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Barry Soper: Aeroplane anxiety flying with Gareth Morgan the cat

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 9:04AM
The human Gareth Morgan with the cat Gareth Morgan. Photo / Supplied
The human Gareth Morgan with the cat Gareth Morgan. Photo / Supplied


Politics is a stressful business. It's been called a brutalising arena and never is that more so than in Parliament's bear pit.

A point scored is usually always at the expense of the target.

But then life itself is stressful and just to make it a little less so, the former proponent of the political punch, Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard, last year relaxed the rules to allow dogs to roam the corridors with their owners. Some thought it'd turn the place into a kennel but to their surprise few have taken advantage of the Speaker's largesse.

We're told animals do relax people, it pacifies them to hear the reassuring purr or the benevolent bark.

They've taken this to a new level in the United States where companion animals are allowed to fly on commercial airlines for free with their owners as companions to calm their nerves.

A woman sitting next to me on a flight once from New York to LA was clearly calming her nerves with glass after glass of white wine and ice cubes. As her voice became more slurred and the wine supply was cut off she reached beneath her seat, pulled out a square bag, unzipped it partially and out popped a bewildered cat's head. She offered me a pat, I demurred, shocked that an animal was in the cabin.

These days it's commonplace in the US, they draw a line at goats apparently, but dogs are welcome as companions and they've even been known to fly a miniature horse! And on occasion a companion for the companion animal has been allowed to fly.

All of this got me thinking of the stress of taking our cat, named Gareth Morgan, on a flight from Wellington to Auckland last week. Thankfully Air New Zealand has the good sense of keeping the animals in the hold. But sitting on the tarmac for an hour before takeoff while a technical fault was remedied my stress level increased, thinking about the strange noises GM had to endure.

If the cat went into cardiac arrest how could I break the news to my wife, who was eagerly awaiting our arrival in Auckland? It was bad enough hunting the cowering cat down to get her into the cage. The worry that she would gnaw the gate off and escape increased the anxiety, what if the catch came loose in the hold, would I suddenly see her flying past the window?

I desperately needed a companion and it arrived: it was Koru hour, the tinkle of the drinks trolley and its contents relieved the stress. Thankfully GM was waiting in her cage as soon as I got to the carousel. The stress remedy recommended by the pharmacist didn't work on me but seemed to pacify the cat.

And there's one person who's no doubt relieved that the cat is now just another Jaffa, and that will be the human Gareth Morgan, who lives a few doors away from us in Wellington!

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