Why Do We Find Baby Animals So Darn Cute?

An adorable puppy. (Photo by Heather Ruff)
An adorable puppy. (Photo by Heather Ruff)

We seem to coo over them, no matter the species, even if we wouldn't be interested in the adult animals at all. So what makes baby animals so appealing to us? How are they universally cute, when adult animals seem to be a matter of opinion?

The answer is that nature (or God or whoever you want to credit) planned it this way and backed up that plan with several reasons for us to find baby animals cute.

(By the way, I'm not a behaviorist or psychologist; this hub is based only on personal experience, intuition, and several studies I've read in textbooks over time.)

This kitten has just opened its eyes for the first time.  (Photo by Giane Portal)
This kitten has just opened its eyes for the first time. (Photo by Giane Portal)

1. The Helpless Factor

Adults of most species will be attracted to babies of most species because of the natural instinct to nurture that which is helpless.

I back this up with the stories I constantly hear from animal rescuers where a nursing mother dog will take an orphaned kid (baby goat, not human child) into her litter to nurse and nurture or the famous story of the dog who nursed a sick kitten back to health, literally.

It is ingrained in us to want to care for something that cannot care for itself. (Of course there are exceptions to this rule, like when Tosca the polar bear rejected her son Knut, and he achieved international fame.) Since baby animals cannot care for themselves, we want to help care for them, even if it's just subconsciously. For the most part, that which is living wants to preserve life.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Baby goats play with each other. (Photo by Irum Shahid)A gorgeous newborn lamb.
Baby goats play with each other. (Photo by Irum Shahid)
Baby goats play with each other. (Photo by Irum Shahid)
A gorgeous newborn lamb.
A gorgeous newborn lamb.

2. The Nurture Factor

Some experts believe that most of us don't do as much nurturing as our bodies would like to do. We, as humans (especially women), are designed to nurture, but many studies are showing that we don't get enough contact with other animals, human or otherwise.

So when we see a cute animal, we want to nurture it. This is different from the helpless factor because we don't only want to save it by giving it the basics of food and shelter; we want to cuddle with the animal and make it feel loved. It's only natural.

This is why many humans find mammal and fuzzy baby animals more attractive than scaly or slimy baby animals: we think they would feel better to cuddle!

This lion cub doesn't want to eat you... yet.  (Photo by Elvis Santana)
This lion cub doesn't want to eat you... yet. (Photo by Elvis Santana)

3. The Innocence Factor

Baby animals are just like baby humans because they are innocent, untainted. A baby wild animal has likely never killed for her food, and while we may not blame a wild animal for killing to eat, knowing that it has might somehow distance us from that animal.

This lion cub to the right is adorable because he's fuzzy, but also because you could probably play with him! Adult lions are beautiful, but you probably wouldn't want to get up close to them.

Since we're stronger than many baby animals, we feel like we can control them, and therefore we feel like they pose no danger to us. It just makes them all the cuter!

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This monkey has quite an exotic look!This little fawn was found abandoned.  (Photo by Carol Giffen)An elephant calf.
This monkey has quite an exotic look!
This monkey has quite an exotic look!
This little fawn was found abandoned.  (Photo by Carol Giffen)
This little fawn was found abandoned. (Photo by Carol Giffen)
An elephant calf.
An elephant calf.

4. The Aesthetic Factor

This is the least graspable but probably the most obvious. We find the animals cute... because they're cute!

Why baby animals look cute is a bit more illusive, but it seems to come down to the fact that they are adorably disproportionate. A puppy has huge paws and ears that are way too big for his body.

This monkey's eyes are huge for its face and therefore seem to convey innocence. The fawn to the right also has big eyes and wobbly legs (which also make it vulnerable, so we want to care for it... all these reasons are intertwined).

The elephant calf has a huge forehead and ears, and though elephants are silly looking anyway, the little ones are at our eye level and cuddlier.

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So Cute!

This hub is purely speculative... so what do you think? Why are baby animals so cute to us? I'd love to hear it!

And maybe it was just an excuse to look at cute pictures of animals. ;)

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Comments 24 comments

Hovalis profile image

Hovalis 8 years ago from Australia

awww Now I want to scritch all the baby animals. I agree with everything you've said here.

Great Hub! :-)


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks, Hovalis! Believe me, writing this hub and then looking through pictures of cute baby animals, there was a lot of "awwwww"ing. ;)


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

They are adorable! You are so right. They are cute when they are babies.


blaze_xeno 7 years ago

Nice hub cute baby animal pictures


Sowmya 7 years ago

Yeah, I totally agree with all of these points. Also, the relatively small size of animals is endearing too. It makes them seem far less powerful and dangerous.


