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Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image
Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image

Is the Internet as Obsessed With Cats as We Think It Is?

Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image
Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image

Today, Friday August 7, New York's Museum of the Moving Image opens its doors on a new exhibit that shows just how broad the world of movies and film has become. "How Cats Took Over The Internet" explores a central tenet of the modern online experience—that cats rule the world wide web. But when he started to dig deeper, Jason Eppink, the curator (who does not own a cat and is, in fact, allergic to them) found the trend that's become a cliché wasn't exactly reflected in the numbers.

Even on sites where cute content flourishes—Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr, BuzzFeed, and Instagram—posts tagged as featuring cats and dogs seldom exceed .3 percent of a site’s traffic. And cats don't even always edge out their canine counterparts. The exhibit features a wall full of color-coded charts comparing the virality of cat content to content centered on dogs. On Reddit, the number of comments about cats and dogs has remained relatively equal since the site launched in 2007, with dogs in the lead for most of that time. Dog posts have exceeded cat posts on BuzzFeed for a few years now. Even on YouTube, the so-called "ground zero for cat videos," the Pets & Animals category accounts for less than 1 percent of all videos—and while 16 percent of views in that category are of cat clips, dogs garner 23 percent of views.

So why have cat videos become synonymous with online time-wasting? (One recent study claims they're actually energy boosting.) Another portion of the exhibit tackles this phenomenon with a number of different theories (interspersed with cat videos, of course). They cite the appeal of a "virtual cat park," an idea coined by Jack Shepard, editorial director at BuzzFeed. According to this theory, the Internet serves as a gathering place for cat owners, the same way a dog park serves to bring dog owners together. Similarly, there's the idea that self-described cat people—who, pre-Internet, felt stigmatized by society at large—were especially eager to join up with fellow cat lovers.

Another theory points to cats' tendency to ignore the humans (or cameras) around them, which gives cat videos a more voyeuristic feel. Add to that the fact that people are inclined to identify with living creatures in general (a characteristic called biophilia), attribute human-like internal lives to their pets (anthropomorphism), and just think kittens are downright adorable, and it isn't surprising that the idea that "Cats Rule the Internet" became a self-perpetuating truism. 

"How Cats Took Over The Internet" is at the Museum of the Moving Image from August 7, 2015 to January 15, 2016. All images courtesy Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image.

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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