The Secret to Cat Videos’ Viral Fame


What is it about cat videos that captures the Internet’s obsession and makes them go viral time after time? With billions of views and millions of videos, cute cats staring into cameras, jumping into boxes, playing with toys, or getting the zoomies have captivated viewers across the world. Though cats have been popular pets for centuries, it was the rise of platforms like YouTube that launched feline videos into the stratosphere of Internet fame. Something about their wide eyes, soft paws kneading, and hilarious antics seems to resonate with humans on a deep level. While dogs may be man’s best friend, when it comes to the Internet, cats seem to be humanity’s favorite furry companion.


The popularity of cat videos dates all the way back to the early days of the internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sites like YouTube and Flickr allowed users to easily upload and share videos and photos of their pets with the world. As more people gained access to affordable digital cameras and internet connections, posting photos and clips of cats became commonplace.

According to Wikipedia, some of the earliest viral cat videos on the internet include clips like “Keyboard Cat” from 1984, the dancing cat “Henri, le Chat Noir” from 2006, and the “Surprised Kitty” from 2009 ( As YouTube grew into a global video platform, cat videos quickly became some of the most popular content.

Cats have continued their online fame on modern social media. Popular Instagram cats like Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, and Nala Cat have millions of followers. The evolution from early YouTube to internet stardom has cemented cats as one of the defining subjects of internet culture.


Humans have had an affinity for cats for thousands of years. Even ancient Egyptians revered cats as gods. But in the modern digital era, cat videos have enthralled millions of viewers. Psychologists have theorized why humans are so drawn to watching cat videos.

According to a 2015 study by Jessica Gall Myrick at Indiana University Media School, watching cat videos can boost people’s energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings (Washington Post). The study found that even people who considered themselves dog lovers felt uplifted after watching Internet cats. Another study from the same year by Dr. Andrea Samson at the University of Missouri found that watching cat videos online leads to an increase in positive emotions and a sense of wellbeing (NBC News).

One theory is that humans are evolutionally predisposed to focus on animals and find them captivating. Cats in particular display many infantile features that appeal to our nurturing instincts. Their playfulness and silly antics also amuse us. Furthermore, the popularity of cat videos reveals a global sense of community and shared appreciation for our feline friends.

Viral Hits

Some of the most famous and beloved cat videos are those that have gone viral online. These videos capture the hearts and attention of viewers, leading to widespread sharing across social media and immortalization as pop culture icons.

One of the earliest viral cat video stars was Keyboard Cat, who shot to fame in 1984 with a clip of a cat named Fatso dressed in a shirt and playing a keyboard. The video went viral again in 2007 after being uploaded to YouTube, gaining over 40 million views (–8514686771986540/).

Maru is another famous feline who has charmed millions with videos of him squeezing into boxes and bags in creative ways. His YouTube channel has over 377 million views (

Lil Bub became a viral star due to her unique appearance and health conditions, with over 2.5 million Facebook fans. She even authored a book that made the New York Times’ best seller list (

Many other cat videos have reached viral fame online, from startled cats to music remixes. Their widespread popularity demonstrates the power of cute and silly cat content to capture an audience.

Emotional Impact

One of the main reasons cat videos have become so popular online is because of their feel-good nature and stress-relieving effects. Multiple studies have shown that watching cat videos can provide a quick mood boost. In a 2015 study published in Computers in Human Behavior, researchers found that watching cat videos online led to higher positive emotions and lower negative emotions among viewers (Myrick, 2015). This mood boosting effect is likely due to the cute nature of cats and the amusing things they do in videos. Cats can be both adorable and hilarious at the same time.

Another study published in Current Biology had participants watch videos of either cats or birds and then perform tasks to measure their mood and energy levels afterwards. The researchers found that people felt more energetic, positive and in a better mood after watching cat videos compared to bird videos or no video (Myrick, 2015). This suggests that cat videos provide a quick pick-me-up that can relieve stress and boost someone’s mood.

