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Cats rule the internet

Online catnip


THE FATTEST CAT: 'Henri 2, Paw de Deux', the top award winner at the film festival, has been viewed almost 5 million times on YouTube

Cats on the net finally get what's been coming to them for a long time - a film festival.

Henri looks out pensively over a bleak, black-and-white neighbourhood and thinks, "Well, I am still here. I am free to go;yet I remain". Jaded and angst-ridden, Henri appears indifferent to affection, attention or tasty snacks. And in the last frame of this short internet video, Henri tries to dash out of his world-weary existence through the cat door, and when he can't, he says, "We cannot escape ourselves and sometimes the cat door is...closed".

It all makes sense when you know that Henri is a cat and his video, called Henri 2, Paw de Deux, just won the Golden Kitty award at the world's first Internet Cat Video Film Festival (ICVFF) held at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, US. For the vast majority of the web surfing and LOLcat-ing (an enormously popular website of cat memes with badly spelt and wrongly constructed captions) population, this would be a case of "Why didn't I think of it?". The idea for the ICVFF was, in fact, floated as a joke. The festival organisers had to trawl through over 10, 000 cat videos from around the world, paring them down to 79, which were then screened at the festival, before being handed out awards. Will Braden, who made the Henri video, said to The New York Times at the festival, "This goes to show that the shared love of cat videos isn't just a virtual thing, isn't just a matter of a few clicks, but actually something people can share in real life. I think this legitimises it. "

Unlike dogs, which seem to dominate Hollywood and photo albums, cats undeniably rule the internet. There are hundreds of lists on the best cat memes or the most famous LOLcats, sites, such as OMG Cat, Nyan Cat, or Serious Cat, dedicated to everything from keyboard playing cats, to cats jumping into boxes, to technicolour flying cats. In fact, a cat-antic stands a much higher chance of going viral on the web than, say, a koala bear jumping through hoops or even a tarantula doing ballet.

Though disdain, scorn and an all-encompassing boredom with the rest of the world are often associated with cats, cat GIFs (or Graphics Interchange Format, which is a pretty dated image format but is now very popular in online humour) and memes show that feline expressions are surprisingly easy to anthropomorphise. For instance, Henri, the morose cat in the video who talks in French, says on his Facebook profile, "French. English. What does it matter? The only true language is the language of despair. At least the verb conjugation is easy". A doe-eyed beagle would never get away with that line or with anything that takes an insouciant tone or an edgy boredom that seems to dictate virtual humour. No snark, no spark.

Cat fanatics say that a cat's ability to spring a surprise or to just leap off a couch and fly through space for no apparent reason makes them ideal candidates for humour, especially when combined with text. Add instant access to video recording devices and our self-absorption to the mix and you have an online stream of consciousness, starring cats.

But anecdotal evidence aside, when a team of Google scientists streamed about 10 million images from the internet to a simulated human brain, what did the simulation learn first? That's right - it taught itself what cats look like. To be a precise, a slightly irritated cat, a cat's normal state of being.

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