For everything that makes the internet what it is – communication, information, entertainment, and more – there is one particular thing that it is widely known for: cats. (Yes, I know what Avenue Q says about why the Internet was born.) Pictures and videos of cats dominate the communities of the internet, with bastions of admiration and/or worship appearing on a wide variety of sites, including giants like Reddit, Tumblr, and Imgur, with smaller sites and forums having at least one cat-based discussion thread. The internet’s obsession with these furry companions is notable enough that even regular old media has caught on, reporting on the cat memes of days gone by. From the captioned images of LOLcats to the rainbow animation of Nyan Cat, from the fame of cat videos featuring felines such as Maru and Nora, cats and the internet have a long, historied, and furry relationship.
While there may be a large gap between the Internet as we know it today and the older newsgroups of Usenet, the presence of cats has remained the same. Today, we share videos, images, tips, and more forms of media concerning cats, while arguing over the most trivial of details. Back then, via Usenet’s rec.pets.cats, people shared information and advice about their felines. In 1993, alt.tasteless flamed them, proving that the attitude of people between then and now…haven’t really changed. (Stay classy, Internet.) What has changed, however, is the method of delivery people use to get their cat fix. Far from newsgroups, we now have blogs, videos, and even entire websites dedicated to cats.
Even beyond the internet, people throughout history have shown their a-purr-eciation for cats. Several cultures have cats tied to their mythologies and folklores, such as Ancient Egypt. Cats appear in poems, plays, literature, and television. But why, exactly, are people obsessed with cats? Yeah, they’re cute, but that doesn’t really explain the complete obsession with them. Most dogs are considered cute as well (I really have to wonder what people were thinking with some breeds…), and they’re extremely popular to keep as pets and working animals. So why cats?
According to this article, there are several reasons. For starters, cats, with their big eyes and other “cute” features, resemble babies, prompting our instincts to protect and nurture. Another suggested reason is that cats, serving as both predator and, more importantly, prey, appear vulnerable. This ties into the previous reason, as we seek to care for them. Finally, cat owners don’t have an outlet for their affections. Dog owners have dog parks to meet and socialize in, whereas cats are not so social. Additionally, cats tend to be looked at as inferior to their canine rivals, with stereotypes such as the crazy cat lady and lonely unmarried single with a cat. This culminates in the internet being a “dog park” for cat owners to discuss, socialize, and share in.
Despite all these reasons and theories, however, cats still reign supreme. And, as history both before and during the Internet has shown, they will continue to hold people’s attentions with their antics.
And yes, this post was an excellent excuse to go look at cat pictures.