Tracy Caruso’s Love of Puffy Animals Has a Name – Cute Aggression

I’ve never met a cute person or animal I didn’t want to pinch, squeeze, puff, or hug. I am crazy for all things soft and adorable, and I seem to have zero impulse control about anything I find irresistibly cute. I thought this was just a personal quirk that most find funny or annoying, but it turns out that there’s a name for this affliction. It’s called Cute Aggression. 

Picture of Tracy Caruso’s stepson, Danny Caruso. You know you want to squeeze this chubby baby. That irresistible urge has a name, Cute Aggression.

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When I told my friend since college, Jessica, she thought it explained everything. I’ve been justifying this weird trait of mine all these years because I had terrible eyesight and hearing as a child. I felt that the wanting to reach out and touch someone was based on these childhood problems and that the continued urge for touch sensation was still with me today. I’m still not wholly convinced that my theory is incorrect, but I’m not the only one who wants to smoosh the cuteness, and it’s an actual syndrome. 

Mohu is known as the world’s cutest dog. Why? Because he’s fat and puffy. No one can resist the puffiness. It’s ok to admit you can’t resist. It’s probably just Cute Aggression, an uncontrollable but not dangerous syndrome.

The desire to squeeze cute things, often called “cute aggression” or “cute aggression response,” is a fascinating psychological phenomenon recently gaining attention. While researchers are still exploring the underlying causes, a few theories help explain why people experience this seemingly contradictory behavior.

Neural Overload: Cute things, such as adorable animals or babies, often trigger an overwhelming emotional response characterized by tenderness, love, and affection. This flood of positive emotions can create a neural overload, leading to an instinctive urge to release or balance that emotional arousal. Squeezing or pinching can be a physical outlet for this excess emotion, helping individuals regulate their feelings.

Representative Mike Caruso with Seamus, a dog he couldn’t help but pick up and squeeze. Even he’s been seized with the occasional bout of Cute Aggression.

Emotional Expression: Squeezing cute things might also be a way for people to express their intense emotions in a socially acceptable manner. Society often discourages excessive displays of positive emotions, such as hugging or kissing strangers. Still, squeezing something adorable allows individuals to channel their overwhelming affection without violating social boundaries.

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Protective Instinct: Another theory suggests that the impulse to squeeze cute things stems from a deep-rooted protective instinct. Cute creatures typically exhibit features like large eyes, soft fur, and small bodies, which resemble the characteristics of vulnerable infants. The urge to squeeze may arise from a subconscious desire to protect and care for these helpless beings, similar to how a mother might hold her baby tightly for security.

Lisa Vanderpump from the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Vanderpump Rules” must have a case of Cute Aggression. She has a lot of adorable and fluffy dogs, which she proudly shows off on her famous TV shows.

Sensory Pleasure: The physical act of squeezing can also provide sensory pleasure. The pressure applied to the skin can stimulate the release of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters associated with feelings of pleasure and pain relief. This sensory feedback may reinforce the behavior and contribute to the satisfaction of squeezing cute things.

Tracy Caruso’s husband Mike with dogs Cindy and Darla. All three have been victims of Caruso’s relentless squeezing, smooshing, pinching, and hugging. It’s a problem.
Tracy Caruso with Balloon
Writer Tracy Caruso with Balloon dog

I always squeeze my husband’s cheeks, but when I do it in front of other people, he shakes his head and says, “Can’t you just leave me with an ounce of my dignity?” Now I can explain to him that I have a problem akin to any addictive behavior, and no, I must give in to my urges. Luckily, a simple Google search shows that the desire to squeeze cute things is relatively harmless and common. So if you can’t resist the urge to squeeze the adorable, know you’re not alone. 

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