Voting for this year’s prestigious Golden Kitty award took place back in July, with cat video fans getting to nominate a peoples’ choice pick to be screened at the grand Internet Cat Video Festival. The winner emerged as a smart flick titled Cat Behavior Finally Explained, created by the CATastrophes team.
In the footage, a pair of toy kitty paws are used to let us in on the psychology behind a series of finicky feline japes. Nattily, it’s suggested that cats go around opening cabinets and knocking over glasses of water while accumulating video game-style points for each task. Who knew, eh?
Ahead of this weekend’s Internet Cat Video Festival soiree in Chicago (the festival is touring through 2015), I spoke to Alana Grelyak, co-creator of the CATastrophes web series, about the psychology of kitty conduct, filming with Lil BUB, and the widespread appeal of cat videos.
Catster: What inspired the Cat Behavior Finally Explained video?
Alana Grelyak: This video was a little atypical for us because we didn’t spend a lot of time writing a script, other than the voiceover part, which came after the filming. Michael [Gabriele] had this idea that he wanted to show a cat being naughty using these CatPaw toys we found on Amazon, and we thought it would be cute to spoof the old Mastercard “Priceless” commercials. It all came together really well just from us messing around and having fun, which is usually how we make our best pieces.
Where did the idea that cats go through the day allocating themselves points for everything they do come from?
It was the most ridiculous thing we could think of to try to explain why cats have such bizarre behaviors. Michael and I both love to play video games, and I think he was playing around with something called Goat Simulator at one point and thought it would be funny if a cat’s only motivation was point collection. Since we make so many videos, we literally look everywhere for our inspiration.
So you already had the cat paws used in the video, right?
Yeah, they’re actually a product called CatPaw! from Wicked Cool Toys. They’re made of little plastic puppet feet covered in a sort of fake puppet fur.
Did any of your own cats attempt to play with the paws while you were filming
Definitely! They got into legitimate arguments with the paws a few times, which we thought was hilarious.
If you could remake the video, is there any additional cat behavior you’d add to it?
Louie has been doing a lot of gentle face petting lately when he’s snuggling me — I think that would have been cute to add in. Also, Sprinkle has been stealing all of my tortillas and pitas lately using her foot, which is probably something most people can relate to — pita theft.
Lil BUB is also at the Internet Cat Video Festival. Have you ever worked with her?
Yes, last year! Mike Bridavsky let us film at his studio in Indianapolis, and we came up with ChronoCATastrophe, in which BUB plays a cat named Wellington who functions as a time machine. We filmed with BUB for most of the day, and she was a great sport. It was one of our earliest films in the series and is more of what we initially saw the series as being — something with longer pieces with a lot of set changes but released less frequently. After we started making more films, we realized we wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand if they were all on that scope, so we had to streamline and turn them into shorter, less complicated scripts.
Henri Le Chat Noir and his owner Will Braden famously won the first ever Golden Kitty award. What’s your favorite Henri video?
I rather like L’Haunting. It made me laugh out loud numerous times because there were some unexpected things. It was a fresh look at Halloween, and I loved the ending.
How have your own cats reacted to the appearance of the Golden Kitty award
With great suspicion and a few well-directed swats to its shiny face.
The popularity of cat videos doesn’t seem to be fading. Why do you think so many people enjoy them?
I get asked this a lot. I think one of the reasons, initially, was because we couldn’t see cats out and about and this allowed us a view into their world. People who didn’t realize cats could be funny were suddenly being exposed to a whole new side of an animal with such a stoic and aloof stereotype. At this point, we all know how cats act, and I think it has almost become a cult status type of thing.
There are more and more videos, the competition is getting tougher, and people are taking them to a new level; but at the same time, films produced using a camera phone are still welcomed and appreciated, so many people of all skill levels can take part as active filmmakers. An entire subculture has grown up around cat videos and cats in general.
When I became a blogger, I was floored by the number of cat blogs and groups that suddenly become available to me that I had no idea were there. There are innumerable cat lovers in the world, and they have finally been able to connect around a creature who is beloved to them all.
The next touring show of the Internet Cat Video Festival takes place Sept. 19 at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago. If you can’t make the event, drown your sorrows by watching Cat Behavior Finally Explained below!
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About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.