Do Cats Actually Enjoy Going Viral? The Truth Behind Your Feline’s Reaction to Being Filmed


Cat videos have taken the Internet by storm. According to one source Scientists Explain Why Watching Internet Cat Videos Is Good For You, nearly 2 million cat videos were posted to YouTube in 2014 alone, garnering over 26 billion views. It’s clear that these cute and entertaining clips have captured the hearts and minds of Internet users everywhere. But what about the feline stars themselves? How do cats really feel about being in viral videos seen by millions? In this article, we’ll explore whether cat videos are frustrating for cats by looking at the filming process, analyzing common video scenarios, and considering the ethics around cat videos.

Brief History of Cat Videos

The first known cat video can be traced back to 1894 when Thomas Edison filmed two cats boxing. According to an article from the Observer, this silent black-and-white film marked the beginning of humans filming cats for entertainment. However, cat videos did not gain widespread popularity until the rise of social media and video sharing platforms in the 2000s.

In 2005, a clip of a cat playing the piano became one of the first cat videos to go viral on early YouTube. By 2006, Susan Boyle created the first YouTube channel dedicated solely to cat videos. Over the next few years, YouTube cat celebrities like Maru, Henri and Grumpy Cat amassed millions of views. According to the Observer, by 2012 cat videos accounted for about 10% of all views on YouTube.

The popularity of cat videos continued to skyrocket through the 2010s. In 2012, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis hosted the first-ever Cat Video Festival. Major news outlets like CNN, ABC and Forbes began reporting on internet cat celebrities. Clearly, sharing funny or cute cat moments online has become a global phenomenon.

Do Cats Understand Cat Videos?

Cats do not recognize themselves when they see videos of themselves, despite appearing interested in cat videos. According to research by Popular Science, cats lack the ability for self-recognition that humans and some other animals possess. When a cat sees a video of themselves, they do not realize it is their own image.

Cats mainly rely on their sense of smell rather than vision for self-identification. Smell provides cats with information they cannot get from simply looking in a mirror or seeing a video image. While cats may be intrigued by moving images of cats, they do not understand that they are watching themselves. Their vision is focused on movement and stimuli rather than visual self-recognition.

Overall, current evidence indicates cats do not have the cognitive capacity to recognize their own image or understand videos in the same way humans do. Their interest is driven by the movement and stimuli on the screen rather than any self-awareness or deeper understanding that it is themselves they are viewing.

Common Cat Video Scenarios

Some of the most popular types of cat videos feature cats in common scenarios that viewers find funny or entertaining. These include:

Cat fail videos – These videos show cats attempting to jump or complete other actions but failing in humorous ways, often falling off furniture or missing their target. The fails are usually harmless and cats are unharmed.

Scared cat videos – Cats may become startled by sudden sounds, movements, or unfamiliar objects. Their “scaredy cat” reaction of jumping straight up or running away is captured on video for comic effect.

Cat vs. thing videos – Cats curiously investigate or play with objects like printers, cucumbers, mirrors, boxes, fans, etc. Their confusion, caution, and chaotic reaction when the object moves or operates is a source of entertainment.

Cat treats videos – One of the most popular types of cat videos on social media is cat with treats videos. These videos are all about cats enjoying their favorite snacks or meals, often with funny facial expressions.

Cat playing videos – Playful behavior like chasing toys, pouncing, and energetic zoomies allow people to see the active side of house cats at play.

Stress Signals in Cats

Cats exhibit both behavioral and physical signs when they are feeling stressed or anxious. Some of the most common stress signals in cats include:

Dilated Pupils – A stressed cat’s pupils will usually dilate and become larger. This is an involuntary response as the cat becomes hypervigilant to potential threats in the environment (1).

Lashing Tail – A cat’s tail may begin twitching or thrashing from side to side rapidly. This shows their agitation. An extremely stressed cat may even puff up or bush out their tail (2).

Hiding – Cats feeling overwhelmed may try to retreat and hide under furniture or in small enclosed spaces. They want to get away from the stressor.

Aggression – Some stressed cats may redirect their anxiety into aggressive behaviors like hissing, swatting, or biting. This is a fear-based reaction.

Excessive Grooming – Stress can cause cats to over-groom themselves by licking, chewing, or pulling out their fur. This self-soothing behavior can lead to hairballs or bald spots.

Recognizing these signals allows cat owners to identify stressors and modify the environment to better meet the cat’s needs. Minimizing a cat’s stress promotes good mental and physical health.

