Anti-caturday post

I have been trying to understand the peculiar popularity of these posts about sharp-clawed carnivores called “cats”, and near as I can tell it has something to do with the property of cuteness. “Cute” seems mostly undefinable, however, but usually seems to involve playful juvenile behavior by large-eyed creatures. This seems to qualify: Sepiolid burying behavior. It’s adorable!

It’s cute how it so quickly conceals itself to lurk and wait for prey to swim by.

I’m still trying to grasp the concept of cute, though. Is this cute? It’s a giant Pacific octopus swimming up an Alaskan creek.

Do you live near water? Then you are not safe. The giant tentacled molluscs will find a way to get to you, and I find that charming.

(Also on Sb)


  1. Sean Boyd says

    After my cat woke me up this morning demanding attention, “cute” was the last thing I had on my mind.

    Hope you’re feeling better, PZ.

  2. theophontes, feu d'artifice du cosmopolitisme says

    First video: Yes, that is really cute. It is just like an underwater kitteh.

    Second video: Cute. That is just like a big underwater kitteh.

    You see, it is easy.Everything that reminds one of teh kittehz is by definition cute.

    (* gasp * Was that thing really swimming in fresh water? )

  3. says

    Video 1 is cute: chubby, short-limbed, big-eyed. AWWWW!
    Video 2 is not cute: none of the above.

    The cat thing is not about cuteness. Only the kitten thing is about cuteness. The cat thing is about envy and aspiration. Why can I not also be lazy, uncooperative, demanding, self centered and universally adored? Perhaps studying them will show me the way…

  4. Dhorvath, OM says

    Oh, I don’t know. Video two was pretty cute too, look at how it didn’t eat the camera people. If it wasn’t cute they would be chum. Yeah, chum.

  5. Jeff Sherry says

    I enjoy the posts of the (3) bloggers, but usually ignore their caturday posts. It does at times make me long for the 70’s and the humor of the I Hate Cats Calender.

  6. says

    Oh wow, cute little predator concealing itself to pounce. Pro-caturday!

    Ah, but that giant octopus is gangly, slimy, and could get a pound of flesh off of you in one bite.

    Here kitteh kitteh, time for a swim.

    Glen Davidson

  7. Allen L. says

    But cats are cute! Bundles of fur that shed when you pet them on demand, shed when you look at them, furniture that gets used as expensive sharpening posts, saving the cheap sharpening posts bought upon the demands of the cars ‘owners’ (read little daughter) , litter boxes…..

    Cephalopoda Rules!

  8. says

    #1 is definitely worth submitting to Cute Overload.

    And the way I tend to see the cat thing: Most netizens are “cat people,” preferring their pets be ‘independent’ to some extent (which doesn’t really say much) compared to the perceived servility of dogs.

    I also tend to think it’s a bit of a humorous take on some cats being perceived as almost sociopathic in their emotional distance, which provides a strong foundation for cat-based humor. This gets funnier when you add in their laziness and lack of purpose beyond companionship in most homes.

    And now, I’m trying to think of some kind of Libertarian joke to go along with that.

  9. Frank says

    Wow, everybody here is concerned with cuteness, but the second vid shows a cephalopod in freshwater!!!! How did that happen?? I thought they were exclusively marine, and freshwater would actually harm them….

  10. says

    Octopodes can move around on land for short periods, which must be harsher on them than fresh water, but it’s a bit shocking to see one in a creek. The people watching were apparently trying to shoo it back downstream.

    _My_ cats keep mice and rats from moving into the house and kill the rats that live under the neighbours’ deck, at the observed rate of about one a week. Anything that keeps down rats is OK by me. I wonder if I could create a snake habitat in the back yard. The cats would be fascinated.

  11. says

    I say “observed rate” because I sometimes find a head, a tail, a kidney, or the like. Much more often it’s half a rat. So I extrapolate those into whole beasties but I don’t know how many are completely eaten or abandoned out of site. They also bring home roadkill (sometimes at the mummified state), weather stripping, and stuffed toys.

  12. dolo724 says

    I do not venture into the waters of the ocean, for reasons of self-preservation. Monsters be there!

    Now I shall have to add the fresh waters of the land to my list of avoidable bodies.

