As the proud parent of an adorable feline, you don’t hold back in showering your cat with affection. You spoil them with toys and treats, and you give them hugs and kisses. But have you ever wondered what your cat is thinking when you take them into your arms? Does your feline friend understand that you’re trying to tell them you love them, or do they just see it as another strange thing that humans do?
Signs Your Cat Understands Hugs
In general, cats understand that a hug is an expression of affection. Not all felines will tolerate being embraced, however. Just as we humans have our personal preferences, cats also have their own likes and dislikes. So some will allow themselves to be hugged, while others will not stand for your weird human ways.
You’ll know your cat understands and enjoys being hugged when they’re purring and moving in closer. They might even tap you with their paw if you stop, and they’ll hang around near you so they can get more attention. If your cat doesn’t like being held, you will feel their body going stiff as soon as you pick them up. They might hiss, attempt to escape your grasp, or even nip at you if they’re really uncomfortable.
It’s important to stop and release your cat if they have a negative reaction to being hugged. You might feel disappointed that your furry friend doesn’t want to cuddle, but don’t take it personally. All cats are different and not all of them are keen on physical contact. Additionally, a hug can make your cat feel trapped, making it a potential source of stress for felines.
Signs that your cat understands hugs as an expression of affection are:
- Tapping you with their paw if you stop
- Staying close to you
History of Cats Understanding Hugs
Fossil records from early human settlements show that cats and humans have co-existed for a very long time, although these are assumed to be wild cats. Evidence suggests that feline domestication began around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent region, and the earliest true record of domestication is a cat who had been buried with their human in a grave in Cyprus about 9,500 years ago.
The earliest known evidence of a beneficial relationship between humans and felines was discovered in the Chinese village of Quanhucun, where cat bones from 5,300 years ago were found. Researchers observed that these bones were similar to those of today’s domestic cats. They also determined that people may have fed these ancient cats, as chemical analysis of the bones showed that one cat had eaten mostly human-grown grains.
Given the long-running relationship between felines and humans, we can theorize that cats back then probably also received hugs from the people who cared for them, especially if they had formed a close bond.
Science of Cats Understanding Hugs
Cats have a reputation for being emotionally distant, but they do appreciate it when they’re shown love. They’re affectionate critters, though they’re usually subtle about it, especially when compared to canines.
A study found that cats see their humans as more than just a source of food; they consider their favorite people as a source of comfort and security as well. Like dogs and babies, felines form attachments to their caregivers. Another study suggests that cats can sense our moods.
So your furry friend likely knows the reason behind your hugs, even if they’re one of those cats who don’t enjoy physical contact.
Training Your Cat to Understand Hugs
The best way to get on your cat’s good side is to never force them to do anything. Again, keep in mind that not all cats will tolerate human physical contact, especially if they didn’t experience being held as kittens. Still, it’s possible to teach your cat to accept your cuddles—as long as you go slowly. Here’s how you can train your cat to understand hugs:
- Wait for your cat to come to you. Never swoop down or sneak up on your cat. Don’t try to hug them when they’re playing, eating, or sleeping. We want to introduce hugs at their pace, not ours, so let them approach you first.
- Pet your cat. Even when your furry friend has approached you or climbed into your lap, refrain from lunging in with a hug. Instead, pet them on the head, cheek, and chin first. You can also talk to them in a calming voice.
- Hug your cat. Once your cat is relaxed, you can try giving them a hug, but avoid any sudden movements; go slow and easy. Keep your hold loose so they don’t feel trapped. Continue petting them on the head, cheek, and chin.
- Observe your cat. If your cat is not enjoying the embrace, they will start showing signs that they would like you to stop. Cat signs are often subtle, though, so it’s important to keep an eye out for them.
- Let your cat go. If your cat flattens their ears or flips their tail, release them from the hug immediately.
Cats like being able to escape situations, so hugs can be stressful for some of them. While we consider hugging our feline companions as an act of love, cats don’t show affection the same way that we do. If your cat isn’t keen on being held, it would be best to just accept the fact and display your affection in other ways such as brushing and playing with them.
Most cats understand hugs, but hugs aren’t for every cat. If your feline friend isn’t a cuddler, there are other ways to show them that you love them!