The Internet Cat Video Festival attracts thousands, online and offline

The Internet Cat Video Festival attracts thousands, online and offline

It’s week six of my blog challenge to respond to my favourite columnist Caitlin Moran each week. These blogs, unlike 99% of what I write and tweet, are meant to be non-theatrical, but with a topic like cats, you’ll forgive me – and Andrew Lloyd Webber – a few minuscule digressions.

You can read more about why I started doing this weekly blog here. As always, I encourage you to also read Caitlin’s original Times piece (summary and outtakes below, are her words, not mine).

Dear Caitlin

Thanks for the warning that you’re a cat owner. That means, if and when I do ever receive an invitation to your home, I’ll have to dose up on antihistamines beforehand.

I’ve always been allergic to cats, and had many a sleepover at catty abodes ruined by sneezing, wheezing or simply ceasing to have the ability to draw breath. As a result, I’ve never got very friendly with felines – unless, you’re talking about the ones with a capital C (yes, that’s the first Lloyd Webber Cats reference) – and I don’t find them the slightest bit irresistible.

1) There are good reasons to dislike cats beyond allergic reactions.

As you point out yourself…

“It’s very hard for me to say what I am about to say. But: I am a cat hater. I hate my cat.
It’s taken me nine years to admit, reluctantly, that this is my emotion towards her. But it is. A quiet, eye-rolling, “What a dick,” at everything she does. “What a bell.” She’s just a terrible, terrible animal.”

From where I’m sitting, that applies to yours and most other cats, Caitlin. Are you aware of just how terribly manipulative these little pussies are too? Here are some other ways they bamboozle their owners:

  1. Rubbing up against your leg – When a cat winds around your leg or rubs against some other body part, purring away, this is not his attempt at affection or seduction. He’s effectively branding you, marking his territory by smearing his kitty scent on you so other cats know to back off.
  2. Grooming themselves – No, they are not doing this to look good for you. They’ve already put their scent on you; this is their way of getting your scent off of them. They want to rid themselves of the alien human stench. When they lick their fur, the glands beneath their skin are stimulated and release more of their own scent.
  3. Bringing you home ‘gifts’ – This is not your cat being generous, this is her way of showing you what a great hunter she is, and conversely, what a bad hunter you are. “Where are your kills….?” is effectively the condescending message here, and one which leads to…

2) Cats are lethal killers.

Big time. Cats are Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Fred West rolled into one. According to a 2013 report by the Mammal Society, coyly titled What the Cat Brought In, the average cat kills 30 to 40 creatures a year – which equates to some 275 million cat ‘murders’ annually.

While, if you’ve ever worked in certain West End theatres, you may not be shedding many tears for the 80 million mouse deaths amongst that number, but the Mammal Society isn’t happy. Cats’ prey also includes endangered species like water voles.

Dog ownership is also on the rise, but not increasing as sharply as cat ownership

Dog ownership is also on the rise, but not increasing as sharply as cat ownership

3) Cat – and pet – ownership is on the rise.

Despite all this, more and more of you gullible types are welcoming cats into your homes.

Indeed, there’s been a significant surge in pet ownership overall over the past few decades, and in particular cats and dogs. In the US, the domesticated dog and cat population has risen from 96.4 million in 1981 to 145.2 million in 2013. More than half of all American households now have at least one or the other (or in my cousin’s case in Atlanta, thanks to his fur-crazy wife, a full baker’s dozen!).

Why the rise? It’s theorised that pets help fill various needs created by the increasing urbanization and fragmentation of society: they help us feel closer to nature, they offer companionship for the greater numbers of unmarried people living alone, they provide a measure of security in the home (we’ll assume that applies more to dogs than cats). Whatever the reasons, numerous studies have shown that pets – and the mere physicality of stroking them – contributes to emotional and psychological wellbeing.

4) Cats dominate by more than a whisker online. And offline too.

Breaking down the numbers above a little more, and crossing the Atlantic:

  • Between 1981 and 2013, the US pet cat population grew by 29 million versus 19.8 million for dogs (source: Pet Food Institute)
  • In Europe today, there are estimated 83 million pet cats versus 75 million pet cats (source: European Pet Food Industry)

And so to our frenzied feline online obsession…

“One of the few absolute truths about the internet is that however angry, abusive and outright warlike things may get on Twitter, there is one thing everyone can agree on: cats. Should the conversation become fraught on the subject of Israel, feminism or the possibility of a black James Bond, the cry will go up: ‘Bring out the emergency cat pictures!’ And out they come: cats wearing hats, cats looking grumpy, cats in small boxes, kittens falling off things. And everyone, unfailingly, calms down again.

“On the internet, cats are like the football being carried into no man’s land on Christmas Eve in the First World War. Cats are the pipe of peace we all puff on. Everyone loves cats. Over the years, they have emerged as the only serious hope humanity has of ever coming together. It will be for the kitties.”

Anyone who’s ever spent more than ten minutes online in their life already knows this to be true. To underscore the phenomenon, know this: any cat listicle on Buzzfeed achieves almost four times as many views as a dog-related one, racking up an average 9,000 views (is that in the first hour?). I’m sure YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and the rest can supply further viral data.

We interrupt this anti-cat diatribe for a celebratory slideshow. If you can’t beat them, join them. No, I won’t be purchasing a pussy any time soon – well, ever. But I did find it mildly amusing collecting some of the pics below.

I purposely steered clear of Internet ‘celebucats’ like Grumpy Cat (one of the many agented cats, who has recently starred in his own Hollywood film – the mind boggles – and has, wait for it, 267,000 Twitter followers) to throw the spotlight on lesser-known, and often grammatically challenged, felines on, one of the web’s most popular sites dedicated to “funny cat pictures with hilarious captions!” Even these net ‘nobodies’ are more famous than I’ll ever be – individual photos regularly attract tens of thousands of likes and shares.

For the filmically inclined felines, you should also tune into the Internet Cat Video Festival. Launched in Minneapolis in 2012, the “first offline celebration of online cats” is now an annual event attracting tens of thousands of entries from around the world, huge crowds to the live open-air event and multiple encore screenings.

5) Onstage Cats are a different story.

The cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats at the London Palladium, West End

The cast of Cats at the London Palladium

For more own offline entertainment, I’d rather stick to theatre. And so to my final Andrew Lloyd Webber Cats reference – the current West End revival at the London Palladium has extended booking until 25 April 2015, with the always brilliant Kerry Ellis taking over from former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella, the glamour cat, from next Monday 9 February. For tickets to see Cats that won’t aggravate your allergies, click here. 

Thanks, Caitlin. For a blog based on a pet peeve, I learnt an awful lot!

Until next week,




‘I can see why Schrödinger put that cat in that box’

Cats may have a calming effect online, but at home, over nine years, Caitlin has come to hate her own pet cat – and counts the reasons why…