With their big, fluffy ears, furry-looking bodies and sleepy nature, it's easy to understand how koalas have gained a reputation as cuddly creatures. We've all seen pictures of koalas clinging to tree trunks with their curious faces turned to the camera, almost the same way a baby human clings to her mother or father. But while they may be cute, wild koalas shouldn't be cuddled!
For starters, koala fur, although it looks soft and fluffy, is actually thick and coarse – much more like sheep's wool than kitten fur. Their fur repels rain and protects koalas from extreme heat and cold. Koalas are also perfectly equipped to spend their lives in trees. Both their front and rear limbs are muscular and strong, with long, sharp claws on every paw to help them grip tree barks and groom their coarse fur [source: Australian Koala Foundation].
While koalas may not be aggressive by nature, a wild koala will use its claws and teeth to defend itself if it feels threatened. And one way to make it feel threatened is to try to pick it up. Our natural instinct may be to lift a koala the way we would hold a small child, but in order to feel secure, koalas need something to grip when they are picked up [source: Australian Koala Foundation]. Unless your skin is tougher than tree bark, better leave this to trained professionals.