Chances are that you’ve wasted countless hours online watching videos of cats. And, you’re not alone. Those little critters have been seen by hundreds of millions of people. But have you ever wondered why we’re all so fascinated by these digital felines? Well, in anticipation of the forth coming Internet Cat Video Festival, Art&Seek decided look into the matter.
If you’ve ever seen the video of a cat playing the keyboard, then that means you’re one of the nearly forty-five million people who’ve watched Fatso the Cat on YouTube. Fatso was one of the first cats to go viral, way back in 2007. But, these days, cat videos go viral more often than Netflix puts out original content. So why are so many people captivated these lovable hairballs?
Jessica Gall Myrick, a media scholar at Indiana University, say it may have something to do with the affect it has on our behavior.
“What I found was that people reported feeling happier, even more hopeful and more energetic, after watching a cat video than before,” says Myrick.
For her paper, “Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect?” Myrick recruited 6795 Internet users and asked them how and why they consumed cat videos. What she found out was that the videos seemed to raise their spirits.
“I found out the process of watching cat videos also seemed to dampen negative emotions. They felt less anxious, less angry and less depleted,” says Myrick.
Myrick also learned that people who watch cat videos tend to own cats. The average participant in her study owned more than two cats! But she says that’s not why they’re watching cat videos. They’re watching to interact with people.
“So they weren’t just watching them, they were liking them, they were sharing them, they were commenting,” says Myrick. “I think that watching cat videos actually isn’t just about cats. It’s a really easy way for us to connect with other people.”
“Really, kind of at the core of it, was something fairly simple – we really wanted to take online content offline and turn it back into a shared social experience” says Stulen.
And cat videos were the perfect medium and genre to dip into.
Stulen is currently the director of the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa. But back in 2012, when he was at the Walker Museum and producing the festival, he says there were so many benefits to the festival. For example. the festival allowed people the freedom to express their love for felines. But more importantly, the festival started a dialogue about opening up cultural institutions to a more diverse audience.
“It got all these people into a museum setting that probably had never been there before and I think that was really kind of a delightful side benefit of it,” say Stulen
Stulen says museums need to be adaptive and that this festival proves that if you’re responsive, you can speak to people and to what’s happening in their lives.
“Museums should be a place that you can come and see, you know, wonderful artwork, but it should also be a gathering place. It should be a place you discussions about what’s happening in your community,” says Stulen.
Bart Weiss agrees. He’s the president of the Video Association of Dallas and the father to four cats. His Video Association brought the Cat Video Festival to Dallas and crated a video contest so North Texans could show off their cats. Those videos will be played just before the official festival starts and they provide a venue for people to express their love for their cats.
Weiss says the submissions weren’t as high as he might have anticipated, but that there’s a lot of love for each cat in every video.
“There are ones that are very well produced and one that are…shall we say observational, because we all observe our cats and our cats are very special to us,” says Weiss.
And history proves Weiss’ point. Cats have been watched and even memorialized as far back to the Egyptians. The first cat video was made before the Internet was even imagined. It was a silent film made in 1903. And Weiss says there was even a Cat Film Festival in the
“Pets have been kind of a staple of entertainment for a while, it’s the internet and the mobile phones that have sort of taken it to another level,” says Weiss.
So, this infatuation is nothing new. Cats make us smile. And as long as they do, you can bet they’ll continue to make their way into our media of choice.
Watch some of the most popular cat videos of the past decade below: