Dogs are man’s best friend. They’ve lived alongside us for millennia, domesticated to be the perfect companions. The majority of people like dogs better than cats. So why, then, are cats so ubiquitous and popular in the virtual world?
As beloved as dogs are, cats seem to have taken over the internet. There are too many “funny cat videos” on Youtube to even count, so many that they are practically a trope of online culture. Nyan Cat lives on as a famous meme. There are certainly famous dogs on the internet, but none have reached the peaks of Simon’s cat, Grumpy Cat, Keyboard Cat, or even those cats with slices of bread on their faces. Something about cats and their unique, inexplicable humor has captivated our modern society.
As a total cat person, I love that cats are the unofficial mascot of the internet. And I think it makes a lot of sense. Now that almost everyone in the world can communicate with almost everyone else, now that there’s a platform for honesty and openness from the safety of your screen, relatability has become a valuable social currency. What are cats if not relatable? Out of all household pets, they are the most similar to humans — the most imperfect, silly, self-important, moody, funny, vindictive, and (yep) grumpy. Dogs love unconditionally, and therefore are perfect for the heartwarming soldiers-coming-home-from-war videos that your aunt likes. But cats are like us. They love conditionally, they are hilariously flawed. They fit right into the cynical and painfully self-aware environment of the internet.
Our relationship with cats is also much different from our relationship with dogs. Cats were never really domesticated by us; they sort of domesticated themselves, deigning to live among us because we give them food and warmth. They still have that touch of the untameable wild that dogs are lacking. As a result, they’re hard to train — they mostly just do whatever they want. They’re not quite adapted to indoor living, and their independent aloofness combined with their dumb antics can be hilarious. A cat with its head stuck in a tissue box is incredibly funny, but it also reminds us of our own struggles to function in the modern world. We like to think of ourselves as evolved, sovereign, sophisticated. But we are really just bumbling through life, making mistakes and doing stupid things and hoping no one sees. We are all walking around with our heads stuff in tissue boxes. We see ourselves and our problems in cats; at the end of the day, they remind us that all we can do is laugh about it.