Take a quick look at the images below. Could you even resist saying “awww” out loud? It’s true – these animals are all irresistibly adorable and are likely to melt any human heart into mush. And because they are cute, we are prone to care more about these animals. Would you agree?
Donate your money to help little endangered monkeys! Why? Duhh … because they’re cute! Sign petitions to shut down puppy mills! Why? Umm…little fuzzy puppies are being abused – need we say more? Free dolphins from SeaWorld’s concrete bathtubs! Why? Their faces look like they’re always smiling … who wouldn’t care about dolphins?
But what about the beings labeled with names like “lab rats,” “farm animals,” and other animals treated as commodities? What about the animals portrayed as “creepy” or “slimy” like many reptiles and amphibians, insects, bats, and others given a negative reputation by American culture? What about the unpopular animals? Or the animals you never even knew existed? If they’re not recognized as “cute,” can we still care about animals?
In fact, there is actually science behind why we humans respond so strongly to cute, young, fuzzy, cuddly, and little. Check it out…
For the Love of Babies!
So whether or not we humans are parents, we have parental predispositions that make us inclined to protect juveniles. Research has shown that even when people are shown pictures of babies, they have increased activity in the premotor cortex of the brain. Though the functions of the premotor cortex are still not fully known, it is believed it plays a role in directing behavior (perhaps this is why you feel inclined to pinch a baby’s cheek or hug a puppy close).
Since we humans are innately programmed to like babies, we also like animals that look young or little like these animals:
And because we like animals that look young, humans have bred animals like dogs to be “toy” breeds, horses to be “mini” and even faun over micro pigs (even though there really is no such thing) over hundreds of years to appear smaller and younger like these animals:
How We Make Connections Between Humans and Non-Human Animals
We often feel connections to non-human animals through anthropomorphism, or recognizing human traits in other animals. For example, when we see pictures like the ones posted below, we associate non-human animal-animal bonding with human-human bonding.
We especially love pictures of interspecies relationships. Relationships between different species can teach us to respect differences, be generous with love, and to make special connections with anyone we meet regardless of race, gender, age, culture, or specie. Check out this post to see cute videos of interspecies friendships.
The Cuddle Reflex
When you cuddle with other humans (and when you cuddle with animals), your body releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Oxytocin can also boost your immune system, relieve pain, reduce stress, deepen connections, and even reduce your risk of heart disease! Wow – it’s no wonder people love cuddling! So, when we see animals cuddle, we think warm and fuzzy thoughts.
No, we’re not talking about “too cute.” Let’s return to the question: do we care more about animals who are cute? Caring about an animal that has not been positively represented by Western culture might not be as natural as caring for an animal commonly recognized as cute (for many people). However, that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t care and it definitely doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. Whether or not we humans are able to relate to or connect with an animal, all animals deserve quality of life, same as any “cute” animal.
For example, it might be difficult to understand how a fish feels because we don’t see fish cuddling or smiling. We can’t pet, kiss, or snuggle them. And because we are disconnected from fish, people care “less” about them.
Bottom line … animals shouldn’t have to be cute for humans to care. We need to care because it is our responsibility to care. Read how making connections between humans and animals can help save the world by clicking here. Let’s include ALL living beings in our compassionate conscience … including spiders!
But… just for fun, check out some of these unpopular animals made popular with the science of cute:
Can you even pretend you didn’t think these “creepy” crawlies look pretty dang adorable?
Lead image source: izismile.com