Are You Hooked On Cute Cat Photos?

By Elisa Black-Taylor

Today I have a question for everyone reading this article. Are you hooked on online cute cat photos? Or perhaps your interests sway more toward cute cat videos. No matter which you prefer, there are cute cat photos and videos everywhere you look on social media sites. Our favorite cat site here at PoC is no exception.

My Social Networking Of Cute Photos

Posting cute cat photos is also quite popular on our cat Facebook group page listed as I set up the Facebook group page over a year ago in an effort to help Michael (PoC) spread the word about the website here. My mission was to direct cat lovers back to this site so people would read the articles. After all, Michael DOES have the best cat articles available online concerning everything from cat health to funny cats. And lets not forget yours truly here (ME!) with her foot in mouth problem who tends to talk about everything…

Anyway, I thought I’d list some of the articles published PoC on the Facebook group page to broaden exposure. I still do this where I copy and paste the article link, along with a relevant photo. What happened instead came as a complete surprise to me. People started posting cute and funny photos of their own cats. Members of the group took Pictures-of-cats to mean “pictures of cats.” What we’ve accomplished on the Facebook group page is a large population of cat lovers (the group now has over 3000 members) who enjoy showing off their cats. Thanks to everyone in the group, we’re now one of the largest positive influence groups on Facebook.

Results Of Cute Animal Photos Study Conducted By Yale

I was driving home from work last week when my favorite talk show host told of a study done by Yale showing there’s a scientific reason we want to share the cuteness everywhere we can. According to the Yale study “our bodies are wired to lose control and become overwhelmed by our desire to share the cuteness.” Whenever we see a cute video or photo, this urge will override our inhibitions, leaving us helplessly compelled to share the cuteness with our friends. Or with strangers – as long as we share. Because we’ll go CRAZY if we can’t spread the cuteness to everyone we know. I believe this urge should also include the necessity to share cute baby photos online.

I did a bit of online research about Yale’s study on cuteness. One research project, led by psychology graduate student Rebecca Dyer, describes the phenomenon as “cuteness aggression.” Dyer stated “We think it’s about high positive-affect, an approach orientation and almost a sense of lost control.” In plain English, this means we want to squeeze cute things. To take care of them. The problem is, when we can’t physically touch the cuteness, we may become a bit aggressive.

The volunteers were told this would be a study of motor activity and memory. They were given bubble wrap and instructed beforehand to pop as many of the bubble wrap bubbles as they wished. The cute study popped more bubbles, with an average of 120. The funny slide show bubble wrap suffered less damage at 80 bubbles popped, and the neutral photos came in with just over 100 popped. The study concluded that the number of bubbles showed the amount of aggression displayed while watching the photos.

This topic was covered a few weeks back at the January 18 annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology seminar held in New Orleans. The original study was done by Yale using a test group of 109 subjects (one reference stated 90 subjects), who were led into a laboratory setting and asked to look at a slideshow of cute animal photos, funny animal photos and animals who didn’t necessarily fit into either category. With the information I’ve found, I’m unsure whether one study or two were conducted on the subject since the test control numbers differ. In either case, it turned out the cute animal photos got the most response out of the test subjects.

My Friends Are Hooked On Cute Photos

I’ve got a LOT of female friends who spend a lot of time posting cute cat and dog photos. What was really a surprise was finding the number of definitely masculine male friends who either share their own photos or love the ones we women share. No one is immune from this biological responsive that comes from looking at cuteness.

I have one friend on Facebook, Steve Riddle, who’s been a friend since back in 1974. We weren’t even in our teens when we became pen pals after we met at a family event(a funeral). Now I depend on him to brighten my day EVERY day with the photo of a cute animal, along with a fitting caption. If I don’t hear from him, I’m depressed and worry about what kind of day he’s having. Steve lives ten hours from me, so visiting isn’t an option.

I’ve been known to “borrow” photos I find of my friends cute cats on various networking sites. I always list who I obtained the image from. You have to be careful with copyright laws these days or you can be sued for stealing another’s work. Several stock card companies also have cute photos to sell for use with freelance articles. So there’s a money making opportunity connected with cute.

I Post Photos, But I Disagree With The Study Results

I love to post photos as often as I can because I believe they cheer people up when they see them. It’s nice to know I’m right, and Yale has done the research to back it up. I’m at odds with their conclusion. I don’t believe I show signs of aggression when I view the photos. The opposite is true with me. I tend to calm down when looking at photos of cute or funny animals. On the other hand, perhaps that’s a good excuse for my being a bit mouthy in some of my articles. Yeah, I think I’ll go with that! Cute photos may cause aggression. Giggles…

I’ve put together this special collage and invite the readers to conduct their own study. First, cover the right half of the collage on this page while you look at the photos on the left. Then vise versa.

Are you hooked on cute cat photos

Are you hooked on cute cat photos. Collage by Elisa.

The photos on the left are the “funny” photos. To start off with, I have Annabelle on a curtain rod. She was deaf, but she was a master climber. The middle photo is of Garfield and Cassie. Garfield refused to look at the camera, and apparently I was boring Cassie because she chose that moment to yawn. The bottom left is our FIV+ boy, Brinkley. This was him at Christmas after getting his tummy full of catnip treats. I thought the caption fitting.