Filming Process

The filming process can potentially cause stress for cats if not handled properly. Cats are sensitive animals and their wellbeing should be the top priority during any video production. Shooting for long periods under bright lights or amid loud noises can agitate cats. Likewise, restricting their movement for prolonged takes or making them perform unnatural actions may distress them.

Experts recommend taking several precautions to minimize stress when filming cats. Keep takes brief, allowing the cat to rest frequently in a quiet, comfortable area. Avoid rigging cameras or props that could startle the cat. Work patiently to get shots, don’t force poses or actions. Use treats and positive reinforcement, not punishment or deprivation. Monitor for signs of stress like ears back, enlarged pupils, agitation, hiding, or vocalizations. If the cat exhibits stress, stop filming immediately and allow them to calm down. The filming environment should be a safe, enriching space for cats.

With proper care and handling, the filming process does not have to be inherently stressful for feline stars. By following best practices and prioritizing the cat’s wellbeing over getting the perfect shot, producers can create entertaining cat videos ethically. A relaxed, happy cat will translate better on camera anyways.

Short vs Long Takes

When it comes to cat videos, there is an important distinction between short funny clips and longer videos in terms of the stress levels cats experience. According to research from, cats tend to experience more stress and anxiety during longer video shoots. This is because longer takes require extended filming time and repeated takes, which can be frustrating and tiring for cats.

Short funny clips, on the other hand, capture moments spontaneously, requiring little participation from the cat. A quick joke or blooper reel is less demanding than a scripted, choreographed TikTok or YouTube video. The cat is not expected to perform behaviors or actions repeatedly. This lower pressure environment leads to less stress for cats during short video shoots.

Additionally, research shows stress signals like dilated pupils, pinned back ears, and agitated tail movements occur more frequently during longer cat video shoots. Cats exhibit fewer of these anxious behaviors in short clips where they are observed naturally rather than placed in awkward situations intentionally.

In conclusion, when assessing cat videos it’s important to consider the filming time and process. Short spontaneous clips tend to be lower stress for cats than highly produced, extended videos requiring repetitive takes. Looking for signs of anxiety can help viewers discern if a cat was truly enjoying the filming experience.

Viral Cat Videos

Viral cat videos rise rapidly in online popularity due to their humorous or cute nature. However, some researchers have questioned if virality correlates with higher stress levels for the cats featured (1). One study analyzed the facial expressions and behaviors of cats in YouTube videos to categorize stress levels from low to high. They found over 50% of viral cat videos depicted cats in moderate to high stress situations (1). Common high stress scenarios included cats startled by cucumbers, trapped in boxes, scared by vacuum cleaners, or distressed by owners. Experts caution that while cats may appear humorous in these unexpected situations, the stress can negatively impact feline welfare long-term (1). Owners are advised to carefully evaluate video concepts and limit filming duration to avoid overly stressing cats for the sake of viral content.


Ethical Considerations

When creating cat videos, it’s important to be mindful of the well-being of the cats involved. Some key guidelines for responsible cat video creation and monitoring for cat stress include:

  • Obtain informed consent from cat owners before filming their cats (source). Do not exploit cats or film without permission.
  • Closely monitor cats for any signs of stress during filming such as dilated pupils, licking lips, trembling, or trying to hide (source). Immediately stop filming if the cat appears distressed.
  • Keep filming sessions brief, under 5 minutes, and allow the cat to take breaks (source). Avoid repeated takes.
  • Do not put cats in risky or dangerous situations just for the sake of entertaining footage.
  • Consider the cat’s personality and preferences. An outgoing cat may enjoy filming more than a shy cat.
  • Provide positive reinforcement and treats. Make it a rewarding experience for the cat.
  • Avoid using shock tactics or startling cats for reactions.

With proper care and caution, cat videos can be created in an ethical, cat-friendly manner that monitors and prevents stress.


In summary, while cats may not fully comprehend cat videos in the same way humans do, there are some important factors to consider when filming cat videos to avoid causing undue stress or frustration for our feline stars. Key learnings include:

– Cats have limited understanding of screens/videos. They may recognize themselves, but do not interpret videos in the same complex, abstract ways humans do.

– Loud noises, chaotic environments, uncomfortable handling and restraint can stress cats during filming. This can negatively impact their welfare.

– Short, focused takes are preferable to long, uncontrolled shoots which increase chances of distress.

– Ethical practices like positive reinforcement and ensuring cats have escape routes can make for happier feline experiences.

With proper consideration for cats’ comfort and psychology during production, it is certainly possible to create cat videos that captivate audiences without frustrating our furry friends. However, we must be mindful of cats’ limited comprehension of media when producing it solely for human entertainment. In the end, their wellbeing should take priority over viral success.

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