Are Cats the Most Popular Animal in the World?
There's no denying one of the most popular themes on YouTube is the antics of the domestic cat, generally taped in the throes of doing something adorably cute and/or quirkily amusing. So ubiquitous is the cat on YouTube that the cat video has now become both a subject of ridicule and a new genre of short film-making, and the best of them get thousands, if not millions of views. Many are amateurish, not well-filmed and lack any meaningful structure or context, yet large numbers of people seem to love them. The cat is the star in the YouTube galaxy.
So why is the cat so popular? Well, one reason is that cats are accessible - it'd be much more problematic to film otters, dolphins or Bengal tigers. Having a cat in your living room means that you can quickly grab the camera and spontaneously film it whenever it does something remotely interesting.
Another reason might be that the cat tends to provoke strong emotional reactions - there are cat fanciers who adore them and there are cat loathers who mistrust them, with a few in the middle, who neither love nor hate cats. Throughout popular culture they've been portrayed variously as cute, fluffy companions, useful rodent catchers, enigmatic mysteries, evil incarnate, the sinister associates of witches and harbingers of the devil. Whether you love or hate them, they are compelling to watch - millions of years of evolution has produced an animal of almost perfect design. They appear frequently in our mythologies and stories: the cat clearly hits a psychological chord with humans.
Dogs look up at us, cats look down on us and pigs treat us as equals~ Winston Churchill
It's true, cats often do appear to view us with disdain or at least a certain detachment. It's often said that cats don't have owners, they have domestic staff. Interestingly, scientists have recently come up with theory that might explain why some people mistrust cats more than dogs Apparently it's all to do with the eyebrows - cats don't have them, but dogs do, making it easier to read facial expressions or at least the impression of facial expressions. Eyebrows give dogs a more 'human' appearance.Yet strangely, on YouTube the cat far outranks the dog in popularity stakes. Are cats simply more filmic? Or do some people watch just to hit the dislike button?
Watching a cat video is easy: the viewer doesn't have to think too much, so it can just be enjoyed as a fun piece of entertainment. It's undemanding viewing and it must be said, a great time waster.If you find yourself watching cat videos for three hours, it might be time to get off the computer. The videos below are but a small cross-section of the huge stock on YouTube and all are popular.
The Talking Cat
Although in reality, the cat in the video below looks as though it's about to throw a furball onto the carpet, the painful growls and intestinal moans reaching up from deep within the cat do sound a bit like words. This is a good example of how we find amusement from superimposing human characteristics, in this case through subtitles, upon animals.
The Existentialist Cat
This highbrow cat video explores the relationship between Henri the cat and his environment, framing the whole within a context of existentialist absurdity and alienation - like the talking cat, Henri has been 'humanised'. The success of this video lies in the careful planning and putting together: this is no slapdash cat video pasted together on the spur of the moment. It has been carefully crafted from a well considered concept and works largely because of the seamless blend between Henri's detached, yet knowing facial expression and the intellectual French narration.
There are no tricks to the lively cats frolicking in fresh snow in the video below - just the natural playfulness of the animals and their joy de-vivre in being alive and a cat. Yet this simple video has had over four million hits.
The Cat Video as Political Educator
In the Australian comedy TV show, The Hamster Wheel, the creative team used cat videos to explain the nuts and bolts of the War on Terrorism. The YouTube cats were a regular feature on the show, showcasing hot political issues
Some You Tube cats acquire an almost celebrity status - something about their personality ignites a wave of public interest and their videos go viral.
Maru, the fat cat at right and in the video below exudes such natural charm and humour that its hard to dislike him, even if you're ant-cat. He's building up a fanbase and with a stack of videos and a few million views already, he could go far!