Forget Fritz the Cat: YouTube videos are the new kitty porn
By Maria Johnson
I should start by saying that I really do like cats.
I grew up with them and was charmed by them — their cool, their quickness, their shivery leg rubs and throaty purrs, the way they lay their ears back and switch their tails when they’re about to go nuclear on little kids who have been trying to “help” them into a T-shirt made from an old tube sock with scissored-out arm holes.
Hey, it was the ’70s.
Adulthood, by contrast, has been one big slobbery Doggiezoic Period, owing first to rental restrictions and, later, to the fact that I married a man who is allergic to cats and who passed his sneezy genes to one of our sons.
It’s all good. Me-luva the hounds. But sometimes, me-missa the kitties.
Which is why I thought I’d like cat videos, but honestly my reaction has always been “meh” — or “meeee-eh,” as the case may be.
Cat videos, in case you’ve been curled up under a litter box, are clips of cats doing “funny” things. Over. And over. And over again. You can find them on YouTube and critter-centric websites like Squeebles, which boasts headlines like “This Tiny Kitten Inside an Oven Mitt Will Give You the Feels.”
Whatever that means.
If this weren’t enough, some Icelanders have launched a reality show called Keeping up With the Kattarshians, an adoption promotion featuring a live stream of kittens wearing too much eye make-up and living in a well-appointed, over-sized dollhouse.
OK, I’m lying. About the eye makeup.
I needed someone to explain this to me, so I turned to Anne Bailey, the wife of my colleague David Bailey, who has been known to scamper from the room, hissing and spitting, when Anne watches cat vids.
We met for lunch at a Thai restaurant. I almost suggested Vietnamese, but I didn’t want to seem insensitive. Anne brought her iPad as an instructional aide. David came along because . . . lunch.
In hushed tones, at a table in the back corner, Anne explained how she, a retired Latin teacher, became addicted to watching tiny kittens in oven mitts. It started innocently a year ago.
One of her daughters was like, “Here. Try this. You’ll like it.”
Anne had dabbled in cats earlier in her life, and she was able to walk away easily, so she was like, “Why not?”
She viewed her first cat video.
“The one thing I remember is cats running across a bridge someone had built in his house,” she recalled. “The cats had a little loop they could travel. They keep going and going like gerbils in a wheel.”
I think you know what happened next.
Kitties in the morning. Kitties in the evening. Kitties at suppertime.
From David’s perspective, here’s what Anne’s new hobby sounded like:
Whisper-whisper-whisper (of person shooting video). Thump-thump-thump (of cat action). BWAHAHAHA! (of Anne watching video).
Multiply by 65.
The purveyors of these videos preyed on Anne’s weakness. She’d check the weather online, and “Most Incredible Cat Videos Ever!” would pop up beside the partly cloudy icon.
She clicked on the catnip every time.
She rationalized her behavior. Maybe it was a waste of time, she told herself, but it was silly fun that she could share with her daughters, both cat fanciers. People wasted time in far more harmful ways.
How often did she watch the videos?
“Maybe three times a week,” she said over lunch.
David spewed his basil chicken.
Here’s the thing: David actually likes cats. He admires their regal bearing, their wildness, their curiosity and cleverness. Heck, even he laughs when one of his grand-cats climbs aboard his older daughter’s Roomba vacuum cleaner, turns it on, and cruises the room.
What’s demeaning, he says, is when people put cats in unnatural situations for laughs.
To that end, I asked Anne about a particular genre of cat vid: Let’s Throw the Cat in the Bathtub and Laugh Our Butts Off in an Eastern European Accent. She agreed those are cruel, but she also claims to have seen a video of a cat who loves water.
“When he’s lifted out of this beautiful porcelain bowl — I’m sure he’s a Japanese cat — he turns around and tries to get back in the water,” she says. “He’s so peaceful, like someone in a hot tub.”
David shook his head.
Anne said her favorite videos usually show cats reacting to other animals.
She powered up her iPad and played a short loop of a cat boxing with a praying mantis.
David and I stared at each other.
Then she called up a clip titled Cat/Kitten vs. Lizard, which can be broken down into these cinematic elements.
Kitten walks into living room.
Kitten sees two foot-long lizards on the floor because, you know, people keeps lizards the size of a teenager’s tennis shoes in their living room.
3) Kitten paws at one lizard, stalks it, forgets about other lizard.
4) Other lizard creeps toward kitten.
5) Kitten jumps as if it’s been plugged into a portable generator. Skids. Scrambles to its feet. Repeats electrification process.
“Don’t you think there’s something suspicious about the way that cat acted,” he said.
“No,” Anne said.
“I think he was on drugs,” David said.
“You’re coming off in a very bad light here,” said Anne.
To be perfectly honest, I thought the video was funny.
I mean, a little.
I went home and watched it again, just to be sure.
Then I found a variation, Cat/Kitten vs. Lizard, Star Wars Style, with laser graphics and sound effects added.
Zinggggg-zinggggg, POW-POW-POW-POW, zoop-zoop, FLASH-BOOM! FIREBALL CHURNS AS KITTEN BARELY ESCAPES.
Wait. 19 Cats Who Are Totally Badass? Where’d that come from?
I guess one more video wouldn’t hurt. OH
Do you have a bad-ass cat who chases dogs, alligators or black bears? If so, you might want to start watching that cat-adoption reality show. Then contact Maria Johnson at email@example.com