In a previous blog we looked at dog noises and what they mean, this time we look more closely at cuddling in dogs AND cats.


Define cuddles

By cuddles, we mean any welcomed contact between you and your pet – a nuzzle in the neck with a head, tickling under the chin with fingertips, stroking (mind the belly, maybe), patting gently, touching paws, gentle nibbles (from your pet), a hand on the head, lying against each other.

With cats, cuddles come with cautions that you can read here. It’s important to gauge your pet’s feelings after a cuddle attempt. They might not like the love expression you’ve chosen.

We know why we do it, but what’s their reason for getting up-close and personal?


Cuddles because? A pet’s perspective


You are Warmmm…

Sometimes it’s simply practical. Your pup doesn’t have the other pups to huddle with since he joined your home, and he wants warmth, which you radiate, so you’re the one. Cats reportedly[1] feel the cold more than we do (despite that fur?) or at least seem very obvious about being first to soak up sources of warmth, like the fireplace or the nook of your arm.  Still, there’s no harm in you feeling good when kitty uses you as a heater…


Pets Want Affection

There’s another angle to your pets’ cause for cuddles, though the felines aren’t feeling it. Dogs do it for love, or something close. Cuddling as a form of affection strengthens the dog-human bond[2]. While some cat breeds are particularly prone to cuddling[3], including the Tonkinese, Siamese and Sphynx, it can’t yet be proven that this has anything to do with emotion, the way it does with dogs. It doesn’t mean you aren’t important, but if you need your arm for other things, you know it’s not going to happen, right, human? 😉 Either way, your heat is making them happy.


It Means Less Stress

A few deep breaths can halt stress in its tracks, and so can a couple of interspecies cuddles. With dogs and people, again, both benefit – both species’ brains release oxytocin when we’re close and interacting positively, particularly when we look into each other’s eyes[4]. Oxytocin is a hormone that makes us feel confident, connected, and happy. The more of these you feel, the less room for stress there is. So the more you cuddle your favourite canine, the more relaxed you feel. With cats and people, we know it works in our own favour, but because of the lack of scientific evidence, we’re still unsure if cuddles affect cats’ stress levels the same way it does dogs and folks. If kitty does choose you when she’s stressed, you can be sure it’s what she wants, whatever her reasons!


Unique cuddles from cats

So, dogs and humans get to enjoy a literal gush of good feeling from interacting closely with each other. They might be genetically designed that way, but there’s no need for cat lovers to feel left out. Cats have a few cuddles no canine can ever contend with.


With their saucer-like eyes on the front of their face, it’s possible –  and preferable to a pussy cat – to do a nose-bop. Try it – make eye contact and gently rub noses. “When your kitty needs to get up in your face to nose bop,” the Nest[5] confides, “she’s accepting you as another cat.”

Mutual forehead washes

If kitty offers her forehead, she may be up for a head groom, The Nest continues.[6] Friendly cats will groom each other’s foreheads, using their rough tongues to remove loose hair. You can stroke the forehead for the same effect, and the friendship will be forever. At least, until the next cuddle request, that is.


Hugs for dogs? Maybe not, hey

There’s much debate around hugging[7] dogs (some say they don’t like being enclosed because they feel confined and can’t respond physically to dangers/joys), and cats can also react negatively to being enveloped by human arms, so we’ll leave the decision about whether hugs qualify as cuddles to your discretion.

Whichever way you look at it, you’re going to benefit from welcome cuddles with cats and dogs, and they are, too. Do you have an unusual pet that likes to be petted? Tell us about the ways you show each other affection and what you think it might mean.