Kimberly Kilbride is a professional cuddler.
For $80 an hour, or up to $400 for an overnight gig, the 33-year-old mother of three dons flannel pajama bottoms, puts away her family pictures and two pit bull mix dogs and invites clients into her bedroom in Highland, N.Y., to snuggle. Once the spooning begins, she insists that it stay strictly platonic.
The cuddle-for-hire business is taking off—even though the clothes stay on. Thousands of customers across the country are booking appointments with professional cuddlers in at least 16 states. The snugglers squeeze, tickle and bearhug clients for a fixed rate. Patrons who booked these services out of mere curiosity say they have become hooked on their therapeutic benefits.
“I am a convert,” says Melissa Duclos-Yourdon, 35, a freelance writer and editor in Vancouver, Wash. She originally hired a cuddler after hearing about it from members of her book club, thinking it could provide fodder for an essay. Once cuddled, “I felt transformed,” she says.
While snuggling businesses have existed for years, interest is accelerating with newer online apps and meet-up services. Plans are under way for a cuddling convention.
One free app, Cuddlr, launched in September and already has had about 240,000 downloads, according to Charlie Williams, a founder and developer. The location-based social-media application allows users to find people near them to cuddle with. Between 7,000 and 10,000 people are using the service daily, he says. The company’s slogan: “Ever just want a cuddle?”