Why are cats so cute?

Some people who surf the internet search for an answer to the question “why are cats so cute?”

The question is probably incorrect. The question should be “why are kittens so cute?” Even as a person who loves cats and all animals I cannot agree that adult cats are in general cute. For me, a better description would be “impressive” or “attractive”. Cuteness is the domain of the kitten because they are universally cute. Why?

Cute Traditional Persian Kitten Cristalline

Cute Traditional Persian Kitten Cristalline. Photo copyright Dani Roseboom.

It is mostly about appearance. People are fascinated with appearance from homes to cars to refrigerators. For the majority of people, the appearance of something is more important than its function. For me, incidentally, function is more important than form.

The kitten is very small and very vulnerable. She has big round eyes of blue that stare at you and ask for comfort and protection. Then she wobbles about the place making you feel even more protective. Finally she opens her mouth and squeaks. Cute overload.

The kitten is cute for the same reason the baby is cute. Although not all babies are cute! Although, babies are precious and kittens are always dainty when very young but soon move out of the dainty phase into the destructive phase.

I would say that kitten cuteness comes from 80% appearance, 10% behavior, 10% vocalisations. You may well disagree with that.

Some cats keep their cute appearance all their lives. The sort of cat breeds that are more likely to maintain a high cuteness factor are:

  • Traditional Persians (it is impossible to call the flat-faced Persian “cute” more “odd”).
  • Devon Rex – little elfin face.
  • Dwarf cats particularly the Munchkin.
  • Australian Tiffanie – pretty as a picture all the time.

There are others, of course, including individual random bred cats. If an adult cat retains the cuteness factor it is down to facial appearance. A round face with large eyes combined with an expression that says, “I need your love” is guaranteed to push the human mothering button. And it is that button, the parenting and caring instinct in humans that needs to be pushed for a cat to be cute.

You will find that cat breeders often breed for large round eyes. Is this creating cuteness and therefore attractiveness leading to sales? I don’t know if cat breeders are that thoughtful about the process. Can a breeder comment on that?


There are a couple of dangers in finding kittens cute:

  1. Kittens become cats and as I said cats aren’t necessarily cute – more beautiful, amusing and impressive. If a person adopts a kitten because she is cute will the person keep the kitten for the life of the cat? It’s a danger.
  2. People can tend to anthropomorphize kittens to babies. This is not good in my opinion. People should see cats as cats, respect their innate abilities and lifestyle. There is a real danger in seeing cats as babies. One of them is that it encourages declawing. There are others.
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Why are cats so cute? — 18 Comments

  1. The sad fact is that many people take a liking to kittens because of their cuteness or because their children like them.As the cat ages and loses its kitten cuteness and behaves like the “REAL CAT” the problems start between owners and their cats.This is the reason for most cats being abandoned in shelters in the Western World as also in the developing World.Its important for a person to be a genuine “Cat Lover” to take a fancy to owning one from kitten-hood, rather than own a cat for its cute looks as a kitten.Beauty as in humans is similar in cats, it fades with age.Besides, a cat being an animal cannot be controlled by its human owners and will tend to misbehave at times.Owning any pet is a great responsibility.

    • “Responsibility” is a good word you have used. I totally agree that getting a cat because she is cute is not the best reason. Cute is OK provided the person is in the land of reality and realizes that cuteness factor will fade and real cat caretaking will click in.

  2. I see cats from many perspectives. I think Norwegian Forest Cats are sexy (like a car is sexy). I think some cats are sweet. Some are beautiful and, yes, some are cute. Not all cats are cute. Look at Maru, he’s not cute. In fact he’s not much fun to watch anymore, but what do I know. I think Daisy the Curly Cat is cute. I think her brother Harley is not. I think bunnies are sometimes cute, but very, very rarely do I give bunnies a second glance. Show me a real 4 foot Arizona Jack Rabbit. Now there is a rabbit.

    My whole point is that it’s all relative to the viewer of said cat. Everybody is allowed their own opinion on such matters. There are certainly those who give up their kittens when they grow into cats. It’s a shame, but they do they same with their kids too. What is there to do?

    • Good point Dan. I missed that. Cuteness is a personal thing. By the way, I find Norwegian Forest Cats sexy too 😉 They are majestic and independent with a long natural history in a cold country (in winter). It is not surprising you find them sexy. They are a very handsome cat breed. I always think of them as good as and very similar to the Maine Coon but because the Maine Coon is American it is more popular than the NFC. America is the biggest purebred cat marketplace. The NFC is as good as the Maine Coon in terms of a glamorous cat companion.

  3. Definition of cute in English dictionary: Attractive in a pretty or endearing way.
    So, I find all cats cute, although it’s a word I don’t use myself, even a battered old tom cat is cute to me, he may not be pretty but he is endearing.
    I’m drawn to every cat I ever see, always have been since I was just toddling lol I’d run out in my nightie if I saw a cat in our garden.
    I think people who give homes to adult cats instead of kittens maybe feel the same way, that all cats are cute.

