Small animals are popular with children and adults for many reasons. They're cuddly, cute, and easy to handle, which means lots of snuggling opportunities. But not all small pet species enjoy being picked up. If you're looking for a small animal that you can get up close and personal with, make sure you pick one of the best small pets for cuddling.
11 Small Pets That Like to Cuddle
Who doesn't love cuddling? Unfortunately, not everyone. But these 11 small pets love it more than most, which is why they're great choice if you want a friend that'll snuggle with you.
- Small dogs
- Guinea pigs
- Bearded dragons
- Ball pythons
- Sugar gliders
Small and Toy Dogs That Snuggle
Obviously, you can't have a list of the best animals to snuggle with and not include dogs! Many small and toy-size dogs are very affectionate and enjoy bonding with their humans. However, the "snuggle factor" varies by breed, so if you're looking for a small, cuddly dog, choose one that is known to be affectionate.
This is especially true if you have children, as many small-breed dogs do not enjoy being handled as much as others do. Early socialization and using positive reinforcement is the best way to bring out the affectionate side of any small-breed dog.
Some small dogs that were bred to be loving companions with people of all ages include:
Cats Can Be Affectionate
Cats can be aloof, or they can be silly and affectionate. And many times, they can be both. If you want to have a cat that makes you feel loved and enjoys snoozing in your lap and being petted, there are some excellent breed choices that are known for being more cuddly and people-focused than others.
Many of these cat breeds don't do well alone, so make sure you know the breed's personality and have a lifestyle that can accommodate their needs. Some of the most affectionate breeds include:
Rabbits Are Cuddly
Rabbits can be very cuddly and affectionate, which makes them excellent pets for someone who wants a soft, easy-going companion. Some breeds are more amenable to handling and cuddling than others.
You can also choose a smaller breed if you don't have as much space or an area for an outdoor hutch. If you want a rabbit breed that enjoys human interaction a lot, look at the Lionhead, Rex, Netherland Dwarf, Himalayan, and English Lop.
Guinea Pigs Enjoy Being Held
Guinea pigs are known for rarely nipping or biting and for having gentle dispositions. Not only will they enjoy sitting on your lap and spending time with you, but they make an adorable trilling, whistling noise when happy that will melt your heart.
Lizards That Enjoy Handling
Some potential pet owners might be horrified at the idea of snuggling with a lizard, but surprisingly, there are several species of reptiles that actually enjoy handling. Their owners might even describe these scaly best friends as cuddly!
With all these species, if you start early and work on taming them, they can become very amenable companions. Bearded dragons, for example, are very docile, and owners enjoy placing them on their shoulders to hang out or even cuddling on their lap on the couch.
Rats Can Be Cuddlers
Rats get a bad rap and are considered by some to be scary animals. The truth is that they are very intelligent and outgoing pets. Rats enjoy and crave interaction with their owners and can happily sit on your shoulder or your lap, and some even enjoy cuddling with your other pets.
They are easy to care for and can be housed with other rats if you have room for multiple small pets. The one big downside to rats is they only live about one to two years.
Parrots Can Socialize
Birds are not often thought of as being affectionate, but any parrot owner can tell you about how social birds can be. Some species are not good choices if you want a lot of interaction and cuddling, but there are a few that can be extremely affectionate if well socialized.
Lovebirds are known for being very affectionate to their owners, but this usually comes after a lot of work taming and socializing them. Otherwise, they can be nippy, so they're only a great choice if you have previous bird experience and have the time commitment to work on taming your bird.
Cockatiels and Budgies
Cockatiels and budgies are two small parrot species that are very popular pet bird choices. They're loved for their small size, which makes them easier to keep than some larger parrots, and with some initial work on your part to tame them, they can be very social and affectionate.
Conures are strikingly beautiful parrots that are a good midway choice between the smaller and larger parrots. They also have a reputation for being so affectionate that they can take a snooze in your lap. In fact, they have such a strong need for interaction that they're not a good choice if you're not committed to spending a lot of time being with them.
Cockatoos are a fantastic choice for an owner who wants a very interactive and affectionate parrot. Just know they are known for being very loud and can live up to 70 years. If you have parrot experience and the ability to provide for this special bird's needs, a well-socialized, happy cockatoo enjoys cuddling and lots of physical interaction.
