For a particular portion of the human population, the Internet (or that’s maybe just Tumblr in particular) probably equates an infinite reservoir of cat related media. Googling “c-a-t” and scrolling through the plethora of feline images might just be enough to make a suicidal person feeling warm and fuzzy inside. If that isn’t good enough, YouTube and Vines have a stock of videos involving cats cuddling other animals, punching bigger beasts, fitting themselves into impossibly small rooms, high on catnip, chasing their own tails and so on. Hundreds of these uploaded daily, and they receive way more attention relative to most other animal-themed videos. There were more than 2 million cat videos uploaded to YouTube with close to 26 billion views into 2014 alone, receiving more views per video than any other type of YouTube content. Involving cats might just be a go-to way to produce viral Internet content.
Images and videos of cats actually seem to have unexplainable therapeutic properties. Why do we feel this odd but cheery warmth emanating from cat videos? It was actually found that cat video does not only just entertain us human beings, but actually boosts viewer’s energy and positive emotions while reducing negative feelings! Participants of a recent study involving a survey reported feeling positively vitalized and lowered upsetness after watching cat-themed media. Interestingly enough, it was also found that we often procrastinate a task at hand just to watch cat videos, and more often than not, the heightened cheerfulness triumphs over the guilt of procrastination. From this, it was inferred that the emotional payoff from cat video watching can actually give people the boost to tackle difficult tasks at hand later!
Some may be groaning along the lines of “Thanks Sherlock!” for stating the blatant obvious about watching cat videos boosting our positivity…just like most forms of entertainment. Still this is one of the first studies to examine this phenomena under an empirical lens and actually provides us the luxury of defending our feline fetish (when confronted by an angry Asian parent) with a straight face: because science.
Still, notice that this still doesn’t entirely address the question of how cat videos actually heighten our positive emotions as the researchers are of media studies background instead of psychologym̶a̶s̶t̶e̶r̶r̶a̶c̶e̶. It does seems like we are at an impasse to answer one of the most enigmatic question of mankind’s civilization, but Mashable writer Amy-Mae Elliott presented her two-cents on this matter. One interesting point brought up was the facial and body expression of cats make them the “perfect canvas for human expression”.
Cats may happen to be the most expressive organism, at least on the Internet, and our imaginations feed on those expressions. We can easily project our emotions or thoughts onto feline expression, spread them around, and not have these meanings lost in the process.
This phenomenon actually does apply to any other animal, but why cats seem to be the most popular of the lot? Dogs would prove to be a strong contender for the Man’s Best Friend-On- The-Internet award, but why do they still trail behind cats by a significant mile? It was postulated that dogs are much more predictable than cats, losing that enigmatic, unreadable, “up-and-down” quality exhibited by generic felines, which is actually rather vital for leaving emotional impressions. Jack Shepherd, Buzzfeed’s very own community manager suggested that it is actually “the very aloofness of cats that makes us want to caption their thoughts” over the canines that are eager to impress, perhaps too eager, to a fault.
Not-so-guilty pleasure: Viewing cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions, IU study finds http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2015/06/internet-cat-video-research.shtml
The Million Dollar Question: Why Does the Web Love Cats? http://mashable.com/2010/10/21/why-does-the-web-love-cats/
Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect? http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215004343
Featured header image retrieved from 25.media.tumblr.com