2015-05-31 The female tabby

Why cats are so cute?

Everybody knows that cats are so darn cute. People sometimes do weird things because of their cuteness level. Have you ever heard Bob’s story?

Bob is a software developer in his mid-40’s from United States, working in a “critical infrastructure” company. He was an “inoffensive and quiet” programmer with “a relatively long tenure with the company” and “someone you wouldn’t look at twice in an elevator.” In 2012, the company discovered that their systems were being accessed periodically from China. First, they suspected a hacking attempt. But no, it was not hacking. Somebody from China were accessing their systems using Bob’s credentials. But who gave them these credentials?

Cat watching 'cat playing with a bird' on youtube
Why did Bob lost her job?

Investigators then discovered Bob had “physically FedExed his RSA token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday”. Bob had hired a programming firm in the northeastern Chinese to do his work. His helpers half a world away worked overnight on a schedule imitating an average 9-to-5 workday in the United States. He paid them one-fifth of his six-figure salary and over the past several years, Bob received excellent performance reviews of his “clean, well written” coding. He had even been noted as “the best developer in the building.”

Investigators find out that Bob was spending his “free time” surfing Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. and watching “cat videos”.

Bob was fired from the job.

Why cats so cute that Bob lost his job?

What is the science behind cute cat photos and videos?

The answer is “cute factor”. A 2006 New York Times article says, essentially, we’ve evolved to have a strong weakness for human babies. So, the animals we consider cute have features reminiscent of human babies: large eyes, small noses, large foreheads, disproportionately large heads, etc.

But why do almost all humans find this particular set of features so appealing?

Babies

An associate professor of anthropology and human development at Penn State University, Jeffrey Kurland, Ph.D., wrote in an article titled “Probing Question: Why are babies cute?” (2005) that “the answer lies in evolution. According to Darwin, individuals of a given species will exhibit a new trait if that trait provides a survival advantage, boosting an organism’s chances of living to see sexual maturity and successfully reproduce“.

Baby
Almost all humans find babies cute.

One of two basic processes may be at work, Kurland suggests. In the first, one of our distant female ancestors was born with a slightly different makeup than her forebears, perhaps the result of some random genetic mutation. This change in her genes caused her to prefer babies with the features we see as cute. She passed on this preference to future generations, and thereafter infants with cuteness attracted more attention and received more care than their less cute compatriots. The cuties were therefore more likely to survive and reproduce, and their offspring inherited both their cuteness trait and their preference for cuteness. “Because the two traits became linked in this way, they both increased in the population,” says Kurland.

The second evolutionary possibility is much like the first, except that here cuteness runs more than skin deep. In this scenario, too, Kurland explains, one of our foremothers was born with an arbitrary preference for cute babies—to her they just look better. And again, she gives more attention and care to her cute babies, who survive in greater numbers to pass on both their own cuteness genes and the genes for her preference, and this genetic combination gradually increases in the population.

Cats and other mammals

So, from an evolutionary standpoint, finding babies “cute” is crucial for helping our totally helpless children stay alive. And as an unintended consequence, this also extends to other animals who happen to share the same features as babies… like cats do.

Other reasons

There are plenty of other reasons:

  • Cats are so “innocent” when they sleep.

    May 17, 2015 - the kittens are sleeping - 4
    Two male tabbies are sleeping. Lovely!
  • Cats are playful! They love playtime and can get involved in many activities – from batting a ball to exploring the house and all its dark corners. Cats love climbing and jumping, and have an inbred sense of curiosity that will sometimes land them in hilarious situations.
  • They purr!!! Nothing is more appealing than eliciting a purr-fect response when petting your cat. It is a perfect therapy after a long, hard, stressful day.
  • They love us: every cat needs love, attention, food, water, comfort and safety. When you provide these for your cat you will be amply rewarded with loyalty and love. Cats are affectionate to their owners and frequently like to snuggle up on the bed with them at “lights out” (my dear Lotto and her kittens always sleep with me on my bed). They’re delighted to greet you after a long day at work, and seem always ready to de-stress you with their special attention. The emotional connection you have with your cat makes it much more than a pet — your cat can become a vital part of your family and enhance your feelings of well-being.

    Cats love us
    Cats love us

Sources

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