Cuteness may be subjective, but definitely not with cats and kittens. Cat owners and other decent human beings could all agree that cats are so adorable. But what makes them so? Why are cats so cute?
Well, as it turns out, there’s a science behind a cat’s cuteness, or how we perceive these soft and fluffy fur babies.
And such scientific explanation also tells why we have this desire to have these purring, meowing, pooping, and scratching pets to be part of our family and live in our homes.
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Why Are Cats So Cute? What Does it Mean to be Cute?
Before we go any further, let’s first define what being cute means in general. To start, there is actually a recognized set of characteristics that define “cute” all of which fall within the German word “kinderschema.” And they are:
- Forward-facing and large eyes
- Round ears
- Wiggly gait and floppy limbs
- Soft and cuddly body size and shape
- A large head compared to the rest of the body
These characteristics are somewhat familiar because the human babies represent these basic “cute” features. Scientists think that showing soft, vulnerable, and likable traits are adaptations that ensure survival. Hence, in a way, human infants trigger their parent’s caretaking instincts.
However, babies are not the only ones that instigate our caring traits – kittens, lambs, puppies, and other baby animals make us feel the same way, too. We also feel the same caretaking instincts to adult mammals who retain their “kinderschema.”
Adult mammals that maintain their kinderschemas are referred to as neoteny, or the retention of “juvenile features in the adult animal”.
And while not all adult cats have round eyes, or large heads, most of them have soft fur and rounded body shapes.
They also make baby-like sounds, and relaxing purrs. Undoubtedly, felines are chock full of cute features that make us, humans, adore and love cats even more.
Understanding The Science Behind Cat Cuteness
When the human brain identifies the features of cuteness as mentioned earlier whether in other humans or cute cats or other animals, the following happens:
- The orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for making decisions, is triggered and tells us, humans, to protect the cute animal or human baby.
- The nucleus accumbens (also called the “pleasure center” of the brain) is stimulated resulting in the release of the feel-good hormone, dopamine.
In other words, when you see your cat doing extra cute things, your brain instantaneously tells you to protect him. And this explains why we love our cats, dogs, or other pets so much even when they pee on our bed, our wall, or our dirty laundry.
People have a pretty low bar for cuteness and everything that we notice as a bit child-like often evokes an “awww” response.
It also helps explain why kittens and other cats, can easily set off our “squee” reaction and makes us want to squeeze them for their innate and effortless cuteness.
How Did Cats Get So Cute?
People think that cats evolved to be cutest as they became domesticated and this influenced humans to take good care of them. And it also makes sense, that cats can easily become the cutest pets as they become more dependent on us for their survival.
However, cat owners would agree that cats may appear unhappy based on their facial features and overall reactions. So, why do we still see them as cute pets despite being downright brooding at times, and even if they are not wide-eyed or they don’t have a rounded body?
The answer could be all because of mind-conditioning. We humans have been living with cats for hundreds of years. So, at this point, we already have the notion that they are cute even if they don’t possess the common features of “cuteness” as defined earlier.
British Anthrozoologist John Bradshaw said it is all about projection. Some people who are raised on animals are very tolerant of their vulnerability, and their “unexpressive faces” may also make us want to care and protect them even more.
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15 Reasons Why Cats Are So Cute
1. Their Appearance Subliminally Appeals to Us
Research has found that cats can possess some physical qualities which drive us to want to care for them. These features closely follow that of human babies. Scientific evidence shows the ability of those babylike traits – known as baby schema – to influence how cute we find something.
Evidence of cat and human remains have been found dating from 9500 BC are believed to exist in the same area. Hence, it's hypothesized that some ancients raised kittens in their homes just because they knew that cats were cute the same way that we see them now.
2. They Know When We Are Sad
Cats may appear snobbish and aloof, but they are actually sensitive to their owner's emotional well-being. Research has found that cats with a depressed owner are even more likely to allo-rub. This is when they butt up against your head and rub their body against yours. It's your cat's way of making you feel better.
3. They Are Extremely Curious.
“Curiosity killed the cat” didn't spurt out of nowhere. When you come home from the grocery or when you put your bag back on your counter, the first one to examine your bag will be your kitty.
She will sit on the counter, open the bag with her paw and sniff until she's fully satisfied. When you open all the boxes, she'll crawl in one of them once more to stay there for a bit!
4. We’re Conditioned to Respond to Their Meows and Purrs
Some cats make cute chirping noises in search of something. This noise is a hybrid of a purr and a meow known as a “solicitation” noise.
The demand purring of a cat is a certain higher frequency sound at around 220-520 GHz (Hz). This frequency closely matches the sound of a baby crying.
That's why when you listen to a cat create noise at similar frequencies, it can be hard to refuse or ignore. Researchers also say that it's easy to distinguish between a cat's solicitation purr and a regular cat purr even for non-cat owners.
