It has been another week of record-high temperatures, shockingly dangerous political rhetoric, and general despair on the internet; it has also been another week of animals. Do these rivers of content flow from the same source? Do they power each other, circle around each other, somehow negate or offset each other? Will the number of animals on the internet increase in direct proportion to the amount of enmity on the internet, eventually creating a sort of alternate, all-pet web that one might explore, blissfully ignorant of the other?
It’s impossible to say, really. Regardless, the animals were abundant online this week, and it was an unusually good one for cats in particular, whose stock appears to be rising after the great dog boom of 2017. As our colleagues at Kotaku pointed out in a post that deserves to be enjoyed at length—save it for Sunday, perhaps—yesterday was National Cat Day in Japan, a holiday so designated because the Japanese word for two is “ni,” which sounds like “nyan,” which sounds like the sound a cat makes. Thus, February 22 is “meow meow meow” day; mark it on your calendar and do better next year. The result was an extremely whimsical outpouring of Japanese cat fandom, very few of which took the form of erotic cartoons. Here, for example, is a good one:
Do you know who this cat is dressed as or why she is on a big smiling blue ball? The answers are Dragon Quest and Dragon Quest, but it also does not matter. Cat content is best when abstracted from meaning, even obscured beyond understanding. Think of the cat dressed as a shark on a Roomba, or the great cat breading phase of 2012. The internet prefers its cats as inexplicable as possible. Here, for example, is a cat who went viral this week sans explanation:
Here is a cat who went viral this week sans looking like a cat:
Compare moments like these with other prominent animals from the news this week, which fit into clean-cut narratives (a horse who is not afraid of wolves; a dog who is not afraid of wolves; a goat who is not afraid of bulls) or even commercialized packaging (dogs dressed as video game characters; a dog in a fake movie trailer).
Cats remain powerful online for the same reason they always have: the vast, unyielding mystery at their core. Twitter Moments, our great modern arbiter of taste, chose to do an “If it fits, I sits, 2018 edition” round-up this week. The meme has been around since the dawn of the decade, a play on the old “If it fits, it ships” USPS slogan, typically appended to images of cats roosting in inexplicable places: tiny boxes, strange appendages, forgotten household crannies. And while they typically do this for a number of extremely sensible reasons—to cool down or warm up, to express superiority, or just to get your damn attention—they are best enjoyed and thought of as almost randomized acts of chaos within a more ordered domestic setting.
Alternately, please enjoy this deconstruction of the meme, which nevertheless reinforces the relatability of the original premise:
Would understanding what is being said in the below video change the fact that the little friend enjoys a special feeding unit? In point of fact, knowing the full story would hurt it. A bit of human culture gap only makes our shared enjoyment of cats all the more powerful.
There is perhaps no cat on the internet more illustrative of this principle than Maru, the mysterious Japanese cat whose videos have garnered 356 million views and largely consist of the cat attempting to fit into various spaces throughout his home. He is very large. His owner remains an absolute mystery despite the best efforts of an investigative reporter from Wired magazine. This week, they uploaded a video documenting the cat’s ongoing artistic collaboration with an empty bucket of KFC. The video is called “Maru’s one paw never fits into the bucket” and, well, we will not spoil for you how it ends.
It ends with Maru, implacable and resplendent, conqueror of buckets even one paw never fits into it.
Meanwhile, in America, one trending video on YouTube attempted to actually demystify cats—in this instance, determining the biological sex of kittens. Why did this rise to the top of YouTube’s trending algorithm? Is it a common problem that connected with users on a preternatural level, answering a question that many had wondered? Is this information available elsewhere but in less clearly illustrated means? Or did the video just contain lots of footage of very small cats drinking milk directly from very large bottles?
Perhaps it’s just the video’s thumbnail, which features an image of a large-headed, small-bodied cat, head cocked to one side, with the words “MALE OR FEMALE?” plastered over top. Cats and question marks will always pair together well. They are the peanut butter and jelly of the viral internet, eternal in their appeal.