The Current State of Internet Cat Videos

We all love cats. That is, when they’re not scratching up our furniture, shedding all over our clothes, shooting us evil glances, and infecting our newborns with toxoplasmosis. But what we seem to like even more than cats, is watching cats do funny things on YouTube. So much so that funny cat videos have become a true Internet cornerstone.

Cat on Youtube

With over 350,000 monthly Google searches and an Internet Cat Video Festival already on it’s second year, you could say these feline films, and their almost supernatural ability to waste countless hours of our lives, have become an integral part of our global culture.

I decided to take a look at the top 53 most viewed cat videos on YouTube and see what they can teach us about this most alluring of art forms. You can find a full list of the videos here: Top 53 Most Viewed Cat Videos of All Time

IMPORTANT NOTE: Call me a cat video purist, but I have omitted three videos from the list where a real cat is not the primary subject: Nyan cat, Mean Kitty Song, Simon’s Cat. I also excluded all cat compilation videos.

A Brief History of Cat Videos on YouTube

Three months after the launch of YouTube, co-founder Steve Chen uploaded the first cat video to the site. His video “Pajamas and Nick Drake” never managed to become a viral hit, but it did mark an important moment in YouTube history nonetheless.

Since this meagre beginning, the quality, quantity, and demand for cat videos has increased dramatically, with no indication of slowing down anytime soon. Cat video searches have nearly doubled since 2012, and 2014 continues to be a record setter for cat video related searches.

Cat video queries even surpassed those for cat pictures for the first time in Internet history back in November 2013.

Analysis of the Top 53 Cat Videos on YouTube

The top 53 cat videos on YouTube account for nearly 1.4 billion views. That’s countless lifetimes of mildly amused procrastination. But what can we learn from these hairball heaving heavy weights of online video? Let’s take a deeper look and find out.

Upload Year

The chart below shows the number of videos from the list by upload year:

cat videos uploaded by year

Quite surprisingly over half the videos on the list were uploaded before 2009. There are a few possible reasons for this, the most obvious being that they have had more time to gather views and that they were uploaded at a time when there were less competing cat videos. Older videos also often garner a sort of seniority on YouTube, showing up more frequently in search results and as related videos, which can give them a notable advantage when it comes to gaining organic views.

Another interesting observation is that despite a consistent rise in demand for cat videos, the number of videos on our top list drops significantly after 2011. This drop off suggests a possible tipping point in the supply vs. demand balance of the cat video world. Cat videos are big business after all, and with every other cat owner embarking on a Quest To Get Rich from Viral Cat Videos, the market has become more saturated with content than a neglected litter box. This combined with the improved accessibility of cat videos through sites such as Reddit and Buzzfeed, has further helped to spread the growing demand for cat videos (and the subsequent views) over a larger number of videos, as opposed to just a select few viral hits, as was more common in the past.

Cats Vs Kittens

While there is no debate when it comes to the cuteness of kittens, having one in a video does not seem to have much of an effect on the total number of views it receives. In fact, more views on our list come from videos which did NOT feature a kitten. 56% versus 44%. Shocking!

kitten vs no kitten pie chart

If flashy pie charts aren’t your thing, here’s a video that accurately demonstrates this point.

The Future of Online Cat Videos

As the global demand for cat videos continues to rise, giving birth to countless feline celebrities and viral video hits along the way, the question of when, if ever, we will reach “peak cat” becomes increasingly prevalent. the Internet cat bubble is growing at an exponential and unsustainable rate, but just how far will it go before we finally decide we have had enough? What will we turn to for comfort in place of cat videos when we’re surfing YouTube at 2AM?