If you have ever cared for a puppy, kitten, or other cute infant animal then you know the effect it has on a person. The little fuzzy thing absorbs your existence. You stare into it’s eyes, feed it, coddle it, watch it explore and play. It quickly worms its way into your heart. We spend tons of cash on making sure our little pets grow up healthy and have all their shots. You desire to keep it safe.

So why do helpless critters have this sort of control over us and how we’re willing to spend out time and money? Why don’t ugly animals have the same effect on us? Most Americans won’t even bat an eye at running over a possum—because they just aren’t cute. Think about babies though. If babies weren’t so adorable would selfish humans be willing to turn our lives upside down for years to raise a child? Would we get out of bed when they cried in the middle of the night? Would we change their diapers and not get upset when they puke on us? Cuteness is a survival tactic.

As far back as 1949, a zoologist purported the idea that babies have just the right features to inspire us to care for them. Things like a tiny nose, eyes that take up a large portion of the face, and bobble head doll proportioned craniums drive us wild. We just can’t help ourselves. Whether you believe it’s clever design, or a convenient accident, cute babies help the species survive.

This makes sense with human babies, but why do we feel the need to take care of animal babies as well? Many animal babies have the same physical formula. Their heads are too big for their bodies. They have cute little noses. Their eyes appear huge.

WWF and other animal protection organizations capitalize on this. Their symbol for years has been a panda with its great big eyes, tiny nose, and enormous head. People throw all kinds of money at organizations like this.

The Japanese have capitalized on this as well. Cute animated girls with eyes that take up most of their faces just adore viewers. Exaggerated head size and miniscule noses cap off the cuteness trifecta and make these cartoons irresistible to boys and girls alike. Hello Kitty products bring in a fortune in sales.

Of course, the cuteness doesn’t last forever. The cutest baby can become the ugliest adult, and adorable baby pets can become an aggravating headache once all the proportions balance out. But cuteness gets us to give up our time and other resources until the little cuties are old enough to fend for their not so cute adult selves.