We Took a Vote and Chose Cat

by Liz Colville

By now, we know that the cat is the most popular animal on the Internet, the “official mascot of the Internet,” if you will, and Leigh Alexander will (did), in a lovely explanation on Thought Catalog of why the cat was anointed with this title. Strangely, or not, research actually shows that in the real world, where the majority of research is still conducted, the dog is more popular than the cat:

almost 42 percent of Americans self-identify as ‘dog people’ versus only 12 percent who reported they are ‘cat people’. About 28 percent said ‘both’ and 15 percent said ‘neither’. Which means that according to this dude’s research, more people dislike both types of furry housepets than express a distinct cat preference.

The environment of the Internet, it could be said, can more easily sway a person with no preference for, or an outright dislike of, cats to change his mind. Regardless, things are quite different online. In fact:

…the internet widely prefers cats. Some of the most popular Internet memes are related to cats. The /b/, or ‘random’ section of popular image board 4chan, which is reputed to be a ‘den of festering evil’ by people who wince anxiously and mispronounce ‘4chan’ while chatting in office cubicles, once routinely created an entire ‘holiday’ devoted to posting cat pictures. As most common internet culture memes are derivatives, loosely, of things people did on 4chan three years prior, it is unsurprising that the ‘Caturday’ holiday became, like, ‘a thing’ for people who would self-identify as moderate to heavy internet users.

I would say we love them so partly because a cat’s cuteness, unless that cat is Nermal, tends to be self-conscious — accidental, casual, unintentional — a result of some mistake, being caught off-guard, or simply appearing more endearing in contrast to the tongue-wagging, attention-seeking canine. And in terms of us Internet dwellers, it’s also deeply psychological, and transparently so: we relate to these kitties; they make staying inside all the time seem AOK. Dog lovers are off doing other things, while we and the cats are stuck at home, snuggled inside a sleeping bag with a computer on our laps (just me (and my cat)?), wearing things that we think a cat might find comfortable should she or he wish at some point to settle on our lap (the computer can move):

…people who are dog people are probably doing things like throwing a Frisbee outside, painting a fence in suburbia, driving to a relevant chain restaurant or giving birth to children in a hospital setting, not going online creating Tumblrs.

And indeed, the research Alexander mentioned earlier found a solid correlation between personality traits and pet preferences:

“Dog people were generally about 15 percent more extroverted, 13 percent more agreeable and 11 percent more conscientious than cat people” and “Cat people were generally about 12 percent more neurotic and 11 percent more open than dog people”.

Which explains why owning both is so very confusing and will leave such people to continually ask themselves Who They Are Anymore. Fortunately, the Internet is very good at helping us answer such questions.