ABSTRACT

We have lived with cats ever since the Egyptians domesticated Felis catus some 10,000 years ago. Cats have helped us keep our houses free of rodents, insects, and vipers, to be sure, but their domestic presence seems to transcend the labor they perform. The Egyptians mummified them; we opt for multiplication, a rather more prosaic method of memorialization. We first own one cat, then another or perhaps two this time, and, before you know it, they have begun to multiply at a pace that soon transforms the most unlikely cat lovers among us into stereotypical crazy cat ladies. Today millions upon millions of cats live in households all over the world, claiming our attention while displaying a spirit of independence whose silky aloofness must be the envy of adolescents everywhere. But there is yet another reason for why cats must be the bane of adolescent angst in every darkened bedroom bathed in the pixilated glow of electronic screens: cats are the coolest cats in cyberspace. Cat videos and so-called lolcats (funny cat memes) make visible, nay virtual, the phenomenon of accumulation that characterizes our relationship to cats, cat lovers finding safety in the extraordinary numbers cat sites routinely register on unsuspecting hit counters. Yet lolcats fill cyberspace in a way that real cats do not fill our world, not even the streets of Rome, the city of cats. Unlike lolcats, which make some of us ooh and ah and laugh all at once, real cats make us terribly uneasy, which may be the real reason for the popularity of cats in cyberspace. Indeed, to say that cybercats are uncanny is inaccurate; they are our crude attempt to cope with the uncanniness of real cats.