Why Do We Love Cat Videos So Much? A New Book Has Answers


With an audience of more than 10,000, the first Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis was kind of like cat Woodstock. Yeah, I said that. All these people turning up for cat videos? Something was going on, something was in the air, give cats a chance, power to the cats, and so on.

But why cats? Why now? Why Lil BUB? Why Colonel Meow? Why are people standing in lines and Beatle screaming at cats, who have lived undisturbed for centuries underfoot? How many Lil BUBs have lived and died without ever being the subject of a documentary or book or T-shirt line? Hello Kitty toiled away on lunch boxes for generations before we collectively lost our minds over her, and she’s not even a cat, or she’s just sort of a cat.

The sudden popularity of cats is the great question of our age. (One of them at least. The others have to do with wearable tech and Game of Thrones and whether or not to pay interns.)

Fortunately, Coffee House Press is not the sort of operation to just ask questions about cat videos. It wants answers. When staff members left that first cat video fest, their wheels started turning. They wanted to figure out this thing about cat videos, and they set out to create a project, according to their Kickstarter page, “not just about cat videos, but also about how we decide what is good or bad art, or art at all; about how taste develops, how that can change, and why we love or hate something. It’s about people and the Internet and why there are so many more cat videos than dog ones.”

What does that all mean? It means they’re putting together a book called, Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong, to be published Sept. 15, featuring all sorts of art and culture writers explaining the hell out of cats and cat videos.

And to pay those writers, Coffee House Press has been running a Kickstarter that still needs more than $6,000 to hit the $25,000 goal. You want writers to be paid, right? Writers who write about cats and cat videos? Head over there and spend some money; the campaign has only two days to go (it ends Sept. 13) and they need help.

To get you in the mood, here’s Henri Le Chat Noir talking about the book:

As for those writers, it’s an impressive bunch. Here are a few of them and what they’re writing about:

  • Alexis Madrigal, deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, on Instagram and cats.
  • The poet and critic Stephen Burt on time-wasting and cat videos.
  • Jillian Steinhauer, senior editor at Hyperallergic, on “how cat videos open up a space for mental surrender, political distraction, and emotional catharsis.” Ye-ow!
  • Cat video auteur Will Braden on how “cat videos are really all about us, watching ourselves watch cats.”
  • Rhonda Lieberman, a performance artist and writer, on cats as Internet painkillers.

There are many more. Check out the full list, and pledge some cash, on the Kickstarter page.

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