To cuddle or to snuggle?

A 2013 Stanford University study said cuddling can boost your immune system, relieve pain and reduce social anxiety and stress.

Canadian company provides customers with cuddles for a price

When Mary Reid moved to Vancouver to work in the legal field, she had a difficult time finding someone to snuggle.

“I had some bad encounters when I tried to find cuddle buddies,” she says.

“Life is so busy and so on, I thought if I needed this service, probably a lot of other people would.”

Four years ago Reid created Cuddlery, a professional cuddling service with expert cuddlers in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto. The company began charging for cuddles last year.

Reid is just one person who has started a cuddling company in the past few years.

Other companies that have popped up in North American include Quebec-based ComfortCompanionshipCuddling, New York-based The Snuggery and another B.C.-based company, Snuggle Service.

Toronto is Cuddlery’s most cuddled city, with Ottawa a close second.

Cuddlery gives the option of cuddling at the cuddler’s home, the client’s home or in public.

“I wanted to offer cuddling at a reasonable price,” said Reid. “I wanted to offer different options for people who wanted to have a more complete experience.”

By “complete” Reid means the skin-to-skin option, where the cuddlers wear shorts and a tank top for direct skin contact.

The session goes up in price the longer the cuddle. Massaging is an additional option you can request for your cuddling experience. A basic cuddle from Cuddlery is $65 an hour.

A 2013 Stanford University study said cuddling can boost your immune system, relieve pain and reduce social anxiety and stress.
A 2013 Stanford University study said cuddling can boost your immune system, relieve pain and reduce social anxiety and stress. (Photo: Hanna McLean)

“Good cuddling is not easy,” said Reid. “Everyone can do it, but to be a professional cuddler, the standard is pretty high.”

Reid gives cuddling courses to her employees, as well as one on one training sessions.

“Even if you’ve had plenty of girlfriends, that doesn’t mean you are a good cuddler,” said Reid. “Just one or two hours and your cuddling skills will improve dramatically.”

Cuddlery is currently taking applications from across Canada. Reid said some East Coast cuddlers could be in Nova Scotia soon.

Anyone who wants to be a cuddler can apply online through Cuddlery and work for them after an in-depth screening process and training period.

Maddy Nelson, a fourth-year science student at Dalhousie, thinks the service is interesting, but not for her age group.

“I am 24, so I don’t think I would turn to paying for cuddles as an option when I was feeling lonely,” said Nelson. “I would take the money and spend it on a night out at the bar instead of a cuddle.”

“I could see how the service might be useful for really busy professionals, or people who have anxieties in social situations,” said Nelson.

Nelson says most people she knows wouldn’t be keen to use it. “My single aunt might be down for it, that’s the only person I can truly see considering it.”

The clientele for Cuddlery consists of four different groups, said Reid.

People looking for affection, people going through break-ups and lonely individuals are one group.

“There are also single women who are tired of dating, business men that are too busy to date and just want punctual affection,” said Reid.

Reid said another group consists of people who need support, people in crisis who need the privacy of a shoulder to cry on.

There are also people who use Cuddlery’s services because of the health benefits of cuddling.

“There’s science behind it that shows the good benefits,” said Reid. “Meditation, concentrating on how good it feels.”

In 2013 research from Stanford University found effects of cuddling altered brain activity linked to a “pleasurable sensation” throughout the body, which provided a calming and Zen-like feeling of comfort to the cuddlers.

Then there are clients who are simply curious about the services, said Reid.

Reid’s biggest concern is that people understand the services Cuddlery provides are not sexual. This worry stems from Reid’s personal experiences with male cuddle buddies who wanted more than snuggling.

“Oftentimes men want more than cuddling,” said Reid. “I want to create a safe environment where women feel comfortable.”

As a precaution, cuddling sessions are filmed for the safety of both the client and cuddler. The cameras don’t record audio and the video is erased after 40 days.

Reid is open with her employees about situations where clients may attempt to buy sexual services.

Reid said her employees may leave a session anytime they feel uncomfortable. Warnings are given to clients who get too touchy.

“There are two or three warnings, after that the client is on the blacklist and cannot be cuddled anymore.”
Reid tells her cuddlers in those cases it may be helpful to refer clients to suitable services.

“If we are referring people in crisis to psychologists and therapists, I have no problem also referring them to prostitution,” said Reid. “Every service has their role.”

Cuddlery’s website has additional rules for its clients. A client must shower within 12 hours of the scheduled session, or a cuddle may not be completed.

Reid recollects her own experience with a client who was not “fresh” enough to be cuddled.

“I just couldn’t. That’s one of the most awkward situations I’ve gotten myself into. I felt so bad for him.”

Five per cent of Cuddlery’s profits go to charity, but Reid’s overall goal is to donate 50 per cent of profits to a charity recommended by GiveWell.org.

This website assesses how much good a given charity is actually doing (lives saved, lives improved etc.) and highlights them instead of giving proceeds to many different organizations.