The Cuddlery, which on its website invites clients to "spoon with me," provides professional cuddlers who for an hourly fee engage in sessions that feature conversation and intimate embraces, but no sexual contact.
"There are some people that don't understand that this is a necessary service," said Madison Powell, 25, a professional cuddler who spoke to CBC Toronto.
"There are people who come to us who haven't had physical touch in quite some time or who feel physical touch is soothing for autism, depression and anxiety."
Services start at $35 for a basic 30-minute cuddle and range up to $260 for other services, including "skin to skin" sessions where both the client and cuddler are wearing shorts and a top.
The company's website lists both male and female cuddlers available for hire.
Powell said the client agreement makes it clear that sexual contact is not part of the service. To ensure the safety of cuddlers, clients must provide photo identification before each session. Clients that break the rules can be barred, Powell said.
Clients seeking 'human contact'
Powell said Cuddlery clients are typically not seeking a sexual experience, but a human touch that for many reasons may be missing in their daily lives.
"The people that come to us really just want someone to talk to and human contact," she said. "They want to sit on the couch with someone while they're watching a movie and have a hand on their shoulder."
For example, she said her company plans to market its services to seniors, "people later in life who aren't getting the contact they need and deserve."
Powell's first client was a man in his mid 30s who opted for a skin-to-skin cuddle. He wore shorts during the session, while Powell wore shorts and a crop top.
"Our meeting was incredibly platonic," said Powell. She said during the session, her client spoke to her about troubles in his professional and professional life.
Powell said offering a sympathetic ear — along with a human touch — is often what clients are seeking.
"Touch can be really soothing and healing in a lot of circumstances," she said.
Some clients have suffered personal loss or trauma, but Powell said the service is not billed as a replacement for professionals trained to deal with psychological or emotional problems.
"We by no means want to be designated as counsellors," she said. "We offer companionship, affection. We offer a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen. We do not have standardized counsellor training."
Powell admits cuddling is a bit of "an odd service" but said the client she met this week planned to become a repeat customer.
"He left quite happy wanting to book another session," she said.