5. They Blink to Communicate With Us
Have you ever noticed your cat staring at you blinking slowly through half-closed eyes? Well, it’s his way of saying that he is relaxed, happy, and satisfied.
Cat owners that show this low-blink stimulus to their cats can communicate to their pets. Cats tend to blink slowly at you, and also approach you when you copy their slow-blinking gesture.
Trust us, your feline buddy may come with you for snuggles after you've exchanged slow-blinks with him. This subtle way of communication is a sure-fire way for us to adore our cats and find them cuter than ever.
6. They Can Easily Be Kept Busy for Hours
Cats are easily amused by almost everything. You don't even have to buy expensive toys and fancy items to get them entertained. But as cat parents, we know it can also be hard not to shop online for our feline babies.
Nonetheless, with their innate playful and curious personality, cats can easily be hooked to a ball of wool, to watching videos of cockroaches or birds on your iPad, or a stray moth flying inside their room. And by merely looking at them so engrossed with these somewhat mundane things, we can't help but get the “awww” reaction and say, “How cute?!”
7. Their Purrs Have Healing Properties
The average range of a kitten’s purr is between 20-150 Hz. Sound in this range can be used in therapeutic medicine to treat bones and soft tissues.
Hence, there's a logical and scientific explanation why you want to place your cat on your lap and feel his soothing purring and vibration.
Studies have shown that 85% of people who own a cat are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure or heart attacks, cancer, and other medical conditions.
8. They Have a Cute Yet Difficult Personality
Often cats have strong dislikes and likes, fetish, pet peeves, and most importantly…their favorite “humans.” If your feline buddy lightly bites you, it can be his way of acknowledging your existence. Doesn't that just sound difficult, yet cute?
9. Cats Love Their Siestas and Their Time Alone
You can't play with cats whenever you want. They have a specific period and mood on which you must follow. Do you ever want to be forced to play a game of Scrabble while you are at work, so you'll have to stay off your desk? Absolutely not! So, it's also similar to how a cat would feel when they are disturbed in the middle of their slumber.
10. They Are Independent and Spiritually Detached
Cats are great pets since they are not a liability regarding care. They eat where they are supposed to eat, pee and poop at their litter sand, and they sleep almost the entire day. They won't run up to you with hungry eyes and pull out your fingers forcing you to stand, get their food, and feed them.
11. They Can Adjust Their Meow to Manipulate You
There would probably be an experimental lab on the ground somewhere trying to understand cat meows. Cats have specific ways to meow depending on what they want you to do – whether it's turning on the TV, cuddling with them, or leaving them alone.
Once you live with your cat for some time, you can easily distinguish the tone of his meows for certain activities. He would elicit slow, lulled meows if he wants you to cuddle him and pet him under his neck.
Also, while purring can express different messages, a short one is your cat’s way of saying that he is impressed. And of course, a loud, and persistent meow is his way of exclaiming that you leave him alone.
It's definitely hard to think of anything cuter.
12. They Want to Be Cradled Like a Human Baby
Contrary to popular belief, cats like being carried especially if you cradle them like a child. They like being lulled into bed but still feel their feet swaying.
And if they discover you wear amusing accessories or something that suits their attention, they have the right to take it away. Isn't just that the cutest?
13. They Express Their Displeasure Dearly
Your cats will give you their immediate opinion on anything that you provide them. If something wasn't pretty enough, prepare to receive an enraged fury and intense shock (accompanied by a titled head and a long, loud meows). Again, isn't that cute?
14. Your Cats Own You
So, you think you’ve only allotted this small nook to your cat? Well, sorry, your feline buddy will have the final say.
Also, when you saw your cat rubbing your legs in front of other people, do not mistake this for affection. Veterinary experts argue that this is your cat's way of telling other humans that they own you!
15. They Think They Are Cleaner Than You
A self-grooming event is almost like they want to say: “Take your dirty hands off me.” Isn't that cute? With their habit to lick every inch of their body, you don't even have to spend on hair products and vet visits!
So, when they start to groom themselves after being touched, it's just them thinking that they are superior and cleaner than anyone.
Do Cats Think People Are Cute?
Before we end this article, it's just fair to turn the table and ask whether cats think that we are cute, too. Researchers believe cats don't view their people as cute. In particular, they see us, humans, as larger cats without skin. And this assumption is based on how cats behave with us and treat us.
Although a lot of feline actions appear to evoke the human response to extremely adorable sights, sounds, smells, and sensations, cats generally don't play favorites.
The way cats treat each other is basically the same way that cats treat humans. A cat who wants to go to the groomer, to eat, run and play with another cat will use the same communication methods to another cat as he will with his human caretaker.
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