The Ecology of the Cuddler
From the notebooks of Professor E. J. Farnsworth, noted Cuddler watcher.
The Common Cuddler
The cuddlus snugglypi, or Common Cuddler, is a species closely related to homo sapiens. The two are similar in appearance, but Cuddlers may be identified by their well developed arms, their affectionate nature and generally cuddly appearance.
Cuddlers are a gregarious species; the largest known colony contains over a hundred thousand members. A Cuddler who becomes separated from the group appears lost and confused, and may wander aimlessly with the forlorn cry, "ahneedacuddlbuddi".
As the cry implies, the quest of most Cuddlers is to find one or more "cuddle buddies." Due to a gender imbalance this quest is approached differently by male and female Cuddlers. A male will typically signal many females, hoping for a response such as a raised eyebrow or similar encouragement. Females often deal with a large number of such signals, so deciding which to pursue and which to ignore can be an onerous task. The search for a compatible buddy may be time consuming, but it is worth it to the Cuddler. (I have also observed Cuddlers buddying within their own gender, but this is less common).
All is not lost for a Cuddler without a buddy, however. Perceiving the need, certain Cuddlers -- predominantly female -- offer their services in exchange for nuts, berries and other valuable goods. These Cuddlers are known as PROs (Payment Required Ordinarily).
The Cuddling Ritual
The Cuddling Ritual is the highlight of a Cuddler's life. Cuddlers may look forward to a particular Ritual months in advance, and remember it fondly long afterwards.
A Cuddler may choose to host in its own cuddle nest, or be the guest of another Cuddler. Cuddling may also occur in the open, which can limit the type of cuddling that takes place, but is a common way for two Cuddlers to initially meet.
Some Cuddlers (particularly PROs) spend significant time preparing their nest for the Cuddle Ritual, with new clean nest lining, appropriate scents and sounds etc.
Cuddlers also prepare their bodies: washing in a nearby water source, mouth cleaning, scenting of armpits and so on. Facial or leg hair may be scraped off as well.
Once all is ready, the Cuddlers meet at the determined location. At this point an inexperienced Cuddler may feel anxious; the more experienced Cuddler puts them at ease by smiling, hugging, conversation and so on. Then the Cuddling Ritual begins in earnest.
As an observer it has been challenging to find adequate vantage points to study the Cuddle Ritual closely -- Cuddlers guard their privacy, even though the act of cuddling is itself platonic and "nothing you wouldn't do in front of your kids or your mom," as they say. But I have managed to piece together the following through my limited observations:
A common cuddling position is Spooning. Both Cuddlers pretend to be the aforementioned utensil, one fitting snuggly into the other. Continuing the theme is the Fork, where the cuddlers embrace in an intertwined fashion. I am unaware of any other cutlery related positions.
There is a set of dangerous sounding positions involving animals such as Anacondas, Bears (mama and papa), Koalas and so on, but I have never observed the creatures themselves.
Sometimes one Cuddler will "cover" another (who may be face down or face up), the full weight of his or her body upon them. It is uncertain whether the covered Cuddler always survives the experience.
Kissing is avoided unless the Cuddler in question is of eskimo ancestry.
Before proceeding I must mention the cuddlus administratus or Protector, a rare and wise creature that keeps the Cuddler community safe from predators. Only one Protector is currently known to exist, although he may recruit other Cuddlers to aid in this task.
The Cuddler's main predator is the pseudocuddlus or False Cuddler, which appears as an ordinary Cuddler but soon reveals its true intentions. Various subspecies have been identified:
The pseudocuddlus villainus or Creep (usually male) tends to give itself away with an incorrect call, such as "hiawannacuddl" or "yulookhot". Note that true Cuddlers may use the similar cry "wannacuddl" when immature, but soon grow out of this and adopt more appropriate calls such as "wannagetaknowya", "likeyaprofile" and so on.
If a Cuddler detects a Creep, she typically turns her back on him while putting her hands over her ears (an action known as "blocking") and signals the Protector, who drives the Creep from the region. A Creep who has been expelled in this way will sometimes return in a new guise, but similarities to its former appearance are usually obvious.
Creeps are not always detected by Cuddlers, however, and one may make it as far as an actual cuddle. Here the Creep shows its true colors. The hallmark of a Creep is to act as though the Cuddling Ritual is actually a Mating Ritual, which is the worst offense in Cuddler society. Note: Although there are superficial similarities between the two rituals, to a Cuddler they are completely different. Suggesting that they are the same thing is highly offensive to a Cuddler.
In most cases the Cuddler will interrupt the Cuddling Ritual and expel the offending Creep (signalling for the Protector to deal with him). However, some Cuddlers neglect to inform the Protector, leaving the predatory Creep free to try again, to other Cuddlers' dismay.
Another False Cuddler is the pseudocuddlus boundarypushus or Lesser Creep. These may be either male or female, and act just like other Cuddlers -- until they move outside the agreed bounds of the Cuddling Ritual. Lesser Creeps are closely related to the Common Cuddler, and it is possible for one to transform into the other. A Cuddler who finds himself transforming into a Lesser Creep may come to his senses and halt the transformation.
The pseudocuddlus scameptera or Scammer operates as follows. After giving encouraging signals to another Cuddler, the Scammer asks for a "deposit" of a certain amount of nuts and berries. After receiving the deposit, the Scammer simply vanishes. The poor victim is left cuddleless, and turns to other Cuddlers for consolation.
Lastly, the pseudocuddlus adultservus or Escort. Some Escorts are easily spotted by their surprising lack of plumage; others by their focus on activities that are clearly non-cuddly. Those who spot an Escort attempting to infiltrate Cuddler society inform the Protector, who quickly expels them.
Another creature associated with Cuddler collonies is the argumenticus verbosius or Troll (several subspecies have been identified). Trolls are not exactly predatory, and so do not pose the same threat as False Cuddlers. Nevertheless, Trolls may attack a passing Cuddler for no apparent reason, leaving them briefly stunned and confused. In extreme cases the Protector may intervene and drive the Troll away. There is a Cuddler saying, "Do not feed the trolls" -- presumably because large and heavy Trolls are more difficult to expel.
The above description applies to the Common Cuddler cuddlus snugglypi, but many more subspecies of Cuddler have been observed. Examples include the familiar household cuddlus domesticus, the strong limbed cuddlus maximus and the adorable cuddlus cutypi. No doubt many other kinds of Cuddler are yet to be discovered.