It happens like this: I am surfing the web for news or researching a topic for work and suddenly, BAM! It’s an hour later and I’m in the middle of my third funny cat video compilation.
I’ve rarely stopped to ask myself why I find cat videos so addictive. I always assumed that it was because I’ve been a cat person all my life and something about watching those videos takes me back to watching my own cats perform crazy antics and stunts. But then the day came when I was sitting next to my husband and I glanced over to find that he too was clicking the next button on a series of funny cat clips. This was cause for further consideration because my husband does not claim to be a particularly strong cat person. He had dogs and horses and chickens growing up, but never a cat. So what magical hold did those crazy cats have on him?
I’ve seen plenty of theories about why cats are so popular and some of them must be true. How else could some people have managed to build million-dollar enterprises off of a cute kitty face? (Or a grumpy face, as in the case of everyone’s favorite grumpy cat.) Is it because cats are cute, with their big eyes and general fluffiness? If we’re talking kittens, then yes. Baby animals capitalize on the cuteness factor because they are preciously small, often fuzzy, and their heads and eyes are just a little too large for their little bodies. Take a look at cartoons and stuffed animals in the stores today and you’ll see that marketers are using these same characteristics to sell their products. It’s hard to resist a cute kitty, especially if it shows up in your Facebook newsfeed as “The Cutest Kitty in the WORLD!” But it’s not just a cute kitten that keeps me glued to my computer screen for longer than I would care to admit. It’s the fact that cats can be so insanely funny.
I believe that one of the things that makes cats the best comedians is the fact that they’re not even trying to be funny. Normally so aloof and disinterested, a cat isn’t usually looking to make you laugh, which is why it feels like such a gem when you catch one of those rare moments where a cat is looking or acting absolutely ridiculous. We are drawn to things that are out of the ordinary: things that turn the norm on its head. When cats move outside of their stereotypical role as aloof lords of the household, we can’t help but be surprised and delighted.
I see a few categories of cat memes or videos that seem to draw the biggest viewing numbers. First, there’s the adorable group, like a kitten mewling incessantly while it’s trying to eat its food. There’s always time to pause and say, “Aww,” for a cute cat.
Next, there’s the incredible, like the cats that have a thing for tight places and somehow manage to squeeze themselves into a tiny box or bowl.
Then there’s the inquisitive cat, or the cat at play. Granted, these cats aren’t really doing much out of the ordinary. But sometimes its just fun to watch a cat having a good time. As for inquisitive cats, well, odds are if you’re watching a video of a cat investigating some new thing, it’s most likely going to end with a surprise that sends the cat springing half way to the ceiling. While not always the most good-natured of jokes, you can’t help but admire a cat’s quick reflexes in clips like these.
Let’s not forget the funny cat faces. This covers all ranges, from heart-meltingly cute to the wide-eyed, slightly crazed expression to the infinitely bored or disgruntled look. Add a well-fitted line of text and you’ve got yourself a viral meme.
Last, you have the embarrassing moments, meaning those clips where a cat makes some gaff, a misstep off the stair, a misjudgment of leaping space, or just mistaking his own tail for a piece of prey. The moment itself is funny, but I always love the moment just after when the cat pretends that nothing happened at all.
All of these types of cat videos and pictures delight us, possibly because we see in them something that is very relatable. While cats’ moods and emotions might seem unreadable to some, we flatter ourselves into thinking that we know exactly what that cute or shocked or contented expression means. We love these images because they make cats seem so much more human.