Cats are a “contact species”
They enjoy being touched from infancy on–unless deprived of early touch of stimulation by humans. From birth the mother cat grooms her kittens–touch being the primal source of affection. Cats will often regress and behave like kittens when stroked–nursing, drooling kneading. Each hair has many nerves around it which sends impulses to the brain.
Petting evokes a very clear nervous system response: heart rate slows, muscle tone drops and the body relaxes. Digestion is enhanced as the digestive juices and saliva flows.
Petting and cuddling is necessary for the normal development of dogs, cats, and human infants. If you want your kitten to grow up to become the kind of cat that likes to be held and cuddled, then provide it with lots of gentle handling on a daily basis when it is young.
We benefit as much as our little furry friend does.