Should You Hug Cats?

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
By Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP on Jan. 31, 2022

You’ve probably seen cats being hugged, kissed, and carried, and still looking totally content with life. And then there’s the opposite scenario—a kitty that doesn’t hesitate to take a swipe at you if you just try to pet them or walk by them too closely.

With the big difference in personalities, it’s hard to know if a particular cat likes being hugged. Do some just tolerate it? Do some actually like being hugged? Should you hug your cat?

Do Cats Like Hugs?

The truth is, many cats HATE to be hugged. They don’t like being held against their will, and especially not in a firm fashion.

If you’ve witnessed the average cat being hugged, you’ve probably seen squirming, meowing, panting, and eventually, claws. Don’t take it personally—most cats view hugging as a form of human-induced torture, pleasurable to the human part of the equation only.

However, some cats do seem to enjoy it. So what is the difference here? There are a lot of factors that help determine whether cats love or hate hugging. Here are a few.

Learning to Like Hugs in Kittenhood

Some cats may get used to being hugged in kittenhood. If you have a very young kitten and they grow up being hugged, they are more likely to enjoy (or at least tolerate!) hugging than, for example, an adult feral cat that you bring into your home. 

Easygoing Cat Breeds

Some cat breeds are said to be more mellow than the average cat, including the Ragdoll, Scottish Fold, and Sphynx.

These breeds lean more toward the easygoing side, so they are more likely to enjoy handling or hugging. That said, cats are still individuals, and you may well find that your Ragdoll cat hates hugging every bit as much as your Domestic Longhaired cat.

On the whole, however, adopting a sweet and mellow kitty from your local shelter and spending time with them on a daily basis is just as likely to yield affectionate results.

How You Hug Your Cat

How you approach your kitty may influence the response you get, too. If you swoop in like a giant predator, catch them off guard, and hoist them to the ceiling, that probably isn’t going to go over well. However, if you work up to it slowly, starting with some face scratches, then body rubs, your cat may let you hug them, too.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Likes Hugs?

Cats are the masters of subtlety, unless they don’t like something. You will likely know quite quickly whether your cat is a fan of hugs just by observing their body language. Cats that enjoy hugs lean into them. They will often purr, headbutt you, and sometimes even drool.

On the other hand, cats that don’t like hugs try to flee, push you away, and give you signals that they are annoyed. They may lay their ears back, swish their tail, and even growl. Some cats will actually “freeze,” leading you to think that they don’t mind being hugged, but if you look at them closely, they may have dilated eyes and a stressed expression.

A safe general rule is to immediately let go of any cat that struggles or acts like they don’t want to be held, cuddled, or hugged—and be prepared to beg for forgiveness.

There are other ways to share affection with your cat, such as gentle scratches, grooming them with a cat brush, and giving them treats. The best bet is to find out what your kitty enjoys so the bonding time is pleasant for both of you.

Featured Image:

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra Mitchell is a 1995 graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in many fields...

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