Cuteness and Animal Empathy
Humans and other animals have been going hand-in-hand ever since the beginning of time. Ever hear a baby make a noise? It’s because that baby is just starting to learn how to speak. We love animals and enjoy taking care of them, whether it’s petting them, playing with them, or giving them their own space. Here are a few things that we learn when we care for animals.
What about the animals portrayed as scaly, creepy? Or the small, furry creatures that you never knew existed? Do they elicit feelings of fear for young children or are they simply adorable? Actually, there’s actually quite a science behind how we respond so strongly to cute, small, fuzzy, cuddly, and young animals.
The first feeling that we have toward wild animals is one of fear. We’ve all seen people walking through the woods with dogs in their arms and seemingly oblivious to the potential danger lurking in the shadows. This makes us think of danger lurking in the dark. Even if we never have a problem with wild animals living around us, we don’t always see one close enough to harm us. In order to care for these animals effectively, we must be able to see one close enough to touch it. Some ways of doing this involve holding the animal for a brief period of time.
We often think of animals as merely cute. They’re little, furry, adorable, or small, but we can’t deny that there’s a certain amount of desire in us for those creatures to be harmed. For example, we might want to be touched by a squirrel for ourselves or for someone else. This is one way that we can use cuteness to make contact with animals that are not normally friendly. Another common example of cuteness in animals is when we’re watching a baby squirrel play. When that little baby squirrel flits around, blinking and bobbing its head, it’s so cute that we want to rub its head or even hold it!
The next most common emotion that animals exhibit is fear. It can range from being scared of snakes, lions, and other dangerous animals to being afraid of people or of large crowds. Many animals experience fear to a certain degree, but it’s rare that animals experience fear that can’t be handled by humans. Some examples of cute animals that exhibit fear include young children running around in the woods or taking a bee sting (a bit scary, yes), or ducks swimming by us.
Emotionally speaking, we don’t typically relate cuteness and empathy with other-being animal kingdoms. But when two cute animals behave together in a natural setting such as in a zoo or in the company of humans, the connection becomes stronger. Perhaps that’s why researchers have been studying how to bring cuteness and empathy to wild animals. In time, we’ll know whether or not animals have emotions, too!