Technically speaking: The culture of cute cat videos

Richard Hoffman

You know those really cute videos on YouTube of furry baby animals doing cute baby animal things like sneezing or getting baths with toothbrushes? I bet you’ve seen the one where the duck is leading all of her puffy little ducklings but the wind blows them all over. The Internet has a powerful infatuation with cuteness. But what is the impact of the 111,000 or so results received upon searching for “cute kitten” on YouTube?

I would argue that one consequence of our generation’s obsession with cuddly kittens and puppies is our disassociation of cuteness with humanness. While there certainly are videos of cute babies and toddlers online (I’m looking at you, video of little girl meeting her crying newborn sister for the first time and repeatedly assuring her “You okay, you okay, you fine, you fine.”), they are vastly outweighed by the magnitude of videos of foxes jumping on trampolines, hedgehogs taking baths and otters holding hands. Have we gotten to the point where babies of our own species aren’t cute enough for us to care about?

Maybe, but it could be that we’re just more aware of the realities of having a baby – the sleepless nights and dirty diapers – so it’s harder for us to view them on a shallow enough level to think “Aww, that’s so cuuuute, I want one!”

I think another plausible consequence of the plethora of cute animal videos is that more people owning pets that aren’t prepared to deal with the responsibility. It’s so easy to view things too simply on the Internet. You see cute pictures of corgi puppies and think, “Hey, I’m pretty lonely, I bet a puppy would cheer me up!” But when you realize that animals aren’t perpetual cuteness machines and the pooper-scooper reality starts setting in, you become less enchanted with the idea of actually taking care of another living thing.

An argument with much less hypothesizing involved is that people waste a lot of time browsing cute animal media. And why not? If anything in this world is pure joy, it’s the video of the blind kitten playing with toys for the first time. Studying, memorizing and writing essays can’t really compete. I guess that’s why somebody invented, a really brilliant website that rewards you with a kitten when you write a certain number of words. If you’re the kind of person who can only be motivated by kittens, I’d recommend it highly and also question whether college is really the right thing for you. After all, you can just raise kittens for a living.

Ultimately, our obsession with cute animals is representative of the ways that the Internet has affected our generation as a whole. We tend to devour simple, short, comforting and palatable messages. And maybe that’s not a completely terrible thing. After all, as anyone who has been signed up for Cat Facts can tell you, the Ancient Egyptians used to worship cats.