Possible new rule of cuteness?!

Meg: Settle down, People, there is a guest cuteologist here for a lecture, and he has some excellent observations to share with the class. Dr. Mike-in-Denver, please, go ahead. [open gesture to crowd]

Mike in Denver: [Clears throat] Um, yes, thank you, Dr. Frost. Let me start by saying that while perusing The Cute I have noticed a phenomenon that I think is worth suggesting for a possible canonization.

[students at edges of seats, hummingbirds buzzing overhead carrying notes]

Namely, sleepy eyes: the droopy lids, the unfocused expression, but mainly the overemphasized lower eyelid region. When prominent, this seems always to = cute (unless it’s on, say, Brian Dennehy). I have attached a mashup of some good examples for your class to review.


While this may be a subset of ‘eye capsules’ (as the two are often interlinked), it seems to function independently. It also seems that kittens, puppies, and other young’uns are best at this, but then, they’re best at everything, I suppose.

Anyway, I thought I should go ahead and submit this to the CuteLab for analysis.

[students nod enthusiastically]

Meg: Thank you very much, Dr. Mike-in-Denver. Students, GET ANALYZIN’!



  1. Intriguing, intriguing. Perhaps a 7th Nobel Prize to an American?

    [plucks Right-Center trailer trash looking kitten up and vigorously kisses pinky rubbery nose.]

  2. NebraskaErin says:

    That first kitten in the middle row could be my kitteh Riley! When he was wee and cute, that is.

  3. that’s too precious! i nod enthusiastically too! 🙂

  4. AuntieMame says:

    I dunno. Droopy, saggy eyes (unless it’s a characteristic of the breed) suggests tiredness/illness to me. And I know I’m not cute when I feel like I’ve just been run over by a bus.

  5. Wouldn’t this be categorized as Cute or Sad? Poor sleep deprived snugglies.

  6. you have once again read our minds. this is starting to get creepy. the BF and I call this phenomena “leapy eyes” and it is the height of cuteness.

  7. Now that I’ve had a chance to really look at this photo montage, I have a SERIOUS complaint. Why are there only 2 animals on the top row?

    How am I supposed to get a tic-tac-toe, when Whoopi Goldberg is missing????

  8. cuteobsessed says:

    I don’t see it. What overemphasized lower eyelid region?

    As a connoisseur of all things adorable, I’m sad that my cute sensors have failed me. Are there exercises I can do to buff up my cute-dar? Thirty minutes of baby hedgehog ogling a day?

    Help me, cuteologists! Are there examples of non-emphasized lower eyelid regions you can post as points of comparion? Surely, you understand the seriousness of my predicament.

  9. Some of his examples are perhaps not so much ‘sleepy’ as dopey.

    Even discounting those, I believe this is a quality rule. I know in my house, the puppy never gets as much attention as when he’s ‘sweepy, I sweepy Mama’, and fighting it all the way.

  10. That’s known at my home as the “blinky” or “binky” face, because when we come home late at night and wake the cat/turn on lights he staggers up to us “binking” the light away and looking rumpled and sleepy. SO FREAKIN CUTE.

  11. Some further evidence of the cuteness and/or attractiveness of the lower-lid droop:

    1) Subject: Don Knotts (seen here in character as Barney Fife)
    Note the droopiness.

    2) Results: Don Knotts (seen here in character as The Love God)
    Note the schmoopiness.

  12. We often remark on one of our cat’s tendency to have bags under her eyes. Therefore, we have no chioce but to concur with the Baggy-Eyed Cuteness Theorem postulated in the lecture above. I further propose it be named the The Theory of Sleepativity (or Sweepativity, depending on relative ratio of eye:eye bagginess).

  13. im sleepy lol does that make me cute ?

  14. chet's momma says:

    shweepy always makes one cute! *yawnnnn*

  15. Photos… hypnotic… so… so… tie-tie… Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

  16. Definitely sad, not cute.

  17. As there is a prolifigation of cute kitty-falling-asleep vids on the interwebs, and any of the pics above could have been either about-to-fall asleep or just-woken-up, and furthermore, everyone says those kitties are cute then therefore, this should be classified as cute.

  18. I am of the opinion that the kitten in the center, the buff colored tabby, personafies (kitten-afies?) that irresistable “sweepy”-ness the best. I may be biased, however, because s/he so closely resembles my dearly departed Lambchop.