The shareable and bite-sized nature of cat videos has allowed them to become one of the internet’s go-to quick fixes for improving a bad mood. Their uplifting emotional impact makes them the perfect form of cute animal content to spread happiness online.


Cat videos have fostered a strong sense of community among enthusiasts, with many dedicated online groups forming around shared love for funny felines. Major hubs include the Cat Video Festival (Kitty Kat Fan Club), Only Cat Fans YouTube channel, and fan sites like Fanpop’s Cats club, where fans connect through photos, videos, forums and more.

Enthusiasts also come together at annual CatCon conventions, which feature vendors, speakers, and of course cat videos galore. These events allow cat lovers to celebrate internet cat culture in real life. The in-person camaraderie shows that while cat videos may be digital, the community they create is very real.


Cat videos have become big business, with some content creators earning significant ad revenue from viral hits. Platforms like YouTube allow creators to monetize their videos through ad placements, and popular cat videos can generate millions of views and substantial income for their owners. According to one analysis, the most-viewed cat video on YouTube, Maru’s “大きな箱と小さな箱” (“Big box and small box”) has earned over $10 million in ad revenue since it was posted in 2012.

Beyond ad revenues, owners of famous internet cat brands have capitalized on their pets’ popularity by merchandising products and partnering with corporate sponsors. Grumpy Cat, whose frowning expression sparked an internet meme, has appeared on merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, and plush toys that have generated over $100 million in sales. Lil Bub, a cat with unique physical features, landed sponsorship deals with companies like Virgin America. The commercial success of these cat celebrities demonstrates the money-making potential when a pet goes viral online.


Cat videos have become a creative outlet and art form for both professional and amateur videographers. While cat videos may seem simple on the surface, creators employ various techniques and trends to produce compelling content. Slow motion, music, captions, costumes, and clever editing are often used to highlight cute or funny cat behaviors. Videographers get creative with camera angles, props, locations, and scenarios to showcase their feline stars.

Some cat videos are elaborately produced, almost like mini movies, while others capture spontaneous cat moments. In 2013, cat food brand Friskies recognized cat videos as an art form by launching the Friskies awards show. According to Friskies brand manager Shaun Belongie, “We started The Friskies because we wanted to recognize and validate cat videos as art form. Movies have the Oscars, TV has the Emmys, music has the Grammys, and now Internet cat videos have an award show of their very own.”1 The Friskies awards celebrated the creativity and craft behind cat videos, much like traditional awards shows do for cinema and television.


While cat videos have become immensely popular, they have also faced some criticism over the years. Some argue that watching cat videos is a waste of time and provides no real value. Critics contend that cat videos represent mindless entertainment and take away time from more meaningful pursuits (

Others express concern that the popularity of cat videos leads to people exploiting cats for profit and attention. They worry that the desire to create viral cat content results in cats being put in uncomfortable situations simply for views and likes. There are worries that the compulsion to record cat videos can lead to cats being disturbed when they desire peace and quiet (

While cat videos have brought joy to many, some criticize their frivolous nature and express concern over the potential for exploitation. Despite these criticisms, cats maintain an immense, loyal following online.


In summary, cat videos have become immensely popular on the internet for a variety of reasons. Cats are naturally curious, playful, and often mischievous, which leads to entertaining and unpredictable behavior caught on video. Watching cat videos produces positive emotions and laughter in viewers, providing a quick escape and mood boost. The cuteness of cats triggers our nurturing instincts. Sharing silly cat videos helps connect people across the world who love cats. YouTube cat videos have become their own viral phenomenon, with certain celebrities like Keyboard Cat and Lil Bub. Of course, the popularity of cat videos has also led some to criticize them as a waste of time or symptomatic of broader problems with the internet. But ultimately, cat videos endure because they provide joy, comfort, and comic relief from the stresses of life.

The universal appeal of cats doing funny, adorable, or weird things will likely make cat videos popular online as long as cats exist. As more people share the quirky adventures of their own cats, these furry animals will continue charming and amusing the internet indefinitely.

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