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The state of cat memes 2011 - 2012

Words by Traction Alumni, Kasey Smith


The numbers don't lie: the internet is made of cats. Lots and lots and lots of cats.

Doubt me? Type "cats" into YouTube and you'll get back 1.3 million results. Type "cats" into Google Image Search and you'll get back 776 million results. Type "cats" into Twitter and you'll see an average of one cat-related tweet per second. That's a lot of digital hairballs! Mmmmm hairballs. 

Which is what makes cats so important as a memetic medium - their popularity and ubiquity lends them infinite plasticity.

After all, there are over 86.4 million cats in the United States which means even the most ardent dog lovers have probably spent significant time around them. This drives cats as a memetic force in three ways: 1) Pre-existing relationships create a loyal fan, and anti-fan, base. 2) Pets are easily anthropomorphized in a way which aligns itself well with established internet humor. 3) Access to cats makes for easy, constant, and mutable meme fodder.  

The barrier for memetic entry - both in terms of creation and comprehension - is quite low when it comes to cats. Anyone can snap a cute/funny photo of a cat and generally anyone viewing that photo can interpret it correctly. Before distribution and social sharing ever come into play, these cat images/videos have already achieved proto-meme status by being understood as the stuff of memes. Cats are funny and cute, memes are funny and cute, therefore: all cats are memes.

Or in other words; cats function as a simple unit of cultural meaning that screams out, "I AM CUTE AND FUZZY AND THE INTERNET SHOULD LOVE ME!" Which, judging by the popularity and longevity of cat memes, we net denizens find irresistible.

While a complete and detailed history of cat memes would be a wonderful gift to the internet, I've chosen to focus on the current crop for this presentation. And remember - every time you don't click on the SlideShare link god kills a kitten.

Cat Memes 2011-2012 from Traction

Traction Digital Agency

Traction is an award-winning agency based in San Francisco that believes everything is interactive. And we kick ass.