  19. Is that a baby Brittany in the top left corner? Soooo cute!

  20. no way, ixnay on the new rule-ay. these poor snugglies belong in the cute or lugubrious category if you ask me…no no no. they all look pouty and parched for some ginger ale and crackers, especially mr. cheepy in the corner!! by the way, where’s my cute bunny of the day???

  21. I would like to postulate that this phenomenon of cute is, in fact, a “Pre-Princess-Di-stare”: the eyes begin to droop, but not quite to the full effect of the low look of bashfulness, or “Dianic Effect (TM)”, if you will. These little ones seem to be demostrating various stages of practicing instructions from the Dianic Effect Guidebook: “make eyes moist; allow head to droop; a slight sleepiness is adequate, but mustn’t develope into full schnooze; expression must include both coyness and needyness of snorgle” and so on and so forth.

    I present this to you for your consideration.

  22. Jill & Oliver Donovan says:

    I’m not really qualified to provide an unbiased comment, as the little boy in the center is MINE! This picture isn’t the best representation of his sleepy/sad eyes, though, being that it was flash-induced. His are very similar to the baby’s in the upper right corner.


  23. EURKEKA INDEED! A new rule of cute for sure

  24. Redzilla… “Trailer trash kitten”?! That’s horrible (and yet, I giggled.) Poor widdle guy, he didn’t choose his upbringin’s.

  25. lurkertype says:

    Now I’m sleeeeeeeeepy. Doesn’t help I have TK slumbering next to me.

    Big news: MomTux and SisTux actually CAME INTO THE HOUSE this morning and had a little nap! (TK and HRT were in other rooms, doors closed) This bodes well for their adoptability.

  26. lurkertype says:

    Oh, to me, the dogue on the lower left looks either sad or hung over.

  27. If I remember the story of the big guy on the bottom left, he’s not sleepy but just resigned to his fate (kitten climbing Mt. Mutt, or something to that effect.) All wonderful, no matter why they look droopy.

  28. make it a rule already!!! I’ve been saying this all along!!!

  29. I propose that this new Rule of Cuteness should apply only to those breeds of which droopiness is not already a characteristic. The hound, for example, is perpetually droopy, thus clearly making him a cheater.

  30. Is this a democracy? If so, I vote No!

  31. LurkerT, cool about the tuxers. How old are the kits now?

    Boxcar Kitten M continues to be a total lap cat for me, and runs out to meet me when I go there. I’m going to consult some slightly more expert opinions among the cat rescue group and see if they think she’s tame enough to take into their adoption stream after she gets spayed this week.

    I also scritched one of her gray tux brothers on the chest and under the chin this afternoon.

    Photos to come later tonight — I now have a digital camera and just need to figure out how to download the photos I took this afternoon of Kitten M on my lap.

  32. Oh, I think this must be a new rule of cuteness – especially for baby animals. All sleepy babies radiate the cutes and this causes all resposible adults nearby to immediately snuggle them soundly and give them a treat to eat and send the wee babies off to bed.

    ps Laurie C: has that pregnant cat given birth yet?

  33. I would say that perhaps yawning mini-smushes are cute, but droopy eyes/eye capsules are border-line. For the record, I am against the eye capsule rule in the first place, and I feel I must vote no on this proposed rule on the same grounds.

  34. lurkertype says:

    w00t, Laurie C! Sounds like Kitten M deserves adoption if she’s that people-friendly.

    The TuxKits are right at 3 months old… maybe 13 weeks, but no more.

    Oh, I agree with Layla about the droopiness caveat.

  35. uberkitten says:

    I see where you’re coming from, but I have to disagree. Waking-up blinky-face is, indeed, cute beyond words. But working in an animal shelter, and having owned a kitten that died after a week of intensive care, the droopy eyes make me more worried than snorgly. It just looks too much like a sign of serious illness to me.

  36. YES!!! That should be a new rule. That is great! I never before noticed it. =)

  37. i concur!!

  38. browngrl, Momcat E started looking much less bulky a few days ago, but her tum is still a bit saggy. So we think she’s had them. Today I was there for an hour, though, and she came out and ate and hung about virtually the whole time, not acting like she had to rush back to a nest of kittens, so we’re quite not sure what’s up with her. When I go around to the front, she hurries off in that direction, though, seeming protective. There’s another pregnant one, too, she’s due this week-ish. But we hardly ever see her.

    Anybody here know if a momcat can spend an hour away from a nest of few-day-old kittens with no ill effect to the kittens?

  39. Piggalette says:

    I vote in favor of this new rule.