  4. Somebody once told me they thought kittens were cute as a natural survival mechanism. I really don’t know what to think of that. Why are the young of most species cute. I think cute is just an association with newness and innocence of some sort. Add the constant new curiosity and behaviour to that and you have ‘cute’. Sadly Rudolp is so right about that being a bit of a danger since they don’t stay that way. I also agree with Ruth that older cats are just as endearing. When you love a person they seem cute. I think it is just a form of love – since beauty lies in the eye of the beholder then the real question is why do people ove kittens and not so much older cats. When you love an older cat they remain just as cute as ever if not more.

    • Are you saying that the person said that nature has designed the kitten to be cute to protect the kitten and make survival easier? Not sure that is correct because “cute” is a human concept only. I don’t think a kitten’s survival is entirely dependent on people.

      • I think it sounds like a silly thing too – unless its for the mother cat to remain attracted to her kittens or something along those lines. Cute is a human concept but really it is the view of love. Calling it cute is one of many ways you can call it. If you love an older cat or person or thing even it may look cute to you if thats the description you choose. You might also call it ‘perfect’. So then what is love? Why do we love kittens without any effort yet older cats not?

  5. I love cats of all ages and cannot understand why people want rid of them when they grow up, my 13 year old is unwell and on medication which is very hard to get down her neck but she is still sweet and I’m dreading her end,even though I have 3 younger ones. Now i have what is like a small lion which i always wanted lol.I call him my runaway siberian cat as thats what he looks like. they are so suited to humans as pets I love em !!

    • Well said. I love all cats of all types and all ages absolutely equally. If I have a glimmer of favoritism it is for the least popular, the most unwanted and least desirable cat.

  6. Hi Michael,

    Good choice of a post that absolutely has to encourage engagement. Bravo.

    I’m with you 100% on “function is more important than form”. You’d like my husband, Erik even more.

    But, I have to insist upon disagreeing in regards to “only kittens are cute but adult cats don’t quite fit that mold” statement. However, I do agree part of the way. Sure kittens are cuter than adults, but I feel that adults are very cute as well.

    As an aside, and before I forget to ask, don’t Persians all have a pug nose?

    The cuteness factor of puppies and kittens is a big part of the reason why so many cats and dogs end up in the shelter. Most people (the mainstream or majority) purchase a kitten or puppy solely based on the cuteness factor.

    Though the main motive should be to adopt strictly for the sake of helping an animal out, the real reason most people adopt is due to the shallow and condemnable reason of the cuteness factor of puppies and kittens. God forbid anyone should ever find an adult cat or dog to be “cute” or even “needy”.

    Most humans, and certainly – with out a doubt – are shallow and pathetic beings. That’s putting it nicely. I am very bitter on the human race but present company very much excluded from that comment.

    So that is the danger you speak of – the “cuteness factor” [of kittens and puppies]. They end up in shelters strictly due to the fact that humans are shallow and gung-ho on appearance at the expense of the poor animals.

    Bottom line is that all cats are “cute”. It has to do with a whole lot more than appearance.

    As you can probably tell, you’ve just hit a sore spot with me.

    Glad you raised the issue though.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

    • Glad I hit a spot of some sort 😉 Not all Persians have a very short nose. The traditional Persian nose is normal. I was a bit provocative in saying cuteness is only about kittens. You are right that cats have a certain amount of cuteness and lots are cute. I do make that point indirectly by saying that some cat breeds are cute etc.

      If everyone preferred function over form it would be a better world and women’s handbags wouldn’t be as expensive…so say Confucius 🙂

  7. Hi Michael,

    Okay, thanx for clearing up my misunderstanding about the Persian’s nose. I remember being a bit confused about the same tidbit on an earlier post.

    About the handbags comment – funny 🙂

    I think that vanity and self worth come into play quite heavily when it comes to the “look what I have” mentality. I don’t think too many people buy fancy clothes and clothing accessories, cars, homes, etc so they can sit around all day and admire them. I think the fancy stuff is for show.

    Many like to impress with the highness of their lifestyle. It’s about “I have this and you don’t, ha!”. So that means it’s quite selfish as well.

    You’re right – vanity drives up the prices and in many cases it has nothing to do with function at all. Sad world we live in.


    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

  8. Cats are selectively bred, consciously or subconsciously, to trigger that perception in humans. The rounder the face, the larger the eyes, the more it triggers the infant-care reflex in humans. Those cats will be given more attention, given more food, be more apt to be used for breeding stock. Small dogs are also often selectively bred to have infant-like features. This has been studied and known for decades. You’re basically breeding animals to emotionally-masturbate to.

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