The online cat-owner website "Catster" surveyed a variety of internet users in 2010, asking the one simple question: What is your cat looking forward to in 2011? The results of this survey were never published -- it could have been "Toys and treats!"; it could have been "A new brother/sister!" -- but if cats, who by some Darwinian miracle also happened to be blessed with opposable thumbs, were the ones answering that question, the result would have been far more clear-cut: A touch of reality.
In fact, cat-owners were hardly the ones Catster should have been asking; they see cats as cuddly balls of fun, eternalized on YouTube under the same as feline umbrella as "Lil Bub" and "Snoopybabe." This love of cats, technically known as "ailurophile," is not a new phenomenon -- look back to the pharaohs, who build a 240-feet-long, 66-feet-wide Sphinx, for an early example.
It is with this BC viewpoint in mind that we, now heavily swayed by internet opinion, must now ask ourselves: Did this attraction to cats really spring from North African felines' the lazy-days and rear-end-licking approach to life? I, for one, very much doubt it.
While wide-eyed pusses, happy to purr at just the whiff of a meat-filled pouch, may be in high demand, the reality is that not all cats are willing to put their reputations on the line just to be the next internet sensation. The media may depict them as being willing to hop into boxes for the high of 10 million views on YouTube (like video-y catnip, if you will), but in reality, all we want to do slouch on the couch and judge whichever human steps into the room next. As one of my ginger Toyger-bred friends, a rare breed with just over 30 known breeds in the world, put it: "A box? Unless it's filled with litter, I see no use for it."
A 2012 ABC News study, probably conducted by an intern and published on thier site the same day Bill Clinton endorsed President Obama for re-election, looked to rank the "Top 20 Cat Videos on the Web." While cats may have expected the contenders to have included mundane videos of their everyday actions, a few loose cannons perhaps peppering their entries with superlatives to claw a few extra votes - "Epic tail wag," "Room-shaking meow" - the actual winner, and following chart-toppers, hardly reflected cat behavior at all. "Mean Kitty Song." "Keyboard Cat." "OMG Cat." Why should common-or-garden mogs be tarred by the same brush as these Miley Cyrus-esque attention seekers? My friend, Wiggles, is hardly going to be swinging on a wrecking ball any time soon, but he was right to ask where his nomination was for the oh-so-catlike video his owner took of him standing on the kitchen floor, pupils dilated in the hope of food. Though only five seconds in length, that video was far more representative of the Cat Nation than, say, 55-seconds of tosh where a ginger tom, mashing a few keyboard keys, only has the next day's headlines, not food, beaming in his eyes.
It is amongst this Kitty Distortion Field that iconic felines - once an accurate representation of the species - may be lost. Top Cat was a garbage-rummaging raggamuffin; Garfield, though no cat really likes spaghetti, was a lazy lump; and Tom, from the hit show Tom and Jerry, just loved to chase mice. All these and more painted a true portrait of cats' daily activities, yet now the three letters C-A-T are likely to spark a memory of the one time a guy with an iPhone, irresponsibly filming and not looking out for his pet's safety, happened to capture the moment when Mittens successfully attempted to flush the toilet whilst standing inside the bowl.
These activities, currently racking up the orange hearts on Instagram and favorite stars on Twitter, run counter to what most cats actually want: food, a warm, comfy bed, and the annoying rustling of foil to just, well, go away.
Whether this line of thought will change depends on the media's openness to promote more humdrum cat figures. With the likelihood of Fox News running a story on a Timmy the Tabby being stuck up a tree reading practically zilch, though, it appears that it may be time for felines to get a little frisky, tackling the problem head-on. Cats must think:
When your camera-wielding owner tries to slide you into a pile skittles: Resist. When a stranger approaches, an iPhone in one hand, dangling a slice of ham over a swimming pool in the hope you will leap, think to yourself: "It's OK, I don't need that. My owner will feed me later, as they always do."
It is with this this mindset, and the hope that disappointed humans will still capture such typical catlike actions before plastering them on the web, that we will hopefully change many of the incorrect moggy maxims that currently exist.