What I want to know is does it matter if they are dead?
Cats may not be man’s best friend, but they’re arguably something even better: man’s key to instant Internet pageviews. It’s a long-established fact that Internet content—whether it’s a cutesy video, a photoshopped inside joke, or a longform public health article—has a better chance of achieving coveted “viral” status if it somehow evokes the sound of purring.
But the reason that cats have catapulted to cyber-fame isn’t purely biological: There are social factors at play as well. Steve Dale, a cat behavior consultant and pet journalist, told me that cat aficionados have been particularly drawn to the Internet because they lack other public safety valves where they can express their affection. “In the world of cats, there is no dog park,” Dale says. “For cat owners, the dog park is the Internet.”
The most compelling explanation for our interest in cats, however, may be the most simple: we’re in awe of them. Nagelschneider told me that we’re inclined to watch cats climbing trees or walking upside down on walls because we wish we could do so ourselves—or, in her words, “When we are watching these videos, they just blow our minds.” To whatever extent that’s true, it’s certainly worth a click.
The only click a cat is worth is the clik of the safety coming off.