Do Cats Like to be Hugged?

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PetMD Editorial
Published: February 24, 2014

If you're anything like me, attempting to hug your cat is an exercise in futility. The panting. The squirming. The agonizing look in her eyes. At the end of the day, it's just not worth it for me to keep up the attempts.

Penny's reactions to a little affection got me wondering—are there actually cats out there who enjoy hugging? I decided to check in with Dr. Rebecca Jackson, staff veterinarian at Petplan pet insurance, for some answers.

Do some cats actually like being hugged?

Of course! Many cats—and some breeds in particular—are very affectionate and love to lay on laps, nuzzle into necks and yes, hug. Burmese, Ragdoll and LaPerm cats, for example, are known for being "people" cats, forming strong bonds with their two-legged families.

How can pet owners tell if their cats like being hugged?

Well for one thing, they don't run in the other direction when they see you coming! If your cat tenses up, tries ot get away or makes low, throaty vocalizations when you hug him, he may be telling you he'd rather be left alone. On the other hand, if he lets you hold him easily and purrs loudly, he's probably very happy for the hug.

What is the best way to go about hugging a cat?

First, don't sneak up on or surprise your cat. Startling or interrupting him while he's sleeping or eating is an easy way to end up with a scratch instead of some snuggle time. Start by petting your cat softly to see if you think he's up for a hug, first. Then be gentle. Some cats may give off a tough vibe, but they just need to be handled with care. Don't grab him roughly or hold him too tightly, and let go if he seems uncomfortable. You should also let him come to you. Some cats prefer to be affectionate on their own terms. Sit or lay down near your cat, and see if he will come to you for a cuddle. This might be the preferred method for cats who don't like to be picked up, but still crave some attention. Gentle praise spoken in a soft voice can also serve as positive reinforcement for your cat, so he'll learn that hugs are a good thing. And lastly, know when to let go. A short hug might start out fine, but if your cat starts to squirm or pull away, let him go. Try again later when he's more relaxed.

Image: llike / via Shutterstock