  13. Brian says

    “Cute” seems mostly undefinable, however, but usually seems to involve playful juvenile behavior by large-eyed creatures.

    The whole “cute” thing threw me for a long time as well, until I finally realized that it’s just a synonym for “diminutive”. Now it all makes perfect sense.

  14. Alex Besogonov says

    Sour Tomato Sand:

    About octopodes at home: just don’t do this. You need to have seawater tank which is much more complex to maintain than freshwater tank.

    But the worst thing is that octopodes just don’t last long :( A year, maybe two years max.

  15. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    _My_ cats keep mice and rats from moving into the house

    Oh yeah? _My_ cat keeps bears dragons from moving into the garage.
    Very efficient: 100% success rate and yet finds time to nap all day. Tidy too: she must chase em off instead of littering the yard with carcasses.

  16. magistramarla says

    As I sit here with a badly strained and painful back on my birthday, I’m being comforted by my warm, furry, purry and loyal cat, who is curled up against my thigh.
    I’m watching my husband with his laptop and his loyal lapcat on his lap, working on his dissertation project.
    Let’s see you get that kind of love and enjoyment from a cephalopod!

  17. crowepps says

    Number 1 is indeed kitten cute, big eyes and all.

    I found the ‘cute’ in number two the voice of the little girl knowledgeably adding her mite to the problem of how to save the critter. Gives me hope to see videos of people jumping in and doing their clumsy best figuring out to save the ‘awesome wonder’.

  18. Pickle surprise says

    Hi PZ, long time lurker first time commenter here. I have been reading pharyngula since 2007 and it has really changed how I see the world. So just wanted to thank you for the chance to educate this young Irish eejit and long may your low tolerance for bullshit last!

    And secondly, that video of the Pacific giant octopus up the creek was incredible. Do cephalopods travel into fresh water much? How long can they survive there? And why didn’t the people who uploaded mention what exactly was going on in the description?!

  19. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    Does the cute octopus want a scritch? Yes, it does. Here, pus. What a handsome ‘pus, huh, what a handsome fellow. Do you like being scritched near your beak?

    Aaaaaagh! Arrrrgh! My finger! Give me back my finger you *expletives deleted*.

    No, I think I’ll keep my pettin’s for teh kittehs.

  20. says

    Seems like bona-fide, full-fledged “cute” must have a “cuddly” component, which cats (especially kittens) generally seem to have, while cuttlefish don’t — I mean, that’s why the latter are not called cuddlefish, right?

  21. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    dolo724 #16

    I do not venture into the waters of the ocean, for reasons of self-preservation. Monsters be there!

    Us manly men and womanly women go out over the briny depths in artfully constructed devices specifically designed to keep the monsters at bay. These ingenious engines are called sail boats.

  22. Sili says

    Cat’s aren’t actually cute.

    We’re just programmed to think they are by the toxoplasmosis.

  23. khms says

    @3 September 2011 at 1:15 pm, Brian says:

    The whole “cute” thing threw me for a long time as well, until I finally realized that it’s just a synonym for “diminutive”. Now it all makes perfect sense.

    I’m pretty sure it involves big, round heads, or in other words, anything that looks vaguely like young children.

  24. says

    @ Pickle Surprise

    I shot this video last month, without knowing it would reach any audience outside the blog I keep for friends and family. I didn’t even type a description onto the video because I just put it there to be able to embed it in my blog. Lesson learned, you never know what the world over will find interesting.
    A little more of the story: The octopus was seen in a freshwater creek that empties into Prince William Sound in Southcentral Alaska. We were hanging out at home when our neighbors were making such a racket we had to see what they were up to. We thought they were just looking at all the salmon swimming upstream but lo and behold there was something even more amazing in the water. The octopus was pretty shy and would hole up along the side of the bank until we all backed away for awhile and then it would swim around a bit. The tide was on its way out and approaching low tide so we were concerned about it getting land locked in the stream. It was in no hurry to move out but eventually it made its way back to the ocean and has been yet to be seen again. You can find the original blogpost at: enjoy

  25. says

    That first video is charming, and fits the ‘cute’ bill snugly! Wouldn’t rate the second as cute… the human intrusions are annoying and the creatures eyes are neither visible nor large enough relative to the animal’s body size to raise the cute-meter much above zero. Thanks for sharing the cephalopod love, PZ!