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Published on November 12th, 2012 | by Carleanne O'Donoghue

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It’s all getting cat crazy

A cat with i†s head inside a cardboard packet

Cats are taking the internet by storm [LOLcats]

Whether we like them or not, photographs of cats have taken over a deep corner of the internet, so much so that The Photographers’ Gallery in London has opened an exhibition dedicated to the display or funny photos of our feline counterparts.

But what is it that we love – or hate – so much about them?

The new exhibition, named For The LOL Of Cats: Felines, Photography and the Web, running until January 6, also invites visitors to share pictures of their own cats, something that the crazier of us probably do a lot on social networking sites anyway.

Comedian Sarah Millican recently took to Twitter to announce the arrival of her new ginger tabby – Chief Brody – and pretty much just paints herself to be a crazy cat lady these days.  But again, why is it so popular?

Cat Craze

Hunting through various websites, including LOLcats.com and Icanhascheeseburger.com, I found no reasoning behind the madness and just discovered ‘breading’ instead.

For those of you that don’t know what this is, it is when you hollow out a loaf of bread and effectively turn your own cat into a carbohydrate robot.

Apparently the cat craze goes even further back than the invention of the internet.

Elspeth Rowntree, co-founder of knowyourmeme.com, told mashable.com: “There are a few constants not only on the internet, but throughout modern culture — an interest in all things ‘cute.’

“Starting in the 1870s with Harry Pointer and his carte de visite featuring cats with amusing captions, to our modern day incarnation of LOLcats, popular culture has taken interest in kittens, cats, babies, and puppies.

“They’re the perfect distraction from our hectic lives. You don’t need any explanation or prior knowledge to understand the slapstick humor that animals provide. Cat videos and images are a quick hit of pure, unfettered ‘cute.’ They’re also entertainment in easily digestible doses.”

Despite this, anybody who owns a cat will know how annoying they can be. These fluffy primadonnas constantly want to be fed, stroked and given every ounce of your attention. It’s hardly surprising that they’re portrayed to be evil in many films.

Cory Alder, creator of the popular iPhone app Cat Paint, also told mashable.com; “It ‘s not just because they’re cute. That would be a huge over-simplification. If it were, I would have made KittenPaint or PuppyPaint, not CatPaint.

Cats are awesome and enigmatic. They even have a hint of the danger about them. I read somewhere that scientists say that cats domesticated themselves. We domesticated dogs and made them into what we thought we wanted, but cats made themselves into what we actually wanted.”

Light relief 

But what if it is not because they’re cute or not cute? Are they popular because they’re actually perfect projections of the human form? Is that why The Photographers’ Gallery has taken on such an odd exhibition?

We all know cats can get themselves into the most hilarious predicaments. Just the other day I was walking past a bin that a massive black cat promptly jumped out of, causing me to throw cola all over myself.

My own cat regularly gets stuck in the window as he attempts to escape the house forgetting how fat he is. His name is Lightning, and this couldn’t be further from the truth really.

Hundreds of online forums seemed to tell me that people just enjoy cats being humiliated because they have an air of dignity about them. They sleep in weird places, hang about upside down, chase lasers, birds, and butterflies, fall flat on their bums and always seem crazily pleased about it afterwards. You just don’t get that with dogs.

“Why do you think so many people meditate and practice yoga? We are seeking to be more cat-like” Burnell Yow

It’s fair to question why people choose to spend so much time creating these humorous, time-wasting memes and pictures for others to enjoy when you can use the internet – one of the most powerful tools on the planet – to do a whole host of other things.

Student Abu Shadar, 26, studying BA Product Design at Central Saint Martins, said: “I think that the only reason cats are so popular online is because the internet is so big. Obviously if it was very small it would be being used for other things of national importance like security.

“But because it is so massive literally everything is available, and people just think cats are funny. I’d never admit it to my friends, but when I was younger I spent hours looking at cat memes on Icanhascheeseburger. They were hilarious.”

Burnell Yow, a personal assistant to an internet famous cat who plays the piano, said; “Cats seem totally comfortable being exactly what they are and they are totally alive to the moment, which is something we as humans have lost sight of.

“Though we are trying to get back to that enlightened state. Why do you think so many people meditate and practice yoga? We are seeking to be more cat-like, and perhaps our embracing of cats is simply the embracing of what we know to be essential in ourselves.”

So cats are apparently popular because we want to be cats ourselves? There will never be a clear reason why LOLcats are so loved.

As long as we have too much time on our hands and a desire to escape the mundanity of everyday life there will always be a funny cat waiting to make your day on the internet somewhere.

You know what they say; if you can’t beat them, join them – I’m off to turn my own cat into a massive Kingsmill robot.

You can visit the Photographers’ Gallery for free at 16 – 18 Ramillies Street, London, W1F 7LW on Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm, Thursday 10am – 8pm and Sunday 11.30am – 6pm

 

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