Andrew Clavette 7 years ago

Or perhaps human cognition evolved to disdain killing young animals because they are a poor food source. Most people would have a hard time killing a bear cub over killing a full blown Grizzly simply because the cubs are unable to reproduced yet, hence we would be killing off our future food supply. Perhaps are brain then developed to care for younger animals and find them 'cute'.


Mark 6 years ago

It seems that most humans find baby mammals cute, but not the other classes of animals. My theory is that it is because we are mammals also and we see ourselves in ther mammals.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Definitely true, Mark. Humans in general have an easier time relating to other mammals.


TylerCapp profile image

TylerCapp 6 years ago from Los Angeles, California

You nailed it! I never would have been able to explain why they are so cute myself, I just would know for a fact that they are cute. Great hub!


livvy 6 years ago

i luv it ohh its so cute i want to cuddle all of them


Animal Lover! 5 years ago

So true! I love my baby kittens! They are so cute!


Knoxvillleeeee 5 years ago

I totally agree with the nurturing factor, my springer spaniel, who is huuugggeee, has literally fathered my new kitten.

It's weird, as the dog shows the kitten ways of life, such as waiting for their dinner by their bowels, or asking to go outside, all dog traits, so now she's rather turning into a kitten-dog...

It's quite funny


kyra 5 years ago

I LOVE baby animals!


Sandy 5 years ago

Awesome hub! Explains it wonderfully... I'd always wondered why I could be entertained for literally hours by googling baby animals! Thanks for letting me know! (and for the adorable pics)


Quin 5 years ago

Well this as helped me a lot in my essay - seriously! It has just basically given me the words to explain myself.

Funny thing is that I'm doing a Computer Games Design degree :-D


A.l 5 years ago

I don't find human babies un the remotest bit cute,baby animals though are absolutly adorable and they have me in tears. I love googling all the little cuties I think it's because they are so dependable, trusting,innocent and so non judgemental(I know all these factors are also apply to human babies as well,)but I just have absolutly no maternal insticts to human babies, though (excluding my own child who was planned)


5 years ago

I love all baby animals (so adorable) my favorite baby animals are baby crocodiles. I think it is because they are so tiny in comparisson to their parents.xx


5 years ago

I remember a few years ago I took my daughter to a farm and an emu there had gorgeous chicks! and we were billing and cooing over them, then she walked over to another chick and pointed at it with her beak and she was then looking at us (almost as if to say "look at my other baby" Honest, How adorable is that.!x


Will 5 years ago

Stephen Jay Gould argued that we find baby animals cute because they possess features that remind us baby humans--and we've *got* to find baby humans cute, and we've got to strongly desire to protect and nurture them, to motivate us to take care of our own offspring. In terms of natural selection and "survival of the fittest," it doesn't matter if an individual survives to reproduce if they don't have an offspring that outlives them--when their baby dies, their genes die too.

If our distant ancestors didn't find lots of baby-like features adorable, they sometimes didn't take good enough care of their own babies. The result was that their "NOT finding all babies cute" genes died out, while the "finding ALL babies cute, human or not" genes survived through the babies that were nurtured because their parents had the stronger baby-nurturing instincts.

The byproduct of those evolution-granted instincts is that now we are finding LOTS of other baby animals adorable. In a way, part of our brain is confusing baby cats with baby humans, and the "awww" instinct kicks in. It's a kind of false positive, which is preferable to a false negative--finding baby-like features (large eyes, funny little limbs, big heads relative to body--that's also why we like bobble-heads!) so adorable means that we're *practically guaranteed* to find our own babies adorable and it provides an incentive to take care of them. The inevitable result is we find non-human babies adorable too, which has no negative consequences for evolution and has the bonus of making life more joyful. :)


random 5 years ago

I love watching how mother animals care for their gorgeous babies. I think that cutness is a survival instinct if we find something cute then we have the desire to nurture and protect it. just be googling tea cup puppies O.M.G so gorge (nearly crying)xxx


lola 5 years ago

Hi , I love baby animals , they r just sooo cute . I wonder if my mummy will get me a puppy 4 xmas ....


babyanimalsrgorgeousxx 4 years ago

Has anyone seen Einstien? He is the smallest horse in the world (B April 2010 at only 6LB, you can view him on you tube, prepare to melt though, he's adorable xx


calum steele 4 years ago

couldn't agree more these things are cute!


martinnetsims 4 years ago

well dennis if you are still in need of them i think this is there web address

filling address , they have 20% discount now,say m netsims give you there number

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