Cats are the internet's spirit animal, but how did they reach this vaunted position? A combination of memes and cuteness, obvs.

Cats and the internet are a match made in heaven. The domestic cat (felis catus) and its ability to defy gravity, sit wherever it fits, and generally just be a cute little floof make it the perfect fit for something as weird and universal as the World Wide Web.

 

Humans have loved cats for literally thousands of years for their rat-catching skills, yet it wasn’t until the dawn of the information age when they became the cultural phenomenon they are today.

 

 

Fast forward to 2005 and the co-founder of YouTube, Steve Chen, uploaded the first cat video to YouTube. A seminal moment for all cat appreciators around the world. We praise you, Steve Chen.

 

Why cats?

 

Apart from being perfect angels, there’s something about cats which gives them that certain viral je ne sais quoi. Probably something to do with the fact that they’re equal parts regal and ridiculous. In 2006, ‘Puppy vs. Cat’ became the first viral cat video, and boy was it a good’un.

 

 

This was also the first use of the now-holy terms, LOLcats and Caturday (the tradition of posting LOLcat memes to 4chan on a Saturday).

 

Famous memes

 

In 2007, I Can Has Cheezburger popularised LOLcats and Caturday and pushed cats from a niche online joke into the mainstream of internet and popular culture. These image macros spread like wildfire across the web and by 2010 it was clear that the internet was, in fact, made of cats.

 

Key cat figures

 

Famous cats of the internet include Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, Maru, Colonel Meow and Nyan cat (a virtual space cat with a Pop Tart for a body whose name is a play on the Japanese word nya, which means ‘meow’).

 

The most well known political cats are probably resident Downing Street cats Larry and Palmerston, whose scraps receive regular media coverage.

 

But of course, these cat influencers have little-to-no impact on millennial cats who, much like their human counterparts, seem to just do whatever they want, whenever they want.

 

 

Are cats under threat from doggos?

 

Cats’ prized position as rulers and tastemakers of the internet could be under threat from the domesticated dog (canis familiaris).

 

The popularity of puppers shouldn’t alarm cat-lovers though – cats are the original pet of the internet and if anything has become certain in the short history of the internet it’s that people’s capacity to enjoy cute animals being adorable, stupid or mean, is limitless.

Feeling the urge to snap your gorgeous feline and make internet magic? Then don’t miss our guide to taking the most perfect pet shots.