Starting around the early 90s, cats began taking over the internet, and their reign has continued for over three decades. There’s no sign of slowing down. On the contrary, the meowmentum is only growing stronger, like a digital feline tsunami.
That said, cats have probably always been a subject of fascination for humans. Cats were adored and revered in ancient cultures across the globe. And cat memes predate the internet by at least 70 years.
We suspect it was only a matter of time before cats became the celebrated “unofficial mascot of the internet.” At least, that is, in cultures where cats and dogs are the most popular pets. In some agrarian cultures, such as Uganda, you may be more likely to see chicken or goat content, as Gizmodo noted.
But overall, cats still rule the worldwide web, with constant viral content. Why? We may never fully understand, but here are a few pawsibilities for your consideration.
Cats Rule the Internet Because They Help Us Destress
Using the simplest explanation, people love watching cats online because their antics help us quickly destress. There are many explanations about the psychology involved as to why cats ease anxieties.
Maybe it’s partly this: At a deeper level, they remind us of our wild, relatively free origins.
We’re living in often stressful, artificial worlds now, but cats and people have lived very different lifestyles for most of history. For thousands of years, people were not confined and separated from nature as hunter-gatherers. Even today, cats remain incredible hunters and wildcats, and we love them for it.
Looking back, it was only when agricultural practices began that we “domesticated ourselves.” That’s when cats seem to have done the same, inviting themselves into new human settlements. We found cats desirable, and they drove away rodents. Cats evidently found it acceptable for us to bask in their presence too.
“I think they know! 😟🐱🐯”
Cats Connect Us to Our Wild Nature
Now living in a relatively sterile and artificial world cut off from nature, cats’ hilarious, often rebellious antics are deeply relatable. We love watching them because cats never really became domesticated, unlike us and dogs. (We love dogs too!) But cats are generally not as likely to follow commands the same way as a dog, although it’s a myth that they can’t be trained.
While living in modern “society” imposes strict demands, cats like to remain independent. They do what they want! In many ways, cats have life figured out on their terms. We all want to feel that way more often. At a psychological level, we yearn to feel that way.
“We’ll show you keyboard shortcuts you never knew existed!! 🧡🖤 These two really are making it hard to get anything done, but we’re enjoying the kitten craziness 🙂,” via Facebook/Cole and Marmalade
That’s why we cheer them on when they swat objects off shelves, lay on our laptops, or climb the Christmas tree.
Given any chance, cats instantly return to nature. It’s ingrained in them and us, a healthy urge, although not so much for the Christmas tree ornaments.
Marmalade in a Christmas tree by Cole and Marmalade:
Cats Rule the Internet Because We Can Project Our Emotions Onto Them
Building on the idea that cats are a natural stress therapy, part of that is because we can project our emotions onto them. Author John Bradshaw, who wrote “Cat Sense” and “Dog Sense,” suggests just that. While loyal dogs are easier to read, cats tend to be more mysterious and open to our imaginative and fun interpretations.
“Cats are also something of a ‘blank canvas,’ since their faces and body language are so inexpressive,” Bradshaw wrote.
We don’t know about inexpressive though. Cats can be extremely expressive!
Expressions aside, a cat’s unpredictable nature invites us to insert human emotions to explain their behavior, anthropomorphizing. But don’t we also love that cat’s behaviors are totally inexplicable?
What cats do at night by Cole and Marmalade:
Cats Bring Out Maternal/Paternal Instincts
While a cat’s alien nature is partly what draws us to them, another idea takes the opposite view. Some have suggested that we instinctively react to a cat’s face in a maternal or paternal way. We naturally want to baby them and love seeing macho guys being nurturing to cats. And we do see cats as family, despite critics.
“According to Michael Newall, a philosopher of art at the University of Kent, our inordinate interest in cats may derive from their formal resemblance to our offspring — their big eyes, smallish noses, and dome-shaped heads trigger the evolutionary nurturing instincts that we have evolved toward babies,” NPR reported.
Such an idea might sound a little silly, but it could explain why some unscrupulous breeders seek to sell cats with ever-larger eyes and flattened, rounded baby faces. (Despite health concerns) Certainly, we know a kitten’s distressed mew instantly makes us protective, although the same could be said of a puppy’s whimper.
Cats are Fascinated By Us Too!
We love baby-talking to both cats and dogs, and it turns out they love it too! Researchers found cats love it when their humans baby-talk but won’t respond when strangers do it. It’s one example that cats definitely bond with us. Another example is that cats meow almost entirely to chat with people. They even developed complex vocalizations to talk to us.
Video about sounds cats make to talk to people by Cole and Marmalade:
The Feeling is Mutual
So, as fascinated as people will always be with cats, cats are more interested in us than some people think. They’ve even developed a sort of language just for us! Likewise, humans are always prime Cat TV material, whatever we do or wherever we go, especially the bathroom.
After considering it all, the reasons cats rule the internet are so complex. However, in all likelihood, their three-decade reign has only begun. From what we’ve seen, cats are significantly helping us destress, reconnect with our true selves and nature. All of that is so healthy. Simultaneously, they’re teaching us to become more caring and gentler, too. In so many ways, they teach us to stop taking life so seriously while making our lives more fulfilled.
May the cat’s reign on the internet…and everywhere… continue furever!