Cuteness refers to a particular kind of delicate attractiveness found in human infants and many baby animals. It is usually characterized by some combination of the following traits:
- small size
- rounded, disproportionately large head
- large, wide-set eyes
- shortened nose or muzzle
- tame and subservient demeanor
- a specific need to be nurtured
Cuteness is recognized instinctually by many animals, including humans; it is thought to be an evolutionary development which helps infants elicit parental care. The many documented cases of wild animals adopting human foundlings may be explained by the infants' cuteness triggering the maternal instinct in their animal foster mother.
The retention of cuteness or other juvenile characteristics in adults is known as neoteny. It is hypothesized that this process has played a vital role in the initial domestication of animals such as dogs. It also explains the popularity of Giant Pandas whose appearance and popularly known behaviour makes it resemble a harmless teddy bear creature.
In Japan cuteness is a major cultural phenomenon, known by the term kawaii.