obviously looking to be picked up. I tried to explain that I missed hugging him as much as he seemed to miss it. He couldn’t comprehend what I said (so far, the only words he’s figured out are “dinner,” “Robbie” and “NO”), but he eventually gave up and stopped meeting me at the door. I’ was pretty upset, but figured there was nothing I could do. About two weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch watching television when Robbie jumped up next to me, crawled partially onto my leg, circled a few times and lay down. Now, I’m no animal behaviorist, but I’m thinking perhaps there’s some real giveand-take going on here. Whatever the actual cause and effect, I’m happy to have a lap cat for a while, and though the arm isn’t much better, I’m pretty sure my blood pressure has gone down a bit.

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Dan's Papers Sept. 25, 2009  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

Dan's Papers Sept. 25, 2009  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...