Do Cats Really Like Hugs? Debunking the biggest myths about our feline friends

June 4th is National Hug Your Cat Day, but do cats really like
to be hugged? The short answer is maybe, but the long answer is that this may
not always be the best way to show your cat affection.

Do all cats like to be

It would be unfair to give a blanket statement and say that all
cats either do or do not like being hugged because, in reality, it comes down
to the individual cat. There are several breeds, such as Ragdolls and Burmese
cats, that are known for being very affectionate with their humans. These
breeds are generally comfortable being held for extended lengths of time and
won’t try to escape if you give them a little hug.

But this doesn’t mean that these are the only cats that enjoy being hugged. Much of a cat’s tolerance to being cuddled is formed in the first few weeks of their life. A cat that was handled and petted regularly during the key socialization period of two to seven weeks will be much more comfortable with hugs than a cat who did not have a high level of handling during the same period.

How can I tell if my
cat likes being hugged?

Your cat may not be able to speak, but they will let you know
how they feel about being hugged through their body language. The easiest way
to tell if your cat enjoys being hugged is if they purr loudly and lean into
the embrace – perhaps even giving you a little bump with their head.

On the other hand, if you notice your cat displaying any of the
following behaviors, it’s a clear sign that hugs are not for them.

  • Crouching or cowering: They crouch or cower, trying to make themselves look as small as possible.
  • Running away: They make a beeline for a spot out of your arms reach.
  • Avoiding eye contact: They actively turn their head away from you and avoid eye contact as you approach them.
  • Flicking their tail: They flick their tail quickly from side to side.
  • Flattening their ears: They flatten their ears against their head and stare at you as you approach.
  • Vocalizing: They give a low growl or meow, often paired with flattened ears.

If you notice your cat displaying any of these behaviors as you
approach or hug them, they’re telling you that they want some space.

How can I show my cat I
love them without hugging them?

If your cat isn’t too thrilled about being hugged, that’s okay. It just means that it’s time to find another way to show your affection! The best way to figure out how to show your cat affection is to pay attention to their body language and behavior. Your cat may not like hugs, but do they enjoy sitting beside you on the couch and getting the occasional pet? Perhaps they have a favorite toy that they go wild for every time you bring it out. They may even be a more food-motivated creature who loves nothing more than their favorite Freshpet recipe or treat. By observing what makes your cat happy throughout their day, you’ll quickly learn the best way to shower them with affection.

What are some other
things that my cat may or may not like?

Now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of whether or not cats like hugs, let’s take a look at some other common myths. Just like any other creature, what a cat does and does not like comes down to the individual. While popular culture may make us believe that cats categorically like or dislike something, such as hugs, the truths behind these myths are a bit more nuanced.

#1: Cats hate water

Researchers believe that there are two reasons cats tend to shy away from water. The first is because their thick coats don’t dry very quickly, which can leave them feeling weighed down and cold. The second is because they evolved from desert species that would encounter water very rarely. Knowing this, it could be conceivable that every cat will hate water, but this isn’t the case. Countless cats love playing with water, whether it’s from the tap or even in a pool – just take a look at YouTube if you don’t believe us!

#2: Cats love milk

For some reason, this is one of the cat myths that has stood the test of time. Like all newborns, kittens require milk from their mother to survive, but as they grow and are weaned they lose the ability to digest it and become lactose intolerant. By feeding your cat a balanced diet made of fresh, whole ingredients, they will be able to get all of the nutrients they need from their daily meals, without needing to add milk. If you wanted to give your cat a treat, you could offer them a very small portion of lactose-free “cat milk” but be warned that this can still cause an upset stomach or even weight gain.

#3: Cats hate dogs

If the phrase “fighting like cats and dogs” is to be believed,
our four-legged friends shouldn’t be able to coexist peacefully. But in
reality, any issues that cats and dogs face comes down to instincts and
communication issues and can be resolved over time. Dogs were traditionally
bred to hunt smaller creatures, so if they are not familiar with cats their
instincts may kick in and see them as prey. Even if they don’t have this prey
drive, dogs may approach cats the same way they would another dog, which can
make them uncomfortable. For example, if a dog comes right up and tries to
greet the cat by sniffing their bottom, they may find this threatening and
respond negatively. The more time they spend together, however, any lingering
prey drive will diminish and they will learn how to communicate properly.

Whether or not you can celebrate June 4th with a hug, we hope
that you can find a special way to mark the day and let your cat know how much
you love them!


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