Listening Post: A dreadful meme

A more appropriate view of cats--Bastet, Egyptian Goddess of the Delta.

A more appropriate view of cats–Bastet, Egyptian Goddess of the Delta.

Sorry to be a day late this week. I place the blame on cats. My Thursday afternoon, usually occupied with beavering away at the keyboard writing Listening Post, was instead occupied by an NPR webinar–with a crew gathered in my office to kibbitz and make comments about the presentation while eating popcorn. To illustrate one point, the webinauts trotted out an animated gif of leaping cats–lots of cats leaping over and over in a loop.  Disturbing really. I can’t remember what the point was.

But it all put me off schedule, leaving me writing instead on Friday morning, and still thinking about cats. Internet cats in particular. When I Googled “cute cat videos” the search giant delivered 277,000,000 hits in .42 seconds. And I find every one of them really annoying.

I think the people who make cute cat videos actually hate cats. I love cats–not that they care (that’s part of their charm). Cuteness is way too low a bar. Cats are mysterious and aloof, graceful, regal and fierce, they have a gift for stillness.

In cute cat videos, cats act like people–they play the piano, they ride skateboards, they ride on top of other animals. But here’s the thing; cats are not like people at all–they are like lions and pumas and ocelots. Monkeys are like people. And there are very few cute monkey videos.

I’ve been waiting a long time for the cute cat fad to fade. But it has become something of an industry, jumping off the Internet into old media TV advertising. There’s no escape. The only thing worse is the talking babies that seem to have a corner on sound financial advice.


6 Comments on “Listening Post: A dreadful meme”

  1. Jenny B. says:

    I agree that animals acting like humans isn’t terribly entertaining and probably embarrassing for the animal to act like a subspecies to them, but I LOVE this video!

    What could be cuter than this kitten!?!

    Cats being innovative are also very cool videos. I really enjoy the ones where the cat figures out how to turn the water on and then either drinks or cleans it’s face. Cats are smart and resourceful. Someday, maybe, we’ll get to that smart, cool and aloof level they have attained.

    Talking babies are totally creepy and should most definitely be banned!

  2. Dale Hobson says:

    Hi Jenny B.–

    Baby anything is cute–well maybe not a baby blobfish. And cats are indeed smart and resourceful. They probably wonder why humans torment them by hiding the water inside locked pipes. Someday they may get together and think up a way to get even.

    But let’s get together on the talking baby ban legislation. I expect wide bipartisan support.


  3. Pete Klein says:

    I completely don’t understand videos that go viral on UTube.
    90% of what is supposed to be funny, I don’t even break a smile for.
    Sometimes, it seems, Americans will laugh at anything.
    By the way, I do like cats and dogs and birds and just about any animal that walks, flies or swims – that includes most humans, at least those that don’t laugh too much at stuff that isn’t funny.

  4. Deb St Hilaire-Smith says:

    I totally agree with your discription of cats, myself appreciating them for their fine qualities .
    I have to admitt I do follow the musings of Henri La Chat Noir .
    I’m certain Henri would show distain if his videos were called cute.

  5. Brandon Amo says:

    I don’t know if people who make cat videos hate cats, but they don’t seem to understand them. A cat recently took up residence with me via my girlfriend. A beautiful, tuxedo, Hemingway (26 toes). I absolutely love this cat. And you are so right. She could not care less.

    I was combing her this morning, and her human told me she normally doesn’t tolerate that. So I was very impressed with myself, until she swiped me with a paw, and lunged in an attempt to remove a large chunk of flesh from my hand. I tapped her on the head with my index finger admonishing her not to do that again. I went back to combing her and guess what? No more combing.

    So yes, I agree. Cuteness is way too low a bar.

    It’s weird, but I feel kind of gifted by the attack (?). I’m now a member of the pride.

  6. Ellen B says:

    Brandon, why were you combing the cat, especially after she swiped at you? She obviously didn’t like it; also, most cats are pretty good at taking care of their own coats.

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