I should know why cat pictures are so popular because I’ve been looking at cat pictures for the last 10 years, every day, without fail, 24/7, seven days a week blah blah blah 🙂
The internet made cat pictures popular. Before the internet no one thought cat pictures were particularly popular. I think it all started about 10 years ago when pictures of cats became a form of entertainment on the internet at the time when web surfing was beginning to become a dominant form of entertainment.
An alternative view which I’ve just bumped into on the Internet is that Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian believes that the popularity of the cat is because the Internet provides cat owners with the opportunity to meet with other cat owners which is something they have been unable to do until the creation of the Internet. Dog owners meet each other in the park and discuss dog issues and other things. Cat owners, because they cannot take their cat for a walk in the park, never had this opportunity. The Internet fulfils it. Neat theory. What do you think?
What I’m saying is that pictures of cats per se are no more popular than pictures of dogs or other pictures, say of landscapes, but people who are very good at adding captions to pictures of cats or making videos of cats acting like jerks boosted tremendously the popularity of the cat as a vehicle for entertainment. Cat behavior is interesting to humans. It lends itself to ridicule to be honest. But people love the cat for their amusing behavior even though to the cat it is not amusing. Arguably this new relationship between human and cat has occasionally turned to exploitation. I don’t want to spoil the fun but are the celebrity cats such as Grumpy Cat exploited?
I don’t think that pictures of cats became popular because people were concerned about cat welfare or about the status of domestic cats in the world and so forth. They became a vehicle, a meme (images that are humorous and which are copied and spread around the Internet with slight variations and humorous captions) which mainly engaged young people. Let’s be honest, the Internet is primarily for ‘younger’ people. Take YouTube, eight out of ten 18 to 49-year-olds watch YouTube videos on the website. It is said that by 2025, half of the viewers under 32 years of age will not subscribe to a pay for TV service. The predominant YouTube age group is 35 to 44 (26%) and the second group is 25 to 34 (23%).
They are seeking an alternative form of entertainment over the conventional such as television and there are millions of hours of funny, entertaining cat videos. They are goofy and they are cute. Cuteness certainly plays a role as well. The big eyes and the round faces of kittens (Persians come to mind) and young cats are reminiscent of babies and most people love babies. There is, then, the cuteness factor.
You have to say, though, that entertainment does not lead to enhanced welfare. The popularity of pictures of cats has not, to the best of my knowledge, resulted in an increased popularity of the domestic cat per se. I am sure that there are more people who own domestic cats in the world but that is because there are more people in the world and domestic cats are easier to look after than dogs. In a busy world they become more popular.
So Google’s YouTube played a big role in increasing the popularity of pictures of cats and you have to include videos i.e. moving pictures. Then there are certain websites which have boosted the popularity of pictures of cats. There was LoLcats which is now almost defunct and what I call the cheeseburger site by which I mean the “I Can Has Cheeseburger” website which initially included millions of pictures of cats with funny captions. This site is still popular and it alone did a lot for the popularity of cat pictures on the Internet. Once again it was about entertainment. It was fun for young people to add captions to cats being ‘jerks’ as people like to describe cats acting silly.
There are other elements such as the playfulness of the domestic cat and their independence which appeals to geeks who spend a lot of time on the Internet. Geeks are nocturnal animals as are cats. You might argue that geeks control what is on the Internet. They certainly control Google and Google controls what you see on the Internet and therefore things that geeks are fond of will be prevalent on the Internet.
Tom Cox the owner of four cats and the author of ‘Under the Paw-Confessions of a Cat Man’ says that people like to puncture the dignity of the domestic cat because it is funny; more entertainment.
Just because cat pictures are very popular does not mean that dog pictures are unpopular. Dog pictures are popular but less so than ones of cats. Why is this? You can make your own mind up but my opinion is because cats by and large have cuter faces and act like jerks in the eyes of humans as mentioned.
Domestic cats can get into some pretty hairy situations as well which is always good for photography. You are going to get some great photographs of cats in unusual predicaments. And cats get into these predicaments because they’re so inquisitive and of course they have nine lives.
To me, the key element is entertainment; the cat as an entertainer which has drawn people away from conventional television onto the Internet and onto the YouTube website which has taken a lot away from television. YouTube alone has boosted the popularity of cat images by an incredible amount. The total number of hours of video watched on YouTube monthly is 3.25 billion! And the total number of people who use YouTube is 1.3 billion. The statistics are massive.
All this said, the popularity of pictures of cats has slowed and will continue to wane. When I first started this website one of the most important keywords (a phrase used by web surfers which they enter into a Google search) was “pictures of cats”. This is why the website is named as it is. That keyword is no longer what it once was, which is why the site was expanded to cover many other areas concerning the domestic and wild cats. It’s about trends and fads. Everything changes. One day pictures of cats won’t be so popular. The era during which they were so popular will be consigned to history.