The title is a quote by Ben Huh, founder and CEO of the cat media company Cheezburger. He says:
“I think what we see here is the rise of the Internet cat industrial complex,” he says. “I go to a meeting or a conference, and all of a sudden people are, you know, I’ve got iPhones in my face filled with cat photos and, you know, it’s not like I can make it happen.”
There is a new book out which is all over the bookshops, which is called “How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity: A Guide to Financial Freedom“. Financial freedom? This book makes it sound easy and it is not.
I’m not completely sure what the Ben Huh quote means. I’ll use common sense. He seems to be saying that the Internet cat is becoming an industry, a profitable business all on its own. The domestic cat has been hijacked by the human as a revenue stream. For millennia the domestic cat minded his own business. He was just there, a companion to the human. All of a sudden, people started to see the funny side of the domestic cat on the Internet. This spawned funny cat videos and funny cat images and then we progressed to celebrity cats and now we have gone one step further, we have “the Internet cat industrial complex”. The domestic cat is a full-blown industry. And it is all Internet-based, really, although you will see hardcopy books for sale as well like the one I referred to above.
Now, I’m not sure whether this is a good or bad thing. My gut feeling is that this is not particularly good for the domestic cat but it is obviously good for people because what makes money for people is good for people.
I didn’t believe that it would come to this; the celebrity cat evolving into an industry. I wonder where it will stop. Not every cat can be a celebrity cat, anyway. To be a celebrity cat, he or she usually has to do have a substantial anatomical defect which makes the face look interesting and a bit strange. If the cat does not have a physical, perhaps congenital defect, then he or she has to do have an incredibly cute habit such as jumping into boxes of all sizes and shapes. Most cats like to do that but some cats like it more than others and the Japanese cat Maru is the king of the box-loving domestic cats. The other celebrity cats are really CGI versions, fictional.
As I said, I think that the Internet Industrial complex is a hijacking of the domestic cat as a means to make money. I don’t know how it really came about. I have a feeling, though, that it might be going too far because if people write books that encourage other people to try and make money from their cat and the book itself as a means of making money, it seems to me that we are going too far.
Some people may get the wrong idea, that they can create a celebrity cat out of an ordinary domestic cat. I don’t think you can because the competition is fierce. The Internet cat industrial complex is a highly competitive field of economic endeavor. Not only must the cat have something very different and special about him, the cat’s owner has to be entrepreneurial, competitive, ambitious, cutthroat and have plenty of stamina.
This is the entertainment business and we know that in the entertainment business only about half a percent of people in it make money out of it. If there’s one successful celebrity cat, there are hundreds of thousands of failures (thank God).
I don’t think we want to encourage people to push their cat onto the celebrity cat stage. This new book may encourage the wrong people and it may encourage people to put their cat through experiences which are not good for their cat in a desperate attempt to achieve success. Success for who?
Personally, I would like to see a greater focus on cat welfare before people start making money out of the domestic cat. The former should take place before the latter and then we can say we have done the ethically right thing, if it is ever ethically correct to make money out of one’s cat.