Happy Cuddle Up Day!

Happy Cuddle Up Day! Especially in the cold heart of winter, don’t you think that’s an appropriate holiday to celebrate?

I just learned about a most apt idiom: a “three dog night,” where a night is so cold it requires three dogs snuggling close to keep warm. (I would imagine cuddling with three Newfoundlands would be a most different experience than say, three Chinese crested dogs. In my house, if it got cold enough, it would definitely be called a “three cat night”.)

Although it’s warming up where I live, I am always game for a cuddle, and I am fortunate to have Boudicca, who is definitely my cuddliest cat and demands regularly scheduled lap time every evening. Charlie and Garrus absolutely love to cuddle with one another and freely use each other as pillows. That’s one of the reasons why we could not bear to separate them and adopted them together.

Grammar Geek Alert!: What’s the difference between cuddle and snuggle?

In English we use these terms interchangeably. Cuddle [noun] is defined as an affectionate embrace, often given to family members and close friends. [I would argue this applies to fur people.] Snuggle [noun] is sometimes defined as an affectionate hug. There the words are nearly identical but the given definition for snuggle is not always correct. The connotation for the word snuggle usually implies lying closely and comfortably, as in a nest. As verbs, however, the two words have more distinct definitions.

  1. Cuddle [verb]: to embrace affectionately, to lie together snugly; to cradle in one’s arms so as to give comfort or warmth; to lie close or snug; to crouch; to nestle.
  2. Snuggle [verb]: to lie close to another person or thing, hugging or being cozy; to move or arrange oneself in a comfortable or cozy position

I could dig into etymologies but that would be a tangent…In any case, now you know the difference between the two words! However, they are clearly synonyms.

Whether you prefer to cuddle, snuggle, lie under the covers, lounge on the couch binge watching Netflix, or simply be in the general vicinity of your pet (and human companions, if you feel so inclined), there are all kinds of benefits for doing this! Here are a few suggested activities for Cuddle Up Day:

  1. Building trust. This is a crucial element of any relationship between human and pet. A pet that does not trust its human and vice versa will not have a very stable or healthy working relationship. Both humans and pet need to develop trust in the other, and that does need hard work, time, and patience in both parties. Personally speaking, Aaron and I have worked hard to build Garrus and Charlie’s trust (and vice versa) since we fostered and adopted them. It’s been very rewarding and the boys are so much happier for it.
  2. Warmth. It’s January–it’s cold. Enough said!
  3. Affection. One of the reasons humans keep pets is to give spontaneous displays of affection. Or maybe that’s just me. Once in a while Garrus gives me his vampy smile after I kiss his head, and all three cats slow blink at me when they feel particularly relaxed.
  4. Oxytocin. If you engage in serious cuddling (yay!), there’s a chemical reaction at work, and it’s called oxytocin. Basically it’s the warm fuzzies. It is also the same hormone that causes mothers to bond with their newborn infants. For humans, oxytocin has a number of health benefits such as reducing heart disease, reducing blood pressure, dulling pain and muscle aches, lowering stress and anxiety, mitigating depression, and boosting the immune system. Studies have indicated that trust [between humans] develops as a result of the release of oxytocin, so it could very well develop in between owners and pets. In short, everyone feels the benefits of this happy-making hormone. Expect purring and tail-wagging.
  5. Cuddle party. Have a bash. Stay in your PJs or go all out and invite your friends, humans, canine, and/or feline alike. (For all you rodent, ferret, and bird fans, please enjoy yourselves too. I believe that all critters should be loved equally.) Strategically place pets on or around you and get cozy. Watch movies. Make pet-friendly treats. Distribute belly rubs freely. Have fun!

NB: Not all pets will be comfortable cuddling close. Some pets have larger personal bubbles of space and will not move closer no matter how much you entice them. Do not force your pets to do anything they genuinely do not wish to do.

If your pet needs extra space, respect that need. Provide them cozy bedding and toys. Don’t ignore your reserved or shy pet; give them attention and affection (especially if there are other pets in the house), talk to them, and periodically and invite your pet to join you if they wish. If your pet has a fearful reaction when picked up (for example, if you’ve adopted a former stray that had minimal handling), talk to your pet about this behavior. This may be something that you will need to work on to lessen your pet’s anxiety, or it may indicate a medical issue.

Garrus, for example, can be affectionate but he is completely unaccustomed to being picked up. This is most inconvenient when we need to trim his nails. While he may never be a cuddly cat and I can respect that, I do not want him to be fearful when we trim his nails or when the vet examines him. We are acclimating him to being handled.

How are you going to celebrate Cuddle Up Day?

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