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Why do humans find baby animals like cats, dogs, ... so cute?

As these are potential competitors or even natural enemies (like e.g. tigers, leopards, ..), the protection instinct (reasonable for the babies of your species) should therefore not apply.

I can't imagine any reason why evolution let mankind adore foreign species that much. Maybe only humans liking the enemy's kids survived, because they weren't killed by the baby's parents.

What is the evolutionary reason?

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You might find this interesting. –  terdon Oct 30 '13 at 2:27

2 Answers 2

In German we call it "Kindchenschema" which is unfortunately translated only to the more unspecific "Cuteness", but sometimes also to "baby schema". This seems to be applying to most (care taking) mammals, also over species borders. The specific looks release hormones in the adult triggering care taking behaviour. This is to ensure the babies safety. That it not only works with the own parents helps ensuring the baby is cared for even if the parents cannot do it themselves. Interestingly, the head and eye shape seems to trigger this hormone release. And it is the same for many animals. Like always, evolution uses the same winning scheme over and over again. This is why you can get a dog to care for abandoned kittens, and why you will find those puppies ever so cute.

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So, you think liking animal babies is a side effect of liking our own babies? But if this behavior would disadvantageous, it would eliminated by evolution. Remember about cuckoo, which hates foreign babies. Obviously, hormones you are speculating about, can be much more specific, causing love to own babies and hate to foreign. –  Suzan Cioc Mar 10 '14 at 12:29
The cuckoo does not necessarily hate foreign babies. A young cuckoo outcompetes its "adopted" siblings. It usually wins, because it is growing fastest. And competition between siblings is also found in humans and many, many animals. And as liking other babies might not be disadvantageous, it has not been eliminated by evolution. And, as evolution is random, even if it would be disadvantageous there is no guarantee for it to be eliminated. I am not speculating about hormones, they might not be the only factor, but they are a fact. –  skymningen Mar 10 '14 at 12:51
Where do you see competition between children, in which animals? Usually children are fighting to train, but not to kill each other. Competition is low even between adults of the same specie. –  Suzan Cioc Mar 10 '14 at 13:31
In animals having litters there is often one animal which is weakest. The siblings compete for food, warmth, safety. Competition does not necessarily mean active fiting. The weakling of a litter often dies without human interference, or is mobbed out of the group. And of course there is competition between adults of the same species. Just look at humans. –  skymningen Mar 11 '14 at 7:26
We were speaking about explicit sympathy and antipathy. Implicit degrading of weak children is not the topic. –  Suzan Cioc Mar 11 '14 at 8:36

The only humans survived were those, who liked baby animals. Because that humans domesticated wolfs, horses and so on, which gave them the superiority above other humans.


I assume, that everything what exist, should be approved by evolution somehow. Hence, IF humans actually likes baby animals, THEN it should be approved.

So, I remembered, that humans were domesticating animals and this technology was helping them (us) to survive. Also I remembered, that domestication is usually started with adoption of animal babies. Adoption was occurring by chance, on the basis of non-motivated congenital (genetic) love to baby animals.

So, my explanation is: some of human species were liking animal babies and this caused domestication. Then domestication caused evolution advantages, and these species won the competition with other human species. We are descendants of former species and conserve our sympathies to baby animals. Those who were not liking them -- died millions years ago.

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What's the relation between "like baby animals" and "domesticate other species"? –  Rodrigo Mar 9 '14 at 2:53
Domestication requires caring when babies. Human species, which didn't like animal babies, didn't domesticate anybody and failed competition with human species which did like babies. We are descendant of latter. –  Suzan Cioc Mar 10 '14 at 12:23
OK, you convinced me. Please edit your answer so I can upvote it. –  Rodrigo Mar 10 '14 at 13:10
Don't see upvoting. –  Suzan Cioc Mar 11 '14 at 17:01
Now you see it. :) –  Rodrigo Mar 12 '14 at 0:36

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