Why Do Cats Like To Cuddle?

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For thousands of years, cats have cuddled, snuggled, and finagled their way into our palaces, huts, condos, and bungalows. From earning the reverence of ancient Egyptian royalty to winning the most popular pet status in the 21st century, cats have captured the hearts of millions throughout the ages with their elegant beauty, enigmatic mystique and appetite for cuddling. It's estimated that there are 90 million house cats in the U.S. alone.

At the dawn of the agricultural era about 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, cats decided to domesticate themselves by using the magic of reciprocation. With lush fields of crops, surplus grain storage brought the proliferation of mice. Although cats had lived alongside humans for eons, finally they found a way to become indispensable to ancient people by skillfully mastering the art of vermin control. It wasn't long before cats were getting table scraps, warmth, shelter, protection from predators and yes, cuddles.

Cuddling keeps both cats and humans healthy.

Cuddling with our pets produces a mammalian hormone produced in the hypothalamus called oxytocin, otherwise known as the "love hormone." All vertebrates are capable of experiencing the love-bug effects of this neuropeptide and cuddling with our pets and the feelings it evokes is only one lovely aspect of this hormone's power. A poignant book by Meg Daley Olmert explores the deep connection we have with animals. In "Made for Each Other: Biology of the Human-Animal Bond" she expounds on the role of oxytocin in our relationships with all pets, including cats.

Findings published in the journal Preventative Veterinary Medicine detail how 96 shelter cats split into two groups received differing amounts of interaction with humans. The first group of cats had a positive interaction with the same person for 10 minutes, four times daily for 10 days. The control group of cats spent the same time every day with a person who averted their eyes and ignored the cats, which is the typical shelter experience. Results proved that only the cats with consistent interaction fared well. Sadly, the ignored cats disproportionately developed respiratory disorders.

One of the animal welfare consultants who were involved with the study, Nadine Gourkow, told The Huffington Post that she unveiled a "strong association between positive emotions induced by gentling and good health." This research proves that when cats are happy, as in being cuddled regularly and given appropriate attention and affections, that they produce more antibodies, and antibodies fight off infection.

Cats snuggle for warmth.

Catching some rays in the glow of a cozy fireplace or snagging a patch of sunlight on the kitchen floor, cats are heat-seeking missiles. They luxuriate in creature comforts and head for the nearest cozy comforter, radiator, or person for a warm cuddle or nap on your lap. It takes up a lot of energy sleeping 18 hours a day and staying warm is important.

Cats' craving for warmth harks back to their days as kittens when mother cat kept them warm, safe, and cozy. Many cat behaviors are rooted in those early, formative months as kittens.

Cats cuddle for security and protection.

From kittenhood, cats seek the security and protection of their mothers. A mamma cat cuddles her babies making them feel safe and in many ways, cats remain kittens for life. Much of the behavior they show toward us is derived from the mother-kitten relationship. Purring, kneading, raising their tail, cuddling, rubbing, and sleeping on their mother's neck and face are all behaviors that cats instinctively repeat day-after-day with us. While cats treat humans like mother cats, dogs recognize that we are a different species. But people are big, furless felines to cats, which is why they love to snuggle with us.

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Cats cuddle for companionship and bonding.

Some cats are stalkers. In their few waking hours, they stake out a spot where they can observe everything you do, silently calculating the best time to pounce and land in your lap. The drama is played out daily and if you have multiple cats with the stalker personality, it's hard to get any work done. Other cats insist on cuddling in bed. It may be quite innocent but when startled by a loud noise in the night, those paws morph into claws that may do some serious damage.

Wherever humans accept these cuddles, they become ritualistic since cats are creatures of habit. But if these extreme cuddles are backfiring and making you grumpy or edgy, get creative and think of other less intrusive ways to cuddle that you will both relish. Every cat has their own cuddling style and depending on your unique expression of love for your cat, you will explore a ton of options until you come up with the purrfect cuddle.

How often to cuddle your cat.

Giving attention to your cat in the form of cuddling, petting, playing, and verbal endearments makes their world go round. Cats can get lonely when you're not at home and most will seek out attention when you're around. While cats are undisputedly independent and may be aloof to some people or strangers, feline standoffishness is overestimated.

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Cats, like dogs and other sentient beings such as people, are individuals with idiosyncrasies that defy logic. If your cat likes to cuddle, make sure she gets her cuddle-fix every day. If she avoids your cuddle, don't force it; she will show her love in other ways.

Turn cuddle sessions into training or play time.

Some cats could cuddle with you for hours, especially cats who fall asleep while cuddling. Keep in mind cats can sleep up to 18-hours-a-day, so tying up your time means nothing to them. But, if you have a cuddly limit, for example, 5-10 minutes, then you may want to multitask your cuddling session. Bring on the brush, the comb, the detangler, the treats, the string, and have a ball. Not only is your cat getting cuddling time but she's getting groomed or played with too. It's the purrfect combo, particularly if your cat likes to be brushed and what cat does not like to play.

The playtime-cuddle blend is cat nirvana! When your cat is snuggled in on your lap, grab a small piece of crisp paper, roll it up into a tight ball, and throw it only a few inches away onto a desk or countertop. He'll spring from your lap, grab the paper ball, and then come right back to snuggle. With practice, you can teach cats to fetch and return, just like pups. Or dangle a ribbon or string and let her bat it around from her prone position. Cats are intelligent and know we are taking the time to play with and entertain them, and this playful cuddling bonus is appreciated by most felines.

Do some breeds of cats like to cuddle more?

If you don't have a cat but are excited about adopting one you can cuddle with, consider the following breeds who have a penchant for cuddling. There are plenty of purebreds and mixed-breed cats who love to be lavished with affection and have the cuddle-DNA. Here are some cuddlers extraordinaire who are not only gorgeous but extra-cuddly! Shelters are brimming of these wonderful companions.

  • Persian - Fluffy, beautiful, laid-back and fun, Persian cats are renowned cuddlers.
  • Maine Coone - These 9-18 pound cats are king-sized cuddlers and gentle giants who live for snuggle-time.
  • Ragdoll - When your ragdoll is not on your lap cuddling with you, they're by your feet. Loyal, true, and good-looking to boot, a ragdoll can be your best friend.
  • Exotic Shorthair - Livelier than a Persian and just as handsome, an exotic shorthair is an expert cuddler.
  • Burmese - Charming, attention-loving, golden-eyed beauty, the Burmese is an amazing best friend who loves to snuggle with you.
  • Sphynx - This hairless wonder loves attention and cuddling.
  • Chartreux - A rare breed from France, the Chartreux is an attention-seeking cuddler.
  • Himalayan - The awesome Himmy loves hanging out on your lap or draping their elegant selves over your sofa.
  • Ragamuffin - If you're looking for a gorgeous cat who follows you from room-to-room just waiting for a cuddle, then choose a ragamuffin.
  • Tonkinese - Consider a cat who loves to perch on your shoulder or sink into your lap, has stunning blue eyes, and wants to interact with you constantly. That's a Tonkinese!