A Brief History Of The Love/Hate Relationship Between Cats & The Web

By Megan O'Neill Comment

In all of history (or at least in the last four years), no Internet meme has experienced more longevity and popularity than the almighty house cat. No creature is more shared, laughed at and talked about on the web than the cat, but how do we really feel about these furry little devils? Are they our four-legged friends or four-legged foes? And will we ever see an end to the cat meme? Check out our history lesson on the love/hate relationship between cats and the web and judge for yourself.

Cats have been roaming the Internet for as long as people have been uploading pictures and making Flash animations on the web. However, it was not until 2006 that the cat meme was officially born. The English-language image-based bulletin board website 4chan coined the term ‘Lolcat’ (Laugh-Out-Loud cat) and people began posting funny pictures of cats with subtitles on Saturdays to celebrate what was known as “Caturday”. The website domain LOLcats.com was also registered in 2006.

However, LOLcats were pretty much confined to the 4chan community until January 11, 2007, when the I Can Has Cheezburger? website introduced LOLcats to the world. The first image uploaded to the blog was of a cute little grey cat with a big, bold caption reading “I Can Has Cheezburger?” What exactly does that mean? Well, obviously it means that the cat wants a cheeseburger. And for some strange reason, this cat turned into a whole movement. People all over the globe started to make their own LOLcat pictures and I Can Has Cheezburger was receiving hundreds of new pictures on a daily basis.

LOLcats started to spread beyond the I Can Has Cheezburger website. Artist Adam Koford even created an old-fashioned looking comic strip called ‘Laugh-Out-Loud Cats’, combining all sorts of Internet memes, including the LOLcats, and giving it a vintage feel. However, what many people don’t know is that the history of LOLcats extends back before the Internet even existed, to the 1870s.

Brighton photographer Harry Pointer created a series of captioned photographs of cats over 130 years ago, known as Harry Pointer’s Brighton Cats. Pointer produces over 200 images of cats in his Brighton Cats series. The fact that Pointer was creating silly pictures of cats all the way back then shows just how must we as humans connect to this sort of thing. If people enjoyed this sort of thing back in the 1870s and we still do today then it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that we are still eating up the cat meme almost four years after the first image was posted to I Can Has Cheezburger.

But do we love the cat meme because we love cats or because we hate them? Isn’t the whole essence of the LOLcat to mock and make fun of our furry friends? I mean, would you like it if someone uploaded a picture of you to the web with a caption making fun of your body type, saying how much you look like a monorail?

And the same goes for YouTube. There are tons of cat videos with hundreds of thousands, and even millions of views. But for every cute cat video there are several videos of cats being mocked and tortured. For instance, as if these fainting goat kittens didn’t have it bad enough, someone decided it would be funny to mock them by shooting them with laser blasters.

Whether you love cats or hate cats, it doesn’t look like the cat meme is going anywhere anytime soon. Keyboard cat, Roomba driver cat and the Lolcats are likely to be haunting the web, and our dreams for years to come. What do you think about the cat meme? Do you think it’s played out, or is it still just as funny as when Harry Pointer created the first Lolcat back in the 1870s?