Why Do Cats Like to Snuggle?
Every year, on June 4th, the world takes a moment to celebrate and honor the nostrum of the kitty hugs with a Hug your cat today holiday. This means that today you get to spoil yourself and your baby lion with a tad of extra snuggles! In light of the pawerful kitty snuggles, we decided to decipher the never-ending secret to why some cats seem to be snugglier than others and what the benefits of cuddling are. So, after you've stolen a few hugs from your furriend, sit back and learn a few things about cat snuggling with Basepaws!
Why do cats snuggle?
Cats have snuggled and cuddled alongside hoomans ever since the ancient times. But have you ever asked yourself why your cat enjoys snuggling so much? In the nutshell, snuggles are warm, safe and healthy. And your kitty knows it! Here are the three main reasons why snuggling has to be one of the top priorities for every cat.
1. They snuggle for warmth. You've probably noticed that your cat continually seeks for warm places to nap at. This is because maintaining the body temperature is energetically very expensive, and your cat needs to look for efficient ways to stay warm while purring the hours away. A patch of sunlight on the ground and the keyboard of your laptop are both great, but nothing beats snuggling up against another furry friend or a hooman!
2. They snuggle for safety and protection. Seeking warmth, safety and protection is a feline behavior rooted in the early days of kittenhood. Young kittens all sleep together in a bundle to keep warm and safe. And adult cats continue to crave this later in life too. Thus, your kitty instinctively looks for warmth, protection and security when it comes to nap in your lap. Did you know that snuggling is just one of many behaviors kittens take into adulthood? Purring, kneading, rubbing and sleeping the mother's neck and face are all kitten-like behaviors which adult cats instinctively repeat throughout their whole lives.
3. They're trying to bond with you. In cat world, snuggle time is productive, bonding time. Your kitty needs you for food, warmth and shelter, and sometimes all they want is show you that they love and appreciate you. Your cat's headbutts, snuggles and purrs are all tokens of affection and appreciation. Thus, sometimes, cats simply snuggle against you for the sake of bonding. And let's face it, this is so precious and we crave it even more than the cat does! It's important to provide your pet with lots of attention and love, and cuddling is a purrfect way to do so.
But, why aren't all cats so snuggly then?
Despite it being so beneficial and rooted in their kittenhood, many cats remain to be rather timid and wild. The two main reasons which can explain why some cats are more or less snuggly and affectionate than others are genetics and early socialization.
1. Genetics. It remains largely unclear and understudied whether there is a genetic potential to the personality profile of cats or not. Breeding shows, however, that genetics does play some kind of a role in your pet's temperament at least to a certain extent. Even though cat fanciers have been selecting and breeding cats mainly for their appearances, some cat breeds developed to be distinctly friendlier and more affectionate than others. While we still don't know which genetic factors give rise to cat friendliness, here are the top ten breeds which seem to be the cuddliest: Ragdoll, Siamese, Sphynx, Ragamuffin, Scottish Fold, Persian, Tonkinese, Burmese, Birman and Maine Coon (full list here).
It is important to keep in mind that there are many complex factors influencing a cat's personality (read on heritability vs. expression here), which is why a certain breed doesn't necessarily guarantee the personality profile. A cat breed is simply more likely to have cats that are more or less affectionate and cuddly than others.
2. Early socialization.. It can be speculated that a kitten inherits the potential to develop into a cuddly and sweet kitty from its parents, but the environment plays an undeniable and essential role in the expression of this potential. The earliest months are considered to be the most critical period in the social development of kittens. Every single experience in this period will play its own role in the formation of the kitty’s personality. For instance, cats that are handled and positively stimulated early on usually become more social and confident later in life. These kittens are often braver, they explore more and mature faster. They will, therefore, handle stress much better growing up too. On the other side, cats that are insufficiently exposed to people or are exposed to traumatic experiences are naturally more likely to develop certain fears. They are at a higher risk of becoming shy, cautious, timid or even aggressive as adults. Thus, the early social development is likely one of the major factors determining how cuddly your adult cat will be.
Benefits of snuggling
We have already elaborated why a cat looks for snuggles, but there is more to snuggling than just warmth, safety and bonding. Snuggling is actually healthy, both for us and for cats! In hoomans, it has been long known that hugging is an effective remedy against stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression. This is because a nice, loving hug promotes synthesis of oxytocin ("hormone of bonding" or "love drug") in the brain. And the same rule applies for cat snuggles too. In a study by Gourkow et al (2014), 139 cats were split into two groups. The first group od cats (gentled group) was gentled (gently stroked and talked to) by people four times a day for at least 10 minutes for 10 days. Cats who were less social or aggressive were gentled with the aid of tool. The second group (control) was completely deprived of the attention, similarly to what shelter cats experience daily. The results showed that the cats who were gentled regularly (including the antisocial cats) were less likely to have valanced moods and they had higher levels of immunoglobulin A (antibodies which form the first line of defense against infections). Control cats, however, experienced a significant increase in shedding and they disproportionally developed respiratory diseases. This study shows that interaction with people and gentling are extremely important for the health and well-being of all cats. So, make sure to provide your kitty with tons of attention and stroking every day!
Gentling is not only beneficial for cats, but for hoomans too. "Recent research has shown that the soothing sounds of a kitty can aid your body […] because their purrs fluctuate between 20-140 Hz, a frequency range which has been proven to be medically therapeutic." - explained Kelli Bender. Purrs help lower stress, blood pressure, effects of dyspnea and depression. They promote healing of infections, bones and muscles. So, hug your purring kitty right now and keep healthy together!
How snuggly is your sweet bundle of joy? Share with us on Social Media and send us your photos! Meow!