By Michelle Mullins, CPDT - KA, PetSafe Training & Behavior Education Manager
There are approximately 86 million pet cats in the U.S. so clearly cats are well loved by many. I’ve been very fortunate to be owned by some amazing felines myself. As a young girl, I was a notorious hugger of cats.
As I look back at pictures, I don’t think any of my sweet kitties liked to be hugged or perhaps I am not skilled in the proper way to hug a cat. I’m sure there are some cats out there that don’t mind a light squeeze by their favorite person, but I’d hate to find out they don’t and receive a scratch for my efforts.
Is there a “right” way to hug a cat? Is it even a good idea to hug a cat, do cats like to be hugged and what if they don’t? To help answer these questions, I enlisted the help of cat behavior consultant, Jacqueline Munera, owner of Positive Catitudes in Tampa, Florida.
Is it a good idea to hug a cat? Can it be dangerous? Jacqueline maintains it is a good idea to know the potential hug recipient’s preference, whatever their species (cat, dog, person) happens to be! It can certainly be dangerous to hug a non-appreciative cat! They are outfitted with plentiful sharp defensive weapons ready to deploy full force in response to offensive handling.
Jacqueline Munera of Positive Catitudes in Tampa, FL has a cat who loves to be hugged in a "burping" position, but every cat is different.
Even if the cat seems amenable to being hugged, Jacqueline says, “Proper hug technique is determined by each individual cat. For example, one of my kitties appears to enjoy being carried in a ‘burping’ position with her front legs over my left shoulder. Another of my cats used to ask to be picked up, cradled like an infant and carried around.
Generally, most cats seem to prefer a technique that supports their body rather than dangles them in the air. I asked Jacqueline, “How do I know if my cat likes being hugged?” She recommends trying it! “Go in small steps so you can gage your cat’s response.
Does your cat remain relaxed? Does the cat struggle? If you put your cat down after a hug and she runs away each time she sees you, it is probably an indication that your cat is not appreciative of your hugging affliction.”
Hugging isn't right for all cats. This kitty doesn't look too happy.
Instead of putting kitty in an uncomfortable snuggle consider other ways to interact with her and show her some appreciation on Hug Your Cat Day!
Show kitty some love by brushing and petting her. Many cats love to be brushed and a good scratch on the back near the tail or under the chin are often favorite spots.
Let her inner tiger out by providing enrichment that lets her hunt, stalk and pounce! Wand toys with feathers, cat nip, etc. can be entertaining for both of you. Some cats even like to play fetch with a favorite toy.
Take a walk! Curious cats will enjoy a chance to explore a new environment. Explore the great outdoors with the safety of a harness like the Come With Me Kitty harness with a bungee leash for comfort.
How about some one on one time with you? Training your cat provides some great mental exercise for her and is a lot of fun. Yes, cats are trainable especially with clicker training! Jacqueline’s favorite
Hug Your Cat Day activity is playing with her cats. “We all enjoy interactive toys because the cats get exercise through a predatory activity that is just plain fun for both of us.”
What is your favorite way to show your cat you love her or him?