Cuddlers for hire: First cuddling practice opens in SA | The Citizen

Who would ever have thought that hiring a professional cuddler for a momentary feeling of love and intimacy is a real option today. But it is, and in South Africa one of the first professional cuddling consultancies recently opened its doors.

Cuddling prescribed for ‘pick-me-up’

Cuddling was first introduced to South African audiences on Billions, a high-paced series on Showmax featuring adrenaline junkies at a Wall Street hedge fund. The company’s in-house performance psychologist prescribed it for quants and brokers who need an emotional and physical pick-me-up.

How Pro Cuddlers came about

Florence Letswalo started Pro Cuddlers this year after realising the power of a cuddle when a really dreadful day at the office got the better of her.

She said: “I was just held by my partner; we didn’t speak.

“I was just cuddled and loved for a few hours, and it made the burden I was carrying feel so much lighter.”

It was an a-ha! moment for the 24-year-old business developer. She said: “I realised that a lot of people don’t have that in their lives, whether they are in a relationship or not, nobody is devoid of potentially feeling lonely or just in need of a non-judgmental cuddle.”

She added that we often hug strangers and acquaintances, so being cuddled is simply an extension of that. And it also allows clients the freedom to talk, and open up, in a safe environment.

Letswalo said: “I am in the business of making people feel better. But there is more to it than that. It is about mental wellness, too.” She pointed out all the selfies and loud posting that people do on social media.

“People want to be heard; they want to be noticed; they want to escape into their own universes. And for a few hours, a good cuddle and a talk gives you far more fulfilment than a timeline of social posts read by strangers.”

According to several studies, physical contact enhances wellness. Touch reduces stress and allows the immune system to function better. That is according to a study by a group of academics published in 2017.

It also suggests that touch can reduce stress and calm bodily functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can also slow the pace of signals to the body’s nervous system through one of the 12 receptor connectors linking the brain and the body, the Vagus ne

The study also found that gentle touch can reduce emotional pain and feelings of social exclusion.

Being starved of physical attention is damaging

In an interview with The Healthy, psychology professor and clinical psychologist James Cordova of the Centre for Couples and Family Research at Clark University in Massachusetts said being starved for physical affection can be incredibly damaging. He said that cuddling should be among the most basic prescriptions for human flourishing and noted that people are born cuddlers and never grow out of it.


Letswalo’s vision is to give her clients the tools to flourish. She has a network of 20 professional cuddlers whom she calls cuddle-mates, mostly in Gauteng for the fledgling business. She trains the cuddlers herself after spending months researching and compiling a manual of cuddle methodology and conduct. She said: “Sex or anything sexual is off the table. That is not what cuddling is about, and not what the service is trying to achieve.”

Average session costs R900

A cuddle session could cost up to R4 000, but that is for an extended session of 12 hours. An average 90-minute session lands at R900.

Letswalo wants to keep it affordable and, so far, Pro Cuddlers have had a variety of customers. She said: “We have had moms, bachelors, travellers who have cuddle-mates at home and needed some tender loving care while away and some people who are just feeling alone at the time.”

The feedback has been positive and return customers are evidence that her service spreads positivity and joy. It is about making people feel good. About a moment in time that belongs solely to a person who can be selfish and put their own wellness first. And that is what she is after.

ALSO READ: WATCH: The health benefits of cuddling

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