A friend asked: has any Communist leader in China ever been seen in public showing kindness to an animal. Not sure of the answer. Seems one has to go back to Buddhist emperors doing the fangsheng thing
although that is mostly a kind of hypocrisy, of course.
There is one obvious “branding” reason Chinese Communist leaders do not have pets like lapdogs or cats: such animals were long associated with bourgeois habits and this political tradition is still strong. Also includes bourgeois wastefulness in wasting food on a pet when it could go to the Poor, hypocritically speaking. So, for a leader to hold a dog or a cat and suggest it was his, or even petting a different dog, would probably NOT look good politically.
Does anyone have a better theory, or better observations?