It's been a long day, and when you come home to see your cat, the first thing you want to do is give them a big hug. I know I do. However, the real question is: does your cat want to be hugged? It's unnerving to think about because it would be, frankly, devastating if your cat hated your hugs. Yet it's good to know the truth, because you want to make sure that your feline friend is happy.
If we're being honest, many cats don't love hugs the way that humans do. This is not speaking for all cats, of course. In fact, there are a number that like to be held and hugged. However, in general, the way people hug can be quite stressful for a cat, purely because of their natural instincts.
When humans go in for a hug, it can come off as an attack. As a much bigger animal (the human), that is wrapping their arms around a much smaller animal (the cat) it can be quite stressful for them. In nature, cats might be master hunters of rodents and insects, but they are also prey. When cats in nature are prey, it is common for the predator to swoop down, envelop them and trap them using their bodies.
Although we may not mean it as aggressive, hugs can trigger the feeling of being captured and in danger to your feline friend. Now, this doesn't mean that you cannot hug your cat, it just means you might have to be conscious of how you do it. That way both you and your cat feel good as you hug them.
Do not rush at your cat or surprise them while they are sleeping or eating. Be patient and gently pet your cat. Sit or lie doesn't next to them. Cats, as any cat owner knows, like to show affection on their own terms. If they are eager for more pets, they might sit or stand on you, nonverbally telling you "more snuggles please!"
If they decide to take perch on your lap, keep petting them and scratching gently under their chin or behind their ears. If they are purring, rubbing their heads on you or patting your hand with their paws when you stop it means they are happy with the attention you are giving them. Then you may try loosely putting your arms around them. If your cat freezes, tries to wiggle away, swishes its tail or begins hissing and scratching, stop immediately. They are not happy and are not enjoying your hug. However, if they are comfortable with you loosely wrapping your arms around them it is possible to give a gentle quick hug. Use a gentle calming voice while you do this so your cat knows they are safe and loved! If they do not jump away, wiggle, or stiffen with discomfort, your cat is probably feeling comfortable with that hug.
Like with anyone, hugs can be embraced (pun intended) or rejected by individuals based on personal preference. If you are busy or you are just not in the mood for hugging right now, you wouldn't be so keen to be forcefully hugged. Your cat is exactly the same, they just can't say "I'm just not feeling like hugging right now." Be aware of your cat's body language so you can honestly tell whether your cat is happy with your hug, or not. If they are cats who do no enjoy hugs just give them some snuggles and pets instead. They will be grateful for your love and affection even if hugs aren't their favorite.