member of the animal kingdom has conquered the Internet
like Felis catus, the humble house cat.
is home to an estimated 10 million cat videos, which, to
put it in perspective, works out to an upload rate of
roughly two cat-related pieces of content every minute
over the last decade. Thereís a blue-shirted
keyboard-playing cat ("Charlie Schmidtís Keyboard
Cat! ó The Original!" has more than 40 million
views since 2007), a kitten raising its paws in surprise
("Surprised Kitty," 75.6 million views) and a
very angry shelter cat from across the pond thatís
managed to rack up more than 88 million hits since 2006
("Very Angry Cat").
phenomenon has made household names of Grumpy Cat (real
name Tardar Sauce), whose endorsement deals, media
appearances, 2014 movie and upcoming comic book have
generated a reported six figures, and Lil Bub, a
talk-show-hosting special-needs rescue cat thatís
helped raise more than $200,000 for the ASPCA since
did the cats-on-the-Internet meme become so entrenched
in pop culture that the phenomenon was recently
footnoted in congressional testimony on the use of
Internet bandwidth and referenced in the CIAís
official Twitter feed?
help answer that question, we turned to someone who may
have watched more of those 10 million YouTube videos
than anyone else on the planet: Scott Stulen, the
curator of audience experiences at the Indianapolis
Museum of Art and organizer of the first Internet Cat
Video Festival at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis
a Q&A with Stulen:
is it about cats that make them such popular video
have their own personalities, they act like they donít
need us and they operate very independently. So thereís
a sense that theyíre not performing for us. Within
that, we start to project very human personas, traits
and characteristics onto them.
also the practical thing of them being in the home all
the time and everybody has a video camera now, so that
helps fuel the relationship.
donít dog videos seem to capture our collective
attention in the same way?
dog owners have a lot of social spaces that exist ó
going out to the dog park or going out for a walk ó
cat owners are primarily (interacting from) home and donít
have the same options. So in a lot of ways the Internet
ó and cat videos ó became the cat park, a place
where cat owners interact with one another and share
would you consider the Golden Age of Internet cat
videos? Are we there now?
me the Golden Age was probably like the Golden Age of
YouTube, when the monetary piece wasnít such a part of
it. Iíd say 2008 to 2012 was probably the sweet spot,
bookended by the "Keyboard Cat" video that was
posted in 2007, and the Henri (LeChatNoir) videos from
2012 and a little after. Thatís the window: pre-Grumpy
Cat, pre-Lil Bub, where things shifted a bit. Iím not
saying itís good or itís bad; itís just changed.
you think of anything that could ever dislodge the cat
video memeís place in our collective conscience?
would have thought it would have already happened by now
because the life span of a typical meme is so short and
this has lived on now for a solid four or five years at
full speed and doesnít show any signs of weakening
yet. But I think the platforms it lives on will change
ó Iím sure there are already Periscope channels that
are streaming cats everywhere.