A purr-fect year for cat videos

Mankind's formerly private love of cats is starting to go public.

Steven Senne/AP/file
Monopoly token at Hasbro HQ

Watch out, mankind’s second-best friend has been stalking the No. 1 spot and is ready to pounce. From Internet memes to film festivals, and from a new Monopoly piece to their own series on Animal Planet, felines have succeeded in making it cool to be crazy for cats.

People may feel they watch YouTube videos of prancing kittens in private, but the numbers reveal that they are definitely not alone. “Surprised kitty” – a 17-second clip of a kitten getting tickled – has drawn more than 38 million views. Maru, the Japanese cat who slides through soda boxes like an Olympic bobsledder, has had his antics replayed more than 198 million times. In a more deliberate art form, the existential angst of Henri, Le Chat Noir, a tuxedo cat who muses in a morose French voice-over, has drawn 3.5 million views. 

Henri’s filmmaker owner, Will Braden of Seattle, won the Golden Kitty People’s Choice Award at the first Internet Cat Video Film Festival in Minneapolis last summer. Wondering how many showed up in person for that event? Try more than 10,000.

“Cats are great entertainers. They don’t get the cinematic credit they deserve,” says Rachel Strutt, the program manager for the Somerville Arts Council near Boston.

The success of the private indulgence-turned-public spectacle at the Walker Art Center inspired Ms. Strutt to do a copycat event. The Somerville Copy Cat Festival was planned in six weeks. “People went nuts,” she says. “We have been swimming in cats.” The first 400 tickets to the show – which featured a slide show of local cats, videos, and live storytelling and poems based on cats – sold out in a day. A second show was added and that sold out, too.

Cats even crashed Sundance this year with the first Catdance Film Festival, an evening of film shorts starring pets that may or may not have known what was going on. 

There are 86.4 million pet cats in the United States, according to the American Pet Products Association, outnumbering dogs by 8.2 million. This may explain why when Hasbro announced in January it was replacing one of its Monopoly game pieces and asked Facebook fans to vote on the new addition, a tiny silver cat won by a fur slide.

But despite the world acceptance – at last! – some cat owners prefer to remain private about their delight in feline flicks. Rich and Amy, cat owners who drove 45 minutes through a snowstorm to attend the Somerville Copy Cat Festival, declined to give their last name. 

“He doesn’t want his friends at work to know he watches cat videos,” Amy said.

Their cats probably don’t know, either.

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