Why everybody loves cat memes
Why are cat memes so popular? Are funny cat memes actually funny, or are humans just lame? And why do dog memes, with a few notable exceptions, suck ass?
How can something so objectively silly, make us all so happy, so consistently?
No discussion of memes can be complete without a few words on cat memes. It’s an entire fricking industry. Ages ago, the venerable memers at Cheezburger noted that meme creators were ten times more likely to use cats in memes, rather than dogs.
‘As the number one cereal in the United States, we are focused on staying current with our ads and who appears in them,’ said Gail Peterson, an actual grown-up human and marketing director at Honey Nut Cheerios.
Some internet commentators even called Grumpy Cat a sell-out.
Patricia Carlin, author of a book called ‘How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity’, suggests a road map for making your own moggie go viral. Identifying their character is important, apparently, and coming up with a catchy name.
Garfield, if it’s ginger. You get the idea!
You don’t want to be ‘the only cretin in the world who failed to cash in’, Carlin observes sagely in her book.
CAT MEME SCIENCE
Another genuine human author, Jessica Gall Myrick, believes cat memes ‘deserve empirical attention’.
‘Because,’ she continues, ‘…as the news accounts suggest, Internet users spend a significant amount of time consuming cat-related media, some of that while they are supposed to be doing other tasks like working or studying.’
Which is basically saying cat memes have a negative impact on human productivity.
It is worth it to keep us happy thought? Myrich went to the trouble of recruiting 7,000 people for a lengthy online study questionnaire about their cat video habits.
Apparently, typically, respondents watch cat videos about three times a week. They often find them by accident on social feeds. These people are often shy, and (obvs) spend quite a lot of time online.
But! They reported feeling happy and less stressed.
“Practically,” Myrick writes, “these findings … promote the idea that viewing Internet cats may actually function as a form of digital pet therapy and/or stress relief for Internet users.”
BABY CAT MEMES
It’s been suggested, by Perry Stein in the New Republic, that the reason we find cats cute is their resemblance to human babies. They have big eyes, small noses, and a baby-ish head shape. Um, if you say so mate.
Another scientific reason suggested for the popularity of cat memes on the internet, is that cat people don’t get to ‘show off’ their fur baby in publuc the same way dog people do. Dog people go to the park. Cats don’t go in for all that nonsense! So the internet becomes a kind of ‘virtual cat park’.
RELATABLE CAT MEMES
It’s been suggested that cat memes are also popular because the material is basically universal. To understand, say, a Succession meme, or a Super Bowl meme, you need to know a bit about the source material.
Everybody understands cats. Right?
Cats also dovetail nicely with people who are online too much (hi). Essentially, because cats more or less look after themselves, and don’t require ‘walkies’, they fit snugly into the lifestyles of nerds.
HISTORIC CAT MEMES
Cats in ‘memes’ have a long history. We all know the ancient Egyptians were super into cats. In the Greek tradition, Artemis apparently turned herself into a cat in order to sneak up to the moon. Freyja, the Norse goddess of fertility, had a carriage that was pulled by two cats.
Lesser known is the Englishman Harry Pointer, a photographic pioneer in the 1870s who made a tidy living selling primitive photos of cats with adorable captions. Crude stuff, like ‘Happy New Year’, or ‘Very Many Happy Returns Of The Day’. But 100% recognizably an antecedent of 21st century cat meme culture.
DOGS MEMES SUCK
Jason Eppink, who curated a New York exhibition called ‘How Cats Took Over the Internet‘ has his own pet theory as to why cats went on to dominate meme culture, in a way their old rivals that dogs basically failed to do.
Dogs, Eppink told Gizmodo, ‘usually acknowledge cameras (or more likely, their owners) and their seeming eagerness to please typically makes for less interesting video.
‘Cats are also something of a blank canvas, since their faces and body language are so inexpressive.’
What he’s saying, in essence, is that cats are aloof, and as such we crave their attention.
While dogs are just thirsty bitches.