44 Adorable Baby Animals That Could Make Any Bad Day Better

Published July 7, 2020
Updated July 13, 2020
Published July 7, 2020
Updated July 13, 2020

Whether it's elephants, pandas, or kangaroos, there's actually a scientific reason why looking at cute baby animal pictures makes you feel so good.

Baby Chinchilla
Baby Elephant
Baby Giant Panda
Baby Giraffe
44 Adorable Baby Animals That Could Make Any Bad Day Better
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Baby animals are more than just cute and cuddly — they're evolutionary marvels who rely on their adorable looks to survive. Their round features and big eyes trigger a kind of "cuteness response" that makes their parents — and us — want to nurture and protect them.

Plus, looking at cute baby animals is just plain fun. If you've had a tough day or just need a quick pick-me-up, there's nothing like looking at baby animals to boost your mood.

From owlets to goat kids, take a look at these remarkably cute baby animal pictures.

Why Are Baby Animals So Cute?

Piglets Running

PixabayWe have the same instinctive reaction when we see human babies and baby animals.

When we see an adult lion we might feel intimidated by its majestic mane and ferocious teeth. Yet, when we see a baby lion, our first instinct might be to want to cuddle it or take care of it.

But it turns out, there is a psychological explanation behind our nurturing response toward adorable baby animals.

In 1943, Austrian ethologist and zoologist Konrad Lorenz was the first to suggest that all infants — whether human or not — share specific features that are universally irresistible. These traits include a large head paired with a small-sized body, small facial features such as the mouth and nose, round cheeks, a round body, and a high forehead.

Lorenz named this cute baby template the "baby schema." Scientists believe that, due to these specific infant traits, the natural instinct humans possess to nurture our babies also translates into an instinctive caring response toward baby animals.

"People are also animals, and our infants and young children – like the infants and young of most species – have certain consistent traits," David Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington who studies human and animal behaviour, told the BBC.

It is not just cute baby features that we find appealing. Humans also react to infant-like behaviors displayed among baby animals. For instance, the clumsy gait of a baby elephant who has not quite mastered how to walk reminds us of the clumsiness we witness in toddlers, triggering the same affectionate response.

Research shows that affection toward infants begins to take shape within our psyche when we are as young as three years old, reinforced by the societal norms of human culture to look after our young.

Scientists believe that our instinct to care for babies was likely an evolutionary adaptation since "any predisposition to be especially benevolent toward critters that meet the 'baby schema' is likely to be strongly favored by natural selection."

Furthermore, our desire to physically touch or hold babies, whether human or animal, is also motivated by this "cute stimulus" that triggers a biological reaction in our brain, whether we're holding a fluffy kitten or just looking at baby animal pictures.

"We know that [when we see a young animal or child] there is a really fast burst of activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in reward," explains Eloise Stark who studies parent and child interactions in the psychiatry department at the University of Oxford.

She added, "We think this early activity biases the brain towards processing the cute stimulus – for example, by making sure we give it our full attention. The effect of this may be to approach the infant or cute animal, wanting to pick it up or look after it."

But sadly, as cute as they are, none of these baby animals can stay little forever.

How Long Do Baby Animals Stay Small?

Kittens

PixabayThese kittens clearly fit the cute baby blueprint experts are talking about.

How long baby animals stay little depends on a variety of factors, including how they are born. Some animals give birth to live young, a method of reproduction called viviparity. Others lay eggs — a method known as oviparity — to reproduce and can do so through a number of ways.

For birthing animals, the periods of gestation widely vary. Elephants have the longest gestation period among all mammals as their pregnancies last for more than a year and a half.

The shortest gestation period known among mammals is possessed by the North American opossum which carries its babies to full term for 12 days before giving birth to litters of 16 to 20 babies.

Additionally, some rare animals possess the fascinating ability to switch between viviparity and oviparity, like the bimodal Australian three-toed skink which can both lay eggs and give birth depending on its living environment.

When it comes to the growth of baby animals, each species is different.

Most mammals are born blind, deaf, and without hair. This makes them completely dependent on their parents, at least until their physical features properly develop. But even among mammals, dependency during infancy varies between different kinds of animals.

Baby deer or fawns, for instance, are quite independent. Soon after birth, they separate from their mother, only reuniting to nurse every once in a while. Fortunately, they develop strong legs when they are only days old, giving them an advantage against potential predators.

By comparison, baby rhinoceroses will stay under the care of their mothers until they are three years old. Baby orangutans, who share a high percentage of our DNA makeup, will also stay with their mothers for years to learn the necessary survival skills they need before they venture out on their own.

Despite these differences, baby animals have one thing in common: no matter what kind of creature they are, they tug on our heartstrings. Blame nature for that.


Now that you've looked at plenty of cute baby animal pictures, next, take a look at the seven cutest animals in the world that you've never seen and checkout 21 fascinating Arctic animals you'll only find at the North Pole.

Natasha Ishak
Natasha Ishak is a staff writer at All That's Interesting.