Snakes That Like Contact
Not all snakes enjoy being handled, and some can get pretty big, but there are a few popular pet choices that are happy to "hang" with you. Ball pythons, who get their name from their tendency to curl themselves into a "ball," will quietly do so in your hands or on your lap.
No doubt they do this to enjoy the warmth from your body, but unlike other reptiles, they are fairly calm and will relax in position, whether that's on your shoulder, around your arm, or on your lap. Other popular pet snake species that are small and enjoy human contact are the corn snake and king snake.
Sugar Gliders Are Social
Sugar gliders are very social animals who do best when kept with other gliders. These small marsupials not only love interacting with people, but they can happily sit inside your jacket pocket as you go about your business in your home.
They do, however, require you to work on taming them in the beginning. Otherwise, they'll be skittish toward handling and cuddling. Another drawback to sugar gliders is they're illegal in some states. Even in states where they are legal to own, you may find it hard to find a veterinarian well-versed in their care.
Ferrets Are Cuddly
If you want a pet that's not only cuddly but consistently adorable and funny, ferrets are a perfect choice. Ferrets are social and need to be with at least one other ferret to be truly happy. If you work on taming them when they are young, they will bond closely with you and will want to spend daily time with you.
When it comes to cuddling, they do have two drawbacks. One is that they are extremely playful and active, so they're not likely to snuggle quietly for long periods. The other is that young ferrets can be nippy, because this is naturally how they play with one another.
Hedgehogs Can Be Affectionate
A possible choice for a small cuddly pet is the hedgehog. Hedgehogs can be very nervous around people and will curl up tightly in a ball in self-defense. However, hedgehog owners who work with their pets find them to be extremely affectionate and loving pets.
They're a good choice for an adult owner who has the time to work on acclimating their pet to them and wants an unusual pet they can interact with that doesn't require a great deal of room. You may also have difficulty finding a veterinarian for your hedgehog, so look for one near you first before deciding on getting a hedgehog.
Teaching a Small Pet to Cuddle
With all these pet choices, it's important to remember that every animal is an individual, and some may need more time and work to enjoy cuddling with you than others. While every species is different, the steps to tame them are generally the same.
- For species that are not naturally drawn to people, first work on getting them used to your presence without handling them.
- Sit quietly next to them and read while tossing them a treat. For example, this could be a sprig of millet for parrots or a tiny piece of fruit for a Guinea pig or rabbit.
- You can speak in a soothing, relaxed tone of voice to get them used to you and pair that with treats.
- Do this for at least one full week before attempting any type of handling. Once the animal is relaxed in your presence and isn't moving away from you, you can work on slowly bringing a hand in closer to them. Most animals are more comfortable with you keeping your hand low and bringing it close to them rather than reaching over and down, which is intimidating.
- If the animal is calm with your hand in their cage or aquarium, repeat the first step by just remaining there quietly or speaking in a gentle tone of voice for a few days until the animal isn't showing stress by the proximity of your hand.
- You can work on slowly bringing your hand in closer while pairing it with a species-appropriate treat until you are able to gently touch the animal.
- For example, with a parakeet, your goal is to have your palm right under their feet so that the bird will step up onto it.
- With a lizard, it will be to place your hands gently underneath it so that you can lift it up by supporting the body and feet, or in the case of a snake, the head and body.
- A rabbit, Guinea pig, or rat will need to feel their body and lower limbs gathered up gently so their bodies are not hanging loosely, which could make them anxious.
- When working with a small animal, always consider that your size might be intimidating to them. You need to support the weight of their body when lifting them so they do not feel at risk.
- Learn about an animal's body language and respect the signals that they give you. Most animals will freeze, nip, vocalize, or show other clear physical signals when frightened or nervous. The more you know about an animal's behavior, the quicker you can alter your behavior to reduce your pet's stress and help them become more eager to be with you.
Finding the Best Cuddling Pet
Everyone has different tastes. Some people are drawn to cuddling the soft and furry pets, while others prefer more exotic snugglers, like snakes. There's definitely a small affectionate pet out there to meet your tastes! Just be sure to research your new pet thoroughly and understand that many popular pets do need some time and effort on your part to help them become the most loving pets they can be.