  40. charlotte says:

    how can this be sad????? EVERYONE GETS TIRED. it’s not like animals that have droopy eyes are all dying of cancer, they’s just ti-uhd. when my hamster just wakes up and her eyes are blinky i want to eat her whole. NOT SAD.

  41. that orange kitten in the middle is SOOOO BAKED.

    you can call them HIGH EYES

  42. Laurie C, it’s comletly normal for a momma cat to do that. I was taking care of an outside cat when she had her kittens. She would often leave to go hunting for food.
    Or just scout the area. Now if she leaves the nest way longer then that, I’d start to worry.

  43. Thanks, Skielar. Good to know.

  44. Oh, and boxcar cat fans, I just erroneously posted a link with a pic of kitten M on my lap on the inchworm thread.

  45. No. This is definitely part of “eye capsules” and not a cute quality all its own. Also, I don’t find the hush puppy/bassett hound cute. Sorry.

  46. Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy says:

    I’m gonna vote against the new rule. Sleepy eyes, yes; eye capsules, yes; wakey-up blinkey-face, yes; eye-corner schmutz, no. Even without the eye-boogers, the eye-bag is a very small piece of the composition. Tiny (or huge) ears, huge (or tiny) eyes, moist nosicles: now THAT’s cute.

  47. Holly Golightly says:

    My two cents:
    I think my cat is cutest when she’s giving me the sleepy blinks. I say, yes, we’ve got a new rule of cuteness.

  48. lurkertype says:

    Oh, LC, that calico bebeh M NEEDS a nice indoor home with tons of pettin’s.

    And Momcat E is fine… she’s gotta have a few minutes to herself after she stuffs her face. MomTux did this too. I’m sure the kittens are tucked away safely, all sleeeepy.

  49. First kitten in the second row looks more like it’s about to burst into tears than fall asleep.

    It also looks like my cousin, but that’s another story.

  50. “I’m sure the kittens are tucked away safely, all sleeeepy.”

    Or, all sleppppy, as the case may be.

    Here’s Kitten M with her face showing:

  51. sarah beth says:

    i got excited when i saw kitten #1 in the above photo montage (the one in the top right)…because before the entry loaded fully, i thought the new rule of cute was referring to the little black ‘eye glasses’ markings under the kitten’s eyes. which is the EXACT reason i melt into a puddle of girlishness when i see any image of a baby cheetah. those heart-wrenchinly adorable markings under their eyes slay me. see example:
    and with that…i’m darting back into the shadows, where i lurk and enjoy the cute. (this is my first post! :))

  52. I haven’t looked at your other pics Laurie but that calico is gorgeous! and yw btw =^.^=

  53. sarah beth says:

    i got excited when i saw kitten #1 in the above photo montage (the one in the top right)…because before the entry loaded fully, i thought the new rule of cute was referring to the little black ‘eye glasses’ markings under the kitten’s eyes. which is the EXACT reason i melt into a puddle of girlishness when i see any image of a baby cheetah. those heart-wrenchinly adorable markings under their eyes slay me. see example:
    and with that…i’m darting back into the shadows, where i lurk and enjoy the cute. (this is my first post! :))

  54. I’m sorry but didn’t anyone notice the slices of bread in the basset hound’s mouf? He is So guilty!

  55. sarah beth says:

    hrm, that should be wrenchingly.
    NOW i return to lurking.
    (bashful face)

  56. I think I want to eat that little basset hound with the bread in his mouth. I’m in love!!

  57. Redhed — lots of these are reruns. Your basset hound is here:
    (…absolutely a classic)

  58. (that goes for Lew8 too)

  59. i support this rule, being of the eye capsule party, but i propose the following amendment: “deemed cute, unless crusty with eye boogers.”

  60. lurkertype says:

    Eye boogers render a picture Not Qte. That’s just how it is.

    Laurie C, that kitten face is tooo prosh! The white muzzlepuff slays me. She needs a person or 3 to boss around.

  61. Fleurdamour says:

    Only on Cute Overload could you find a picture of a sleepy little chicken.

  62. Laurie C, that cat totally pwns me. Good thing I don’t live near you. She looks exactly like my sister’s calico, Minerva Gumdrop–the most amazingly compact cat I’ve ever met.

  63. i dunno. if looking drugged = looking cute, then by all means.

  64. yes. Sleepie eyes are adorable! They want to sleep but they want to play!

  65. Contribution to support sleepy eyed cuteness:

    Since it’s my kitten and I find her most cute when she’s sleepy and not being a little brat, I must concur.

