Why are cats so popular on the internet? This page looks at some possible reasons. However, there are two initial points to make. The first is this popularity is mainly an American and European phenomenon and secondly in these countries there is a dichotomy between the extraordinary popularity of the cat on the internet and a failure to tackle important cat welfare issues on the ground.
Whereas some say that the cat rules the internet there are millions of people in the “real world” who are oblivious to the plight of the homeless cat (of which there are far too many) and some who even want to hurt the them. People in general prefer the cat in the ether of the internet. They prefer the electronic cat to the real cat. The real cat carries to many responsibilities.
But why is the cat so popular on the internet? Perry Stein writing in the New Republic proffers some ideas. He says the internet has simply provided an outlet for people’s interest in the domestic cat. The interest was there all along but there was no convenient place to express it. I see the point but if it is true the interest in the cat was rather superficial; more as an entertainer because if there was a deep interest it would be expressed in the real world in greater cat ownership and in helping improve cat welfare. The dog and cat are equally popular in the real world but the cat far outstrips the dog in popularity on the ‘net. The internet provides information and entertainment and for the most part the cat plays the role of entertainer without the downside of interested people having to do the actual work of caring for a cat.
Another reason for the popularity of the cat on the internet is that the cat is a baby substitute. A philosopher Michael Newhall states that our fascination with the internet cat stems from the cat’s resemblance to our babies. He means the large eyes relative to the head and body size, small noses (think traditional Persian and not the Modern Siamese 😉 ) together with the domed shape head.
A cat behaviorist, Steve Dale, says that a major reason for the internet success of the cat is because it is the equivalent of the dog park for dogs. It is a place where cat owners can express their love for cats and natter about it with others. I can see that point.
Internet social media is the main forum for cat owners to discuss their feelings about cats and to support others. It is also an important place to support cat welfare through cat rescue, online petitions and fighting for animal rights.
Another reason is that people are in awe of the cat’s athleticism. I can certainly agree with that too. Many of the popular videos show this off.
As I said though, the cat provides of lot entertainment online, which makes me think of giving something back to the cat rather than continuing to take as is the case with celebrity cats.
It is interesting that in the case of celebrity cats there has been a transference from the internet to the real world. Grumpy Cat started out as an online entertainer. Now she is a true celeb. on the celebrity circuit but her predicament serves to highlight the exploitation of the cat while ignoring the big issues of welfare.