The photos on the right fall into the “cute” category. The top right photo shows Pippa and Pinky, the YaYa (shelter name) kittens we rescued along with their mothers. We raised them in the master bath tub to keep them in one place. Pinky had the worst case of conjunctivitis Michael (PoC) had ever seen, and his illness is how we decided on his name. Not very original, but it worked at the time. We chose the tub to keep them in as clean an environment as possible. This photo was made the day Pippa “escaped” and coerced her brother/cousin into committing the crime with her. They were all over the bathroom after that. This has to be one of the very cutest photos I’ve ever made in my life. It would be difficult to out-do it.

The middle one is of Furby the day of his rescue on November 3, 2009. This photo has now won several cat contests. Furby’s latest prize was a $115 cat bed in December 2011. He’s a good sport and shares it with the other cats. Unfortunately, Furby is hard to get a good photo of these days. He’s mastered the sneaky cat expression and basically looks guilty all of the time. This is good for my making funny captioned photos, but he’s outgrown the cute phase. To hear Furby tell it, he prefers to look guilty all of the time to throw me off on when he really has done something wrong.

Annabelle, Garfield, Pinky and Pippa have since gone to their own families through various rescues and private adoptions.

I had to “close” this collage with a photo of our cat-dog Cujo. Cujo is now very popular on many social networking sites, as cat-dogs are a very rare breed. I’ve spoken with several cat-dog owners, who like me, have small dogs being raised as cats. Please don’t ever mention that D-O-G word around him:he may bite you! Cujo not only loves to play ambush, he also has been taught the ability to stalk and pounce, as well as to chase a cat toy on a string. Isn’t he adorable!? Doesn’t this photo just make you want to copy, paste and share? Go ahead! Please put in the bottom right corner in small letters so I get credit. It’s always a show of courtesy to acknowledge the photographer.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you suffer from share-the-cuteness syndrome like many of us on social networking sites? Personally, I tend to remember friends who post these cutie-pies more easily than those who just make comments or post photos of other subject matter. Do you believe the study was accurate and cute photos trigger aggression? Or are you as I am, and just want to spread the happy around and be the first one of your friends to post a really awesome photo?


FB comments (see below)


Are You Hooked On Cute Cat Photos? — 14 Comments

  1. I’m tiring of the lolcat stuff. They have gotten to the point that it’s rare when they actually make you laugh anymore. Cute will always be cute. I think it reveals a certain quality of character in a person that the type of heart that appreciates a cute kid or animal. I know some people that would say, “It’s just a cat. What’t the big deal?” Isn’t that like saying the Mona Lisa is just a painting.

    Wish I had time to go through all posts I’ve missed. Such a busy week. I really enjoyed my reading and videos. All the articles we had to read for my science class were from UK science journals! A video narrated by Sir David Attenborough was cool. That and the a Doctor Who special all in one week. A very UK week for me. See ya this weekend.

    What do you all think of the Puppy Bowl? It runs here in the US during the hours before, during and after the Superbowl (American Football 2012 championship game) on Animal Planet. There are puppies for most of it, with a kitten half-time. This year they are adding rabbits and other small furry pets as cheerleaders. I love it. Watching them play. The ludicrous attempt by the voice-over announcer to make it seem like a real game. It’s hilarious. Puppy Bowl will be playing in this house before and after the game. It’s a tradition.

  2. I find kittens incredibly cute – especially in real life. I totally fall for them in real life. Having lately had to look after 2 litters of kittens at the same time from time to time and visit them regularly I fall totally in love with every single one of them. I like cute cat pictures but I am more into special cat pictures, whether it be the background, the cat, the context, or a mixture of things. Any unusual or interesting or artistic cat picture I find I put on my Facebook page. Some are funny, some are serious and everything in between. I have no preference for one particular kind. I constantly find fantastic and new and interesting ones. There are so many. I also like when people share pics of their cats. I was very proud of Red and I am of all my cats and I love to show pictures of them and tell them about their characters and lives. I think it’s great that people do this.

    Cat people socialise on the internet. Dog people socialise in the dog park.

  3. I like seeing cute pictures but we also need to know what bad stuff is going on so we can help do something about it.

    I’m afraid, too, that long articles put me off reading them, like others these days I have a very busy life with my job, kids,cats and dogs. I lose interest scrolling down a long page. Apart from being one of the”UK anti declaw troops’ because I feel so strongly against that legal abuse,I don’t have time to worry about other countries,we may have a welfare law here but there is still much to do against cruelty to animals.

    If everyone stood up to be counted and did even a little bit in their own country it would be better than nothing.

    • Thanks Rose for the good feedback about long articles. I am acutely aware of that and so is Elisa. I try and keep articles shorter these days because like you I think people like shorter and shorter articles. It is a time thing and the internet is tailored to surfing, the skimming of information rather than reading pages in a book. The internet is about speed because the world has speeded-up.

      One problem is that if an article is too short Google tends to not find it and list it. Perhaps things have changed though.

