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You don't have a word for "it" in French because the concept of a non-gendered noun does not exist in French (as far as I know).
The case of referring to a cat is a little more confusing because the cat is in fact either male or female.
In the case of saying, "It is cute," though, we might not know the cat's gender or think about cats as having a gender.
But the word "cat" doesn't carry a gender unless I give you more information about the cat to help you figure it out.
You can't tell from what I wrote if my cat is a male or a female, and the word "cat" in English does not carry an implicit gender.
Now that we recognize we can use the word "it" to refer to the cat, we can clarify why it does not refer to the general situation by which the cat is being cute.
In the last case, the English language offers a convention that can help a listener or reader understand that we're talking about the specific thing the cat is doing and not about the cat itself. Using a demonstrative pronoun clarifies that we're talking about something specific to the particular situation shown in the image--in other words, the situation. I see that you have developed my (first) comment on mplumgjan response: since there is a that for the situation, the it should be used for the cat! Not the answer you're looking for?Browse other questions tagged translation french or ask your own question.

What is the best Bible translation by which I can speak proper English if I read it enough times? Is it acceptable for a student to ask a professor to be included as a co-author on the professor's paper?
Discouraged from giving A's, but students are doing excellent work, what can a professor do?
What do you call a function that's pure, meaning the same input will always return the same output, but also has side effects? Kittens, birds, bunnies, puppies, and so many other adorable animals are shown in this video. I'd go for the cat, but it can mean both the cat and the situation (and even the picture, why not?), and the only person who knows is the one who wrote it in the first place.
Why does everyone simply go batty when they see something furry, cuddly and innocent-looking?
That is, the cat does have a sex, and English speakers might sometimes personify the cat by associating the cat's sex with a gender. Because the word "cat" doesn't have an implicit gender like it does in most Romance languages, we use the generic pronoun "it".
Since we're trying to figure out what the pronoun references, we'll avoid saying much more about it for now. To answer, we can use an old trick that is generally useful for determining the antecedent to a pronoun: replace the pronoun with the nouns we think it might modify.

Without the demonstrative pronoun, the implication is that we're referring to a persistent quality of a particular thing, like maybe the cat or the photograph itself. It would sound a bit silly to describe a copy of the photograph as "cute", and it sounds perfectly sensible to call the cat "cute". The Humpy Observer took the time to compile a bunch of the cutest animal videos on the internet into one compilation. Furthermore, it's not a given that most native speakers will waver between the two options you provided. I find this expression slightly jarring and have the impression it is actually much more commonly used by non-native speakers. Nouns in English are not gendered, so we don't have distinctly masculine or feminine pronouns. Instead of saying, "It is cute," then, we might instead say, "He is cute," if the cat is male or, "She is cute," if the cat is female. If anything, this video can show you how having a pet could bring so much joy and love into your life.

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