Kittenfishing Uncovered: The Lesser-Known Cousin of Catfishing

What is kittenfishing

Another day, another dating term that this Gen X’er has not only to investigate but commit to memory along with all of the other dating terms that the generations after me have coined about all things romance.

Y’all know what Catfishing is, thanks not only to Nev Schulman’s documentary Catfish and the ensuing MTV series of the same name that followed the film but possibly from personal experience (we are sorry if you were catfished, and if you were the catfisher, tsk tsk).

What I didn’t know was that Catfishing has a relative! This little cousin is known as “kittenfishing,” and frankly, it sounds adorable.

But hold up, tiny feline fans—although the term sounds cute, and it may not be as nefarious as its older cousin, it’s definitely not harmless.

The sometimes subtle art of deception has found a new home with the rise of dating apps, and kittenfishing has emerged as a somewhat pervasive trend. Yes, it is overshadowed by its more notorious counterpart, catfishing, but it’s just as important to understand and be aware of. We are gonna explore exactly what kittenfishing is, how to spot it, signs that you might be guilty of it (oh no), and tips to avoid falling into this cute-sounding trap.


dating app conversation

What is Kittenfishing?

Kittenfishing (awww, c’mon, how cute does that sound) is a recent dating term used to describe a scenario where someone, in an online context, mostly on dating apps, presents themselves in a super yet unrealistically positive light.

It’s kinda like a catfishing diet soda—while catfishing involves adopting a completely fake identity, kittenfishing is about polishing, embellishing, and possibly telling little white lies without creating a totally new persona. It’s a gray area between making a good first impression and being somewhat dishonest.


dating app photo

Common Forms of Kittenfishing

Kittenfishing can come in many forms, and while researching this phenomenon, I have discovered that I have kittenfished, and I’m sorry to those who were affected. Read on to discover the most common forms, and see if you are guilty of any of them or have had a kittenfish get their claws into you!

  • Photos that Mislead: OK, a lot of people do this, and while it’s deceptive, we get it! Of course, you use the best photos for a dating app profile, but there is a line, and crossing it means using old photos (more than two years old), and super edited or over-filtered pics to look more attractive to other daters.
  • Exaggerating Achievements: This one entails overstating any career success, listing personal interests that you have no interest in, or posting about a certain kind of lifestyle (like standing next to a Porsche that’s not yours or a private jet that is most certainly not yours) to appear more appealing.
  • Misrepresenting Physical Attributes: This seems more catfish-y, but apparently, it’s kittenfish territory, and that’s lying about your height, weight, or age.
  • Fabricating Interests: If you are pretending to have certain hobbies or interests to seem more compatible with someone else, you are kittenfishing. Def don’t pretend that you love a certain band because someone you are interested in loves that band—I’m speaking from personal experience.

dating app

How to Spot Kittenfishing

Want to know how to spot a kittenfisher? Well, it’s pretty easy to do if you keep the following things in mind.

  • Inconsistencies in Stories: Pay attention to inconsistencies in what they share over time—they’re likely to get tripped up while telling white lies.
  • Too Good to Be True: If their profile seems overly polished or their life sounds exceptionally perfect, it is most definitely a red flag. Red means stop. Do not proceed further with this person.
  • Vagueness in Details: Take notice if they avoid giving specific details about themselves.
  • Asking for Others’ Opinions: Sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes can catch what you might miss.

dating app profile

Signs You Might Be Guilty of Kittenfishing

Think you’re squeaky clean when it comes to this practice? You might want to think again—here are the telltale signs that you, yes you, are guilty of kittenfishing!

  • Feeling the Need to Enhance Your Dating Profile: If you find yourself constantly trying to improve your profile to the point where it doesn’t reflect the real you, it’s a pretty good sign you are guilty.
  • Justifying Small Lies: Telling yourself that little white or small lies don’t matter can be a slippery slope. It might snowball into bigger, harmful lies.
  • Worrying About Living Up to Your Profile: If meeting someone IRL fills you with anxiety because your dating profile is, um, embellished, you are kittenfishing.

dating app caution

The Impact of Kittenfishing

Kittenfishing might sound adorable and seem harmless, but it can lead to a lack of trust and disappointment. Relationships, romantic or otherwise, built on misleading info are going to suffer once the truth comes out—and it always comes out. And it doesn’t just affect the person being misled but also leads to self-esteem issues for the one doing the kittenfishing.


attracting people on dating apps

Avoiding the Kittenfishing Trap

If you don’t want to be dubbed a kittenfisher, just follow these guidelines when it comes to your dating app profile:

  • Be Honest in Your Profile: Just be your real self— honesty is so much more attractive than a polished lie.
  • Avoid the Temptation to Exaggerate: Keep your achievements and interests genuine.
  • Regular Profile Updates: Make sure your dating profile reflects your current self.
  • Practice Self-Acceptance: Recognize your inherent value without any exaggeration or embellishments.

The practice of kittenfishing can damage your self-worth and lead to a cycle of constant anxiety about being exposed as less than truthful. It can also lead to a series of shallow, unsatisfying romantic relationships or encounters that are based on superficial foundations instead of anything of substance.


messaging on dating app

How to Respond if You’ve Been Kittenfished

If you suspect or know that you’ve been kittenfished, try to approach the situation with empathy—yes, it’s okay to feel put off and maybe angry, but try to be honest about your feelings without being cruel. It’s fine to confront the person about the discrepancies in a non-accusatory way. Afterward, you can decide if the relationship is worth pursuing based on their reaction and willingness to be transparent.


Final Takeaways

Kittenfishing is the attempt to be more likable or lovable, which pretty much everyone can relate to at some point in their lives, as it stems from insecurities and a fear of not being good enough.

While the online world offers a way to present a “perfect” version of ourselves, you need to remember that true connections are built on honesty, openness, and vulnerability. Being true to oneself is not just good for building real relationships but also for keeping one’s self-respect and integrity. It may seem harmless, but it does have real-world repercussions—both for the kittenfisher and the kittenfishee.