      • The subtitles really help break up the length. My articles are as long as they need to be. I’m doing a dog case now for that will break my record as it’s very involved. Plus sometimes Michael can do a hack job or an add on. We write well as a team.

  4. I can’t stomach the abuse stories like I used to. I just looked at a photo of a 22 year old cat turned into the shelter by her owners. i have a good balance on my pages now. The group page on Facebook is a great pick me up. The abuse cases have gotten much worse in the past year. I’d be writing constantly if I tried to cover them all. I’m trying to do more interesting stories these days based on what I’d like to know more about. Plus I try to keep the reading level so that younger readers can understand the stories. Michael never knows what I’ll come up with next. It’s a miracle I haven’t given him an ulcer.

  5. I enjoy seeing cat pictures and sharing the best ones because it’s important to our sanity to have a balance of ‘feel good’ and ‘feel bad’ stuff.
    I’ve lots of contacts on facebook of the same mind as I am, they hate animal abuse and every day they post causes or petitions to sign and pass on. I couldn’t live with my conscience if I didn’t do that but sometimes I feel so bad about all the horrors going on that I have to wait until I can take some more, then go back and do it.
    I’ve had the image of the photo of a cat I saw suffering from brain vivisection, burned into my mind since I was 18, which was 47 long years ago, after that there was no turning back, I had to take up cudgels on the behalf of all abused or suffering animals. Sometimes I think I can’t take any more but I know I have to, it’s not me suffering, it’s them and they need people like me to be their voice.
    It’s a hard road to follow and some people wonder why I do it, but through the internet and PoC especially I’ve ‘met’ like minded people who care as much as I do, especially for cats.

    • “burned into my mind..”

      I have similar problems with images of animal cruelty that I cannot get out of my mind. I genuinely believe they have damaged me slightly. We need to take care of our minds, protect them from experiences that can hurt them. I am like you Ruth. I have to tackle animal cruelty and shout about it to help animals but the amount of it has to be limited for me. Dorothy has the same thoughts too. It is about balance I feel. We need to deal with the bad but it is best to surround ourselves with nice things, beautiful things and good experiences, if we can.

      • Yes we have to surround ourselves with nice things if we can and enjoy spending time with our own cats, which benefits both us and them. We can’t take on the entire animal world’s troubles, we can only do our best but many times I feel it’s not good enough.

  6. Cute cat pictures can cure the blues! I recently decided to completely change the way I use Facebook. I unfriended and “un liked” across the board. I got rid of anyone who posted bad news, grim news, animal abuse, missing children, politics, stupid pictures, crass stuff and anything else that just didn’t make me feel good looking at it. Now I can open the news feed and have a little lift in spirits. If I’m really mad or sad, I go find Bigfoot or Marvin and within seconds I’m smiling, cooing, loving and I just feel better fast. Feeling better fast is the key to a happy life.

    I’m not a person who’s head is in the sand, but I prefer to browse the news when I want to. I don’t like to open Facebook to pictures of skinny malnourished animals needing my help desperately. Oh, I help…I do. In anyway I can. But to randomly open a page like Facebook, I don’t want to be shocked out of my chair especially at 4:30 in the morning, with my first cuppa coffee, cat on my knees…moon glowing in my window, quiet peace. It doesn’t set me up for a good day.

    Fortunately, PoC gives fair warning in the titles. Sometimes I don’t read the whole PoC story, but go straight to comments to know if the article is in the safe zone. Sorry Elisa, I do skip many of your very important stories. It isn’t that I am judging, I just choose carefully what I let into my thoughts. I appreciate all you do and your fine contributions to Michael’s incredibly well done website. There are few that compare to PoC. I just know that, for me, life is short……there is much to be done, but having joy and pleasure of which there is so much to be have…I prefer to spend more time in that cute zone rather than the horror zone.

    I think the Yale study is interesting, thanks for sharing it.

    I do like to share cuteness, but not to just anyone. Great article. Keep it up!

    • Excellent comment dw and a very good point that you have unexpectedly come up with out of a page on cute cat photos. I agree with you. Although PoC and any cat site has to address the bad side of the cat world sometimes in order to keep a balance, be complete and “real”, bad stuff should be minimised I feel because it hurts us. It gets me down and it affects others in a similar way. It is almost like being in a war zone sometimes and you get a minor version of PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) with the depressing news generally and stories of animal abuse.

      Elisa does an excellent job in covering these events but my preference is for neutral stories that are interesting in that they show up an aspect of the human to cat relationship. No one can dislike cute cat pictures. I love photography and cat photographs but these days, now that I am older, I am more interested in the behind the scenes stuff, the difficult subjects that are about people and cats.

  7. Ah cute pictures of cats…Although I like them a lot what really gets me interested the most is our relationship with cats. Of course liking pictures of cute cats is part of that relationship. Personally I’d like to see the same amount of passion and time that is expended on chatting about cute cat pictures spent on resolving the tough cat welfare problems, primarily unwanted cats. I’m too serious, perhaps, although I do like a laugh a lot of the time.

    I am guessing but I would think that the majority of cute cat aficionados are women. Is that sexist?

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