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How to Identify and Avoid an "Angry Snuggle"

Does your cat ever freeze up and get mad when you snuggle? Here's how to deal with it.

 |  Nov 26th 2012  |   44 Contributions


Some cats are natural snugglers and don’t mind being swept up and held closely, with Carpenters songs softly sung into their ears. I know I’d enjoy that, but my Cosmo usually doesn’t share my sentiment. He is what you might call persnickety. Sometimes he doesn’t mind the whole routine, but there are times he’s just plain ill-tempered about the whole situation.

Cosmo loves me, but he's about to get mad.

Yup, things are turning angry.

I like to call these special times “angry snuggles.” They don’t begin that way. In fact, most times he purrs when I scoop him into my arms. Then the purring wanes and the ears flatten. It’s kind of like an aura prior to a migraine headache -– you see it coming and realize you’ve reached the point of no return. Unless the cat is immediately released, an angry snuggle is inevitable.

Maybe you’re no stranger to the angry snuggle, or perhaps you are one of the lucky ones whose feline embraces all that touchy-feely business. For the crowd in the latter category, let’s dissect the angry snuggle so you can identify one and act quickly before the situation becomes ugly. I've provided this handy chart to identify the problem areas to watch out for: 

A: Angry Thoughts

I can’t see the cranky brainwaves, but a cat psychic could probably feel them from down the block. If my cat were gifted with telekinetic powers, I’d have a kabob skewer sticking out of my forehead. Those waves are angry like a tsunami.

B: Airplane Ears

No full-blown angry snuggle would be complete without pancake-flat airplane ears. It’s possible to measure the level of anger by how far the ears have flattened. When they’ve reached a 45-degree shift, there’s still time for my escape through the emergency exit, but once they’ve settled into the complete 90-degree position, it’s too late -- he’s ready for takeoff.

C: Stink Eye

No one knows stink eye better than cats. These children of the scorn have honed the hairy eyeball and aren’t afraid to direct it toward anyone, especially the well-intentioned initiator of the snuggle.

I’ve been on the business end of cat stink-eye more than a few times, and I can say the foulness rivals the stink expelled from the cat’s other end.

D: Landing-Gear Legs

The legs are extended and ready to leap. If the ears are airplane wings, then the legs are the landing gear, and they’re fully engaged during the height of the angry snuggle. This position also allows for spiteful swatting prior to and during release.

E: Log Body

Along with the extended legs comes the perfectly stiff, resistant full-body stance of retaliation. I call this "log body." As if the tsunami brainwaves weren’t enough to drown me in disdain, log body conveys, in no uncertain terms, the cat’s unwavering defiance against my affectionate gestures. Log body reminds me of a mid-tantrum toddler or a resistant protester being carried off by the cops. 

Me and Phoebe, who isn't ready to give up on the snuggle just yet.

Angry snuggles don’t always shoot to the maximum angrocity; sometimes minor features will hover for a time, like a heliocopter figuring out which way to go. This is the magical window of grace wherein irritation will either rise or fall, depending on a combination of the human’s actions and dumb luck.

Please see the below photo of Rocki, the sweet kitty who lives at Purina headquarters, and me. Rocki’s ears are only slightly cocked, there’s moderate eye stinkage, and only the front landing-gear legs are extended. If I remember correctly, I released her before she morphed into log body.

Me and Rocki, who is reaching moderate angrocity.

Over time I’ve learned to recognize the subtle and not-so-subtle precursors to the fully ripe angry snuggle. Please be assured I would never attempt a snuggle with a cat who is already in an overly cranky mood. Why would I set out to cuddle a log body or risk an attack from Scratch McCrankypants? Most times I manage to release kitty before chaos erupts. Other times I can actually turn the situation around with a few neck scritches and another Carpenters smooth groove.

I love identifying and averting angry snuggles and aspire to proudly tout the title of Angry Snuggle Whisperer. I would, however, settle for less scratches and a decent photo now and again.

How do you deal with the angry snuggle? Share your photos with us! 

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