  66. I’m not sure if it’s a unified phenomenon. The character of the top two pairs of eyes seems totally different from that of the bottom-row eyes. It seems to me to be at least two phenomena: (1) The corner-folds of the the first two pictures, and (2) The droopage. Corner-folds I find reasonably cute, but not quite adequate to constitute a rule. Droopage is cute on big droopy dogs, but on non-droopy animals droopage looks like a sign of poor health.

  67. wolfwhocriedboy says:

    I’m not sure if all the pictures represented best depict the potential cuteness rule but otherwise, count me in!

    Sweepy eyes are awsomely adorable!
    My own little terrier mix, crazy, warglette –grrl is really only cuddly and traditionally “cute” when she’s truly tired. Such is the way with many terriers. :p

  68. wolfwhocriedboy says:

    “I’m not sure if all the pictures represented best depict”

    Sorry, it’s late what I meant to say was:

    “I am not sure if the pictures in this post are necessarily representative of this rule of potential cuteness”

    Still, when it comes to “sweepy-eyes” I’m totally “IN”. 😉

  69. Gary Fixler says:

    I’m in full support of this addition. Ariel, the Little Mermaid did this back in ’89, and whenever she would do her inverse squint, wherein her lower eyelids would raise up, and her upper eyelids wouldn’t really move (usually when smiling an “awwwe” kind of smile, or trying to figure out what she was seeing), my young teen heart would skip a beat.

    She goes back and forth through about 3 drawn styles in the movie, and I heard later that different artists worked on her, but all the scenes I always liked best, where she was the cutest, and everything was just right in the drawing, were by Glen Keane, who always adds in cool extra bits like that. He’s a very observational artist, and puts the cute/cool thinigs he sees real people do into his animations and drawing guides. Unfortunately he doesn’t mention it in this stack of guide sheets:


  70. uberkitten says:

    Yeah, I’m with Rensard. Looking at the picture, there are, IMHO, no less than THREE phenomena at work here. 1) Tie-tie squinty sleepy eyes, which nobody is denying are adorable, 2) droopy eyes indigenous to a particular breed, such as the basset hound, and 3) BAGS under the eyes, which can be a result of newborn-itude, tiredness, or ill-health, but which I feel are being mislabeled as either squinty or droopy. The last I think are sad, not cute, although it can get confusing when an animal (like the first kitteh in the second row) are sooooo cute despite this attribute.

    Regardless, however, I think we are dealing with THREE separate phenomena here, and so I can’t support their being lumped together under a single rule.

  71. Just got home
    But I can’t sleeps
    Feel so alone
    Thought I’d talk to the peeps

    Recently discovered skritchibility is always news. Looking forward to the digital kiticals.

    Congratulations on your tux deluge. Hopefully you will soon have all your tux in a row.

    As for the picture, YES, I’ve always wondered what made the bebeh animals so dangerously cute – and this lecture has presented me with the answer: their ‘unfocused expression’ definately explains it all.

    Oh, and Vegas is $460 poorer due to my efforts. Puddins’ are on me (but not literally, so hold off on that).

  72. Sleepy face always equals cute.

  73. Aubrey — we can ARRANGE it so that the puddins are on you. Most happily.

  74. Surely even cuter is the fact that the top two animals look like they’re wearing monocles! Ideally, they would also be wearing little top hats.

  75. I don’t know that this is quite a new rule per se….

    Though the “sweepy” or “binky” eyes can “jack up the cuteness” I don’t know that it is a factor that would make an animal that is preceived as “uncute” by a given individual, cute.

    Further I believe that it can be considered a subset of the vulnerabilty factor of rule #2.

    “Aaaaw prosh little fluffers feels comfortuls enough around me to go sweepy-byes.”

  76. Denise in Nebraska says:

    I would like to present to the class a subtopic that is too often avoided but needs to be mentioned: EYE BOOGERS. The overemphasized lower eyelid region cannot be as the result of eye boogers, or the picture loses a certain percentage of the cuteness. Although eye boogers can deceptively over-emphasize the lower eyelid region, this is clearly not cute. The kitties on the top right of the presentation would be potential eye booger candidates. Fortunately for them, they are unquestionably naturally cute with or without the eye boogery-ness. Thus, I am suggesting to the class that the essence of tiny, precious cat is what makes them “cute”, rather than any over or de-emphasis of the lower eyelid region. I will now defer to my fellow students. Off to my post-graduate studies,

  77. I definitely agree. A subset of eye-capsules, but a definitive one. There’s no mistaking a sneepy face. But it still makes you coo “aww! plink-plink!” like some kind of exotic bird.

