Do Cats Know What We Think Is Cute?

I swear — sometimes I think our cats know what’s cute.

Or, to be more precise: I don’t think our cats have the faintest concept of “cuteness.” But they know what gets our attention. They know that when they do the tuck-and-roll, the upside-down gaze, the crossed paws, the stretched-out paws, the nuzzle-nibble, the squirming on the back, the paw over the nose, the showing off of the belly with the paws in the air, the paws wrapped around our hand — it gets our attention. It gets us to give them skritches, and make cooing noises. It gets us to put down our devices or stop watching TV, and focus the full firehose of our attention on them. They know that when they do certain particular cat-like things, it gets our positive attention — more so than when they just sit there.

Comet especially. Talisker, I think, doesn’t care that much what we think of her — but Comet is an attention hog, and she knows how to go through her paces to get the attention she craves.

Yes, you heard me:

I’m saying felinity is performative.

Comet upside down gaze

Comet upside down gaze with paws in air

Talisker belly

More nuclear cuteness and performance of felinity after the jump.

Comet draped

Talisker posing with both paws dangling

Comet with paws wrapped around hand

Talisker with one paw stretched

Comet belly stretch

Comet with paw over nose

Talisker with paw over nose closeup

Comet and Talisker on chair with draped stretched paws

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Do Cats Know What We Think Is Cute?

7 thoughts on “Do Cats Know What We Think Is Cute?

  1. 4

    From cute, awkward kittens to elegant cats. It’s been a lovely transformation. Our last kitten was in 2002; he died of heart failure a couple of years ago. Current cats were adopted as a teenager and a young adult, respectively. They needed us more than the kittens did. But I miss kittenhood and the growing-up transformation.

  2. 5

    I completely agree, particularly when they’ve done something borderline naughty and start very slowly, very ostentatiously washing their ears. They know it’s cute.

  3. 6

    Hmm. So why does Mabel lather on the cute to get attention, and then bite me when I give it to her?

    Of course she also employs the ‘what can I fuck with that will break or fall?’ technique with equal skill.

  4. 7

    It seems very likely. Cats that live with people are known to have different behaviour from cats in the wild. They vocalise more and the noises they make are typically lower in pitch than those of feral cats.

    But we should also remember that people and cats have been living together for a long time. Perhaps we’ve been unconsciously for cute.

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