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What Do Cats Really Think About Hugs? What Does Science Say

Written by: Crystal Uys

Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

happy cat with closed eyes hugging owner

What Do Cats Really Think About Hugs? What Does Science Say

Most of the time, cats are irresistible. I can’t help but want to give my cats a big squeeze when they’re doing something adorable like Hugo the Abominable Snowman talking about wanting to hug and squeeze Bugs Bunny. Some cats make it very obvious that they don’t like hugs, while others may be a little more stoic in their response. Do cats generally enjoy hugs?

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Do Cats Like Hugs?

I have three cats, and each cat responds differently to being picked up and hugged. Nutmeg makes it clear that hugs aren’t her thing by attempting to scramble out of my arms the second her feet leave the floor. Even if I don’t pick her up to hug her, she immediately squeezes out of my arms.

Noodles will tolerate a hug, but it doesn’t seem to be her favorite form of affection; she prefers to scream at us at 5 AM until we pet her. Aslan hisses when picked up or confined, so it’s safe to say he’s not a fan. Then again, that could be due to me following him around the house saying, “Let me love you!”

cat snuggling with owner
Image Credit: cottonbro, Pexels

What Does Science Say?

Anecdotes may feel very strong when you’re the one experiencing them, but experience can vary significantly between situations. That’s why it’s important to look to science to give us a better idea of how our cats feel about hugs.

In general, studies and anecdotes both point to most cats not enjoying hugs. Cats usually don’t like to be confined, and hugs can be very confining, to say the least. Many cats also greatly enjoy their own space, so they may not appreciate having their boundaries crossed for a hug.

On the other hand, cats are all individuals, and some cats tolerate hugs. Many enjoy being hugged and may return the hug with other signs of affection, like purring, licking, and snuggling. Some breeds, like the laid-back Scottish Fold, loving Ragdoll, and heat-seeking Sphynx, may be more likely to enjoy hugs than others. Even within these breeds, each cat is an individual, so don’t expect the breed to be the only factor determining if your cat likes hugs.

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Can I Make My Cat Like Hugs?

It’s hard to say if there’s a way to teach your cat to enjoy hugs because there are so many factors at play determining why your cat doesn’t like hugs and if there are ways for you to work through some of them. One thing that will work in your favor in helping your cat to like hugs is starting them young.

Noodles was around 8 weeks old when we found her, and she is most tolerant of hugs. Nutmeg was already 6 months old when we adopted her from a rescue. Even though she lived in a foster home, she had not been picked up, hugged, or carried around much.

When I adopted Aslan from a local animal shelter, he was 7 years old. The shelter told me he had come from a home with other animals, but little else was known, so it’s impossible to know how much he was handled. It’s possible that all of my cats would love hugs if they had all been started on regular hugging at a young age.

Sometimes, your cat won’t like hugs, even if you hug them when they’re young. This is because your cat has their own preferences and personality. Just like how your cat prefers chicken over fish or likes ear scratches over butt scratches, your cat may just be a cat that doesn’t like hugs, no matter what you try.

Cat being kissed by owner
Image Credit: JensEnemark, Pixabay

Does My Cat Not Love Me?

Just because your cat doesn’t like hugs doesn’t mean they don’t like you. Cats are highly intelligent animals that show great empathy and affection towards other animals and people. Even without hugs, cats are pros at showing love in their own way.

We’re all familiar with purring as a sign of happiness in cats, but cats show affection in a variety of ways. Does your cat drop their favorite toy on your face when you’re feeling down? That could be your cat showing you love in their favorite way.

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Most cats don’t like hugs, but some cats tolerate hugs, and others love hugs. Don’t be discouraged if your cat doesn’t like hugs, however. None of my cats are appreciative of my love and affection in the form of hugging, although I steal a little bit of their love that way.

If you’re one of the lucky people with a cat who loves hugs, hold on tight! That’s a rare gift that most cats don’t want to give. If your cat isn’t a hugger, keep an eye out for other ways that your cat shows you their love, as well as finding ways to show your cat how much you love them without pushing the boundaries of their personal space.

Featured Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

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