    It seems best emphasized in light colored fur, or maybe I just think the puppy and the middle-left kitten are the cutest.

    I think it’s the cutely straining to wake up (the ehhn…*smack smack* c’mon eyes, do your thing! What’s goin’ on?) expressed in a slightly puffy, squinty expression that really make the sneepy eyes.

  78. Hmmmm…EricaE makes a very compelling argument that sweepy-eye is more an exponential factor contributing to other extant rules.

    [still totally in love Boxcar Kitten M]

  79. sweepy eye is a def enhancement of other cute factors.

  80. Welcome back, O’Brie. Missed you.

  81. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. Sleepy is ALWAYS cute (tired is not, though.)

    Oh, and basset hounds are TEH LUV.

  82. Hm, also darned cute is the kitten looking like it’s wearing a monocle, which is what I thought that was a picture of at first glance.

  83. Let’s really get into a discussion on EYE BOOGERS. I think that animals who have cuteness points deducted for said BOOGERS have gotten a bad rap…or is it rep?


    I firmly believe that in every life a few EYE BOOGERS must form. We should keep in mind that these EYE BOOGERS are easily wiped away and cease to deduct cuteness points based on their presence.

    Who’s with me?

  84. Yux0rs. Again.

  85. Michelle Sprecher says:

    God, your captions kill me! You are so gifted with the cute!

  86. I dunno about this. The two dogs at the bottom are very not cute, in my opinion, and the one with the bread is downright creepy.

  87. The dog with the bread is looking sheepish.

  88. Living in a household FULL of eye boogers, slobber slingers, droolies and assorted other lovely donations, I am totally against deducting points from cuteness for eye boogers.

    We all fart, ya know.

  89. The dog with the bread is tired – he’s been searching long and hard for his food, he’s been Roman for his Meal.

  90. AuntieMame says:

    D’oh! Aubrey! *groan*

    And a lady never farts. (She fluffs.)

    Everyone MUST read the book “Good Families Don’t” by Robert Munsch. 😀

  91. Didn’t he paint The Scream? 😛

  92. Nah, you’re thinking of Dogs Playing Poker. [chuckle]

  93. What about Cats Playing Chemin de Fur?

  94. Hmm… It’s KIND Of cute…

  95. EEEEE! AuntieMame!

    I LOVE Robert Munsch!


  96. Rofl, Aubrey!

    And, yay to you for taking something home from Lost Wages! 🙂

  97. I daresay Aubrey prolly had a few Dejeuners Fur l’Herbe while losing wages. Life is Art.

  98. I know Art and he’s a really nice guy!

  99. acelightning says:

    To me, they all look sad, or scared, or at least grumpy (the baby chick). That’s not cute.

  100. That is not cute. That doesn’t even make any sense.

    Nobody even looks at *a corner of the eye* and no one even notices it’s different.

    No rule, not even any points.

  101. Here a nuff, there a nuff,
    I’m’a get some fluff to huff…

  102. Wahl, if no one noticed, what’s it doing here? No one??? SOMEone noticed!

  103. I think it’s very cute in a sleepy-sweet kinda way.

  104. oh my gosh it is so cute smart and cute thats HOT!!!!!!!

  105. oh my gosh that is HOT!!! i can not belive somebody is such and artist and smart to just to think of that smart lil play thingy

  106. Sleepy or purry? When a kitkat makes those droopy eyes and is purring at 11 on a scale of 1 – 10, I call that purry eyes. And I have 2 friends with dogs that do this too when you scratch their backs the right way. They will eventually collaps which is a whole different level of cuteness.

  107. i vote yes insofar as the under-eye swoop is the result of newbornness and not puffy-eyed-ness or under-eye-pouchiness. and yes to the “unless crusted by eye boogers” clause.

    i would call it “wistful eye” or “sweet eye” meself.

  108. I vote cute, but the basset hound looks kinda drugged out, don’t ya think?!

  109. fishandchips says:

    I noticed that ages past in my youth. I have referred to it since as simply “ska(pause)winchy eyes”. Unfocused eyes, droopy lids, half asleep. Yep that’s it 😛 Definately a rule of cuteness in my book!! Glad someone else finally noticed it 🙂

  110. butteredtoast says:

    oh i have to agree
    all for the new rule of cuteness;)

  111. stikkiflikki says:


  112. Patty-Cake says:

    Waaah. I always thought that panda-eyes, as I refer to them as, were always so cute so I always tried to get them by not sleeping well…Bad idea, I know, but I got them and they are at least a little cute!