Cat Cuddles — What to Know About Your Kitty’s Snuggling Habits

There’s nothing better than cat cuddles! So, why do some cats love to get snuggly while others hate it? How do you cuddle a cat properly?

A woman hugging a cat.
Show your cat some love today! Photography © PeopleImages | E+ / Getty Images.

We’ve all seen cute social media pictures of cats enjoying cuddles with their humans. But why are those cat cuddles so easy to come by with some felines — and why do some kitties seem to strongly avoid any form of cuddling? And how can you go about encouraging your own cat to get cuddly with you?

Let’s dig into the science behind cat cuddles.

A gray cat curled up on a woman's lap.
What’s up with those cat cuddles — or lack thereof? Photography by vladans/Thinkstock.

How and why do cats cuddle?

When cats cuddle, they are carrying out behaviors they learned as kittens. Back then, snuggling with mom would provide a kitten with warmth and a sense of security. So, when your cat hops up on your lap and curls into a ball while you’re lounging on the couch, or when she decides to cozy next to you while you’re snoozing in bed, she’s cuddling with you to feel safe and warm.

Why do some cats cuddle more than others?

A lot of your cat’s personality and temperament is determined during her early weeks of life — and a cat’s likelihood to cuddle is no different. According to Sally E. Bahner, a feline consultant and pet writer, it’s vital that kittens are socialized at the very young age of two-to-seven-weeks-old. “That means being handled and petted regularly, which will get them used to being cuddled early on,” she says.

Do some breeds enjoy cat cuddles more than others?

Even accounting for different levels of socialization and a feline’s inherent tendency toward finickiness, certain cat breeds are more likely predisposed to enjoying cat cuddles over others. “I would think that the more sedate breeds such as Ragdolls and Persians would enjoy cuddling more than the active, high-energy breeds like Bengals and Abyssinians,” says Sally.

Older cats who might be suffering from medical ailments like arthritis might also show an aversion to being cuddled, Sally points out. So, if you’re looking to adopt a feline with a preference for cat cuddles, consider the age and breed.

How should you give cat cuddles?

If your kitty is open to cat cuddles, it’s imperative that she’s always well supported, whether you’ve scooped her up or she’s cradling in your lap. Support kittens and cats like newborn babies, and always avoid squeezing or applying unnecessary pressure while cuddling. Adding some chin scratching to the mix can also help put your cat at ease; in general, petting while cuddling can encourage your kitty to enjoy cat cuddles.

Sally says that one of her own cats, Mollie, doesn’t particularly like being held. When she picks Mollie up, she makes sure she’s well supported and is always released at the first signs of any struggle. “Then I’ll thank her abundantly,” she says, “because it has to be on the cat’s terms; if you force [cuddling], you will make it a negative association.” Similarly, if your feline becomes overstimulated during a bout of cat cuddles and decides to bless you with a cat love bite, that should be taken as a clear signal it’s time to end the snuggle session.

What if your kitty hates cuddles?

Unfortunately, some felines just do not enjoy cat cuddles. Sally says this is likely the result of a lack of proper socialization, especially not being handled regularly during kittenhood. She also points out that a bad experience — “such as hearing a loud noise while being held” — can spook a kitty out of enjoying cat cuddles.

If your cat hates cuddles … does he hate you?

Sally maintains that just because a cat does not seem to derive pleasure from cuddling, that does not mean that the kitty isn’t affectionate at heart: Even if those full-on cat cuddles are out of the question, your cat still likely experiences a whole lot of comfort and a feeling of safety simply by being close to you.

Thumbnail: Photography © PeopleImages | E+ / Getty Images.

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19 thoughts on “Cat Cuddles — What to Know About Your Kitty’s Snuggling Habits”

  1. I’ve learned to keep a blanket nearby. If I spot them coming that blanket gets quickly spread on my lap! One lets me trim nails, the other sibling, nope.

  2. My kitty cat likes to cuddle as much as she can, but it comes with the cost of her always using her claws on me. Not only does it damage the various shirts I like to wear, but I admit it, I have thin skin. She has unintentionally left scratch marks and bled me from time to time as well. It can be worst than a mosquito bite sometimes. I thought a bunch of those doggie or kitty cat socks would be cute, but it is a long almost next to impossible process trying to train her to wear the stockings or stop making minced meat of my tender thin skin. I do not believe in declawing cats especially if they are allowed outside to roam. I would try to give her pedicures more often if she permitted it and frequent trips to the vet or a groomer get a bit pricey after awhile. As much as I love my kitty cat and I knows she still loves me, sometimes, those claws can be, how do you put this nicely, they are a real pain. I know patience is a virtue but sometimes frustrations outweigh the long drawn out
    almost seemingly impossible processs of training my kitty cat. I have yet to find the right kitty cat treats for those special occasions that she actually gets it and understands that daddy knows best always. She seems to turn her nose up at all those kitty cat temptations and treats my other kitty cat would go crazy nuts for. And I never seen any other kitty cat react or more rather not react to catnip like my kitty cat does. It is mind boggling. Do you have any suggestions I might be able to use? Have a beautiful day.

