It is a truth universally acknowledged that the cutest animals in the world are otters. It is also a truth universally acknowledged that the cutest animals in the world are the smallest animals. And there's another one that says the cutest animals in the world are also baby animals. So by that logic, the cutest animals in the world would be newborn pups of the smallest otter species in the world, right?
Luckily, the Santa Barbara Zoo has you covered.
The zoo just welcomed three newborn Asian small-clawed otter pups, born on Saturday, October 7, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Credit: Santa Barbara Zoo
The pups' mother and father are Gail and Peeta, who are first-time parents named after characters in "The Hunger Games" trilogy.
Asian small-clawed otters mate for life, so Gail and Peeta are in it for the long haul with this batch of pups and likely many more. They're the first litter of Asian small-clawed otters born at the Santa Barbara Zoo in six years.
And they all look like little frosted nuggets of absolute, fuzz-filled joy.
Another adorable detail: The zoo only realized the litter had arrived after keepers heard a series of small and muffled squeaks from inside the otter pen.
Asian small-clawed otters are native to South and Southeast Asia, and they're famous for their distinctive paws — which is the cutest superlative we've ever heard. Their claws don't extend past their toe-pads, meaning they have a great deal of manual dexterity and look super squishable.
Unlike other species of otters, the Asian small-clawed otters catch prey with their tiny and cute paws, as opposed to with their teeth. Asian small-clawed otters are the smallest living otter species and boast pink nose pads, and small, round ears.
The otters aren't currently endangered, but they just earned a designation of vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss, hunting and pollution.
The otter pups are too young for public display, but they'll be squeaking in a holding area to grow big and strong enough to join their parents in the main exhibit.
Zookeepers estimate the pups will be on public display as early as January, where they'll be eating solid food and learning how to swim alongside their mom and pop in the zoo's pool.