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After all, they are descendants of big, dangerous lions and other wild cats, which doubtlessly have eaten many humans in the past, and probably continue to do so in some places even today.

Yet we for some reason find these tame, small versions of the "real deal" very cute. Even though they are still usually very arrogant, selfish, sadistic and whatnot, even when not physically posing a threat to humans.

Actually, I find even lions and leopards and pumas and cheetahs and tigers to look "cute", even though I wouldn't try to pet one for obvious reasons. I like the idea of truly dangerous cats not eating me and acting like "guard cats", but I wouldn't risk it even though there have been such cases where a human got accepted by lions who could kill him in an instant, yet don't.

I hate "eight-legged freaks" (spiders), yet I cuddle all the time with a four-legged beast which is much bigger. I would never stop washing my hands if I ever so much as touched a spider, but I can drill in my face into the fur of my cat and can't get enough of petting him and giving him expensive cat food and letting him in and out from the balcony door, etc.

It doesn't make sense to me. What is it about these furry animals with tails that is so appealing to many of us? It seems so natural for there to be a fluffy cat in here, sleeping/relaxing most of the time, but really, it's just a slightly-less-wild mini version of a lion, and who knows what he'd actually do if he were "full-size"? Probably eat me for closing the kitchen door on him...

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    $\begingroup$ Cute? "…three proper Men out of five will always throw things at a Cat whenever they meet him" Rudyard Kipling. $\endgroup$ – David Feb 5 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ You might turn the question around, and ask why you (and many other humans) have an irrational dislike of "eight-legged freaks" :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 5 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ It's a very good and interesting question in general, but it's a difficult fit as a Stack Exchange question. It is possible that a more scientifically-written version of this question might be on-topic in Psychology & Neuroscience SE It can probably be on-topic here as well but it only takes five cat-dislikers to close it (humor). $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 8 at 11:16
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf or why cats have irrational dislike of cucumbers and skinny eggplants (search YouTube) (random example) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 8 at 11:18
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Cuteness is a subjective term to designate a psychological response to neotenic features (i.e. features that delay or slow in their growth) of the body mostly associated with young animals. These are features where the body parts are proportionally exaggerated compared to other body parts and the adult stage. It make the young individual attractive to the human observer - and most likely to animal observers as well - which is the psychological response. This response is an evolutionary adaption to assist in caring for offspring by inciting nurturing behavior in the parent(s), a hypothesis first proposed by Konrad Lorenz (1943, 1 ; but see also 2). Since other animals display neoteny, the physiological response can be transspecific (i.e. across species).

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  • $\begingroup$ I like your answer very much. Care to add a reference to better complete your answer? I think this one actually testing Lorentz's idea of Kindchenschema ought to suffice! And as a bonus I suggest explaining the jargon terms (neoteny and transspecific) so that laypersons can understand the entirety of what you put so well. Those are very alien words to non-specialists. $\endgroup$ – S Pr Feb 6 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @ S Pr, thanks! I hope sufficiently honored your request. $\endgroup$ – Derk Feb 6 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ No, thank you. Good work :) $\endgroup$ – S Pr Feb 7 at 12:09
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some recent research has hypothesized that felines, especially cats, evolved cuteness. Cats, unlike other animals domesticated themselves. Crescent, wild cats adapted to living with humans, hunting rodents in grain stores and abandoning their aggressive wild-born behaviors, which led to today's house cats. Also according to another research, the more something resembles a human baby, the cuter we think it is. It’s believed that when an animal has the same dimensions and features of a baby, it hijacks a neurological response to care and protect the creature. Moreover, the way kittens meow at us, it is very similar to how a human infant might cry. They modify their sound when seeking food, adding a higher-frequency element that exploits our sensitivity to infant wails and thus making it harder to ignore.

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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't really explain why many humans also find many other furry animals, especially young ones, to be "cute". Sure, dogs might likewise have evolved (or been bred for) "cuteness", but this doesn't explain horses, ferrets, lambs & kids (that is, young goats), even bear cubs. Indeed, the fur-cuteness link has sometimes caused me to wonder how human infants manage to survive. Poor little things, having to go through life with no fur, no tail, no floppy ears... :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 5 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ This is very interesting. I think you should add the citation to the research. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 7 at 12:33

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