    1. I have a cat that always (unintentionally) claws when kneading. I have found that a thick blanket or anything else that is thick, between my clothes and the cat, works really well. She doesn’t seem to mind the thick cloth and just keeps kneading — but without claws touching me. Good luck.

    2. Our pets are our Family. The time you invest in them benefits all. I have 3 cats, 2 12yrs and a 2 year old. I take my nail clippers and they come to me, climb in my lap, and let me clip all four paws without even looking at me do it. If you just take time, and show them you will never harm them, it is amazing what they allow you to do. All 3 also will go into the bathroom and come to me if I’m in the bathtub and then let me wash and spray them off. It’s about patience trust, and being calm, and mostly just being the “Alpha” as my “Carolina Hound” also known as the American Dingo will attest to. Normally he would eat them, yet looks at me while he licks, and snuggles up to them. My point is today’s pets are a product of their owners raising, and just like our children, we reap what we sow, but what do I know?

    3. We have 2 one year old brother cats and one knows how to retract his claws when interacting with us, but the other can hurt us -even though he wants to cuddle and play. I give him treats while I cut his nails. You can put a thick blanket under him to make it less likely to hurt you!

  3. Shirley LeBlanc

    My Tortie loves to hang over my shoulder. She purrs and is very content there. She also loves to get on my husbands lap when he sits in the recliner reading the paper. He enjoys her cuddles too. She loves to lay between us on the bed. She feels safe and warm.

    1. sounds like a sweetheart to me. I've never been owned by a 'shoulder kitty', but I guarantee you that it's a hoot. I've been owned by a BIG handsome black cat who loved giving me hugs & kisses. Such a loud purr machine. His meow would melt your heart.

  4. we have 3 cats: 5yo Bengal cross Puss Puss, 2yo peanut tabby Simba and a teen kitten who turned up on our doorstep and decided to “adopt” us- Smokey
    Puss Puss shows his affection only on his terms but being a big cat, he has a “studded” dog collar as cat collars don’t fit, and with this collar he now has an attitude of being the alpha and the guard of everyone
    However Simba is a real mummys boy and even suffers with mild separation anxiety when I’m not around He is so affectionate that he will not only head bump but also bump noses which we call Kitty Kisses
    he has to inspect me from head to toe when ive been out, to make sure I haven’t patted or cuddled another animal but he has been wonderful for me as I have depression and PTSD so Simbas affection and our close bond is very comforting for me as well as him
    As Smokey has grown she gets very jealous and competitive for affection She thrives on cuddles and attention so currently I have her and Simba competeing for whose human I am there is never any nastiness between them though and they are really affectionate towards each other as well
    although Puss Puss isn’t as affectionate as the 2 little ones, he does show affection by being very over protective to all of us and is like a big brother to the smaller cats keeping them in line and cleaning and fussing over them and us
    They are all very much a part of our family so we have strong bonds and know the different cat signals they give us to show they love and trust us
    the latest one is to roll on their backs and enjoy us giving them a belly rub like dogs do
    every cat will show how they love us, its just up to us to learn their language

  5. Susan Beardmore

    Got my kittie from rescue centre she was found in a shed with kittens and one had died. She was absolutely frightened by every movement we made for months, but now she sees me sit down and she rushes to me for a cuddle every time. Awwww such love I am in aww of her love for me. My dog still doesn’t like her and my two other elderly cats just put up with her now, although the eldest has stopped coming on my lap now and sleeps upstairs. That I find sad as she was my lap cat and now I feel I have pushed her nose out of joint xxx She occasional sits on the arm of my chair for a cuddle and allows rescue kittie to sit on my lap at the same time. I didn’t say, I lost a cat 12 months ago and this new kittie was a replacement and I am glad I rescued her as her previous life was just awful. Cant help feeling guilty though about my eldest cat, the other one is not a cuddler, she does nose kisses. Isnt the cat world grand.

  6. my 9 month old kitten loves cuddles he jumps into my arms and pushes his head against my face,i love it,but hes getting heavier and it will be harder to hold him in that position forever lol

  7. My crybaby was a feral saved with 2 siblings. She loves to lay in my lap. The problem her and I find is due to health issues I have to stop the cuddles before she’s ready. She comes back as soon as she sees me back settled on the couch again. She doesn’t enjoy being held so much but will tolerate small amounts, likes chin rubs, and between her ears above her eyes are her favorite rub spots.

  8. I want a job as a “kitten cuddler”, making sure they all become good cuddlers as mature cats!

    That’s my ideal job!

  9. I have 4 Calico’s and each one is different. The one that dislikes cuddling the most is the one that shows me her belly multiple times a day and sits next to me. So they each have their own way of showing their love for us….we just need to learn their language.

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