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Stephen and Laureen Harper with their cat Stanley, in a photo taken from Stephen Harper's Facebook page
Stephen and Laureen Harper with their cat Stanley, in a photo taken from Stephen Harper's Facebook page

Move over Fido: Cats are the new top dogs on the Internet Add to ...

In filmmaker Miranda July's 2011 indie hit, The Future, a rescue cat wasn't just the catalyst for tragic comedy, but the scruffy-voiced narrator. And a series of Saturday Night Live skits called Laser Cats enacts a world where the intergalactic crime fighter's weapon of choice is a mutated cat shooting beams from its eyes.

When the co-star of Laser Cats, Andy Samberg, graced the cover of Wired last year, there's another reason to why he shared it with a wide-eyed kitten. The headline was “How the Internet Saved Comedy,” and the first word below it was “Lolcats!”

Since buying the Cheezburger blog in 2007, Cheezburger Network CEO Ben Huh (Emily's husband, whose cat allergy stops the couple from owning actual cats) has purchased more than 60 other humour sites, including FAIL Blog. Their empire grown into a multimillion-dollar company with 24 million users uploading 135,000 pictures and videos a week and helping accumulate half-a-billion monthly page views.

Almost half of that content goes to I Can Has Cheezburger, which now includes all animals because, according to Huh, it's not just about cats any more. Cats are just a means to an end.

“People have the desire to be happy. They like to laugh and they want to share the things that they find funny with other people,” she said. “Also, people like to think they are funny so when others laugh, it's gives them credibility.”

In providing easy laughs, other animals can be just as effective, as the inclusion of different four-legged lols on I Can Has Cheezburger has shown. “When we purchased the site, the traffic continued to increase, which was when we realized that it was more about humour rather than just cats.”

Which animal can knock cats off the top of the social-media tree? Hamsters? Manatees? Honey badgers?

“Owls and penguins have had a steady rise on the Internet for the past few years,” Ms. Huh maintains. But cats will rule forever.

GREAT MOMENTS IN CAT MEMES

1906

Harry Whittier Frees puts a paper hat on a cat at the family dinner table. Hilarity ensues and Life magazine calls him “most famed U.S. photographer of dressed-up animals.”

1929

Parents magazine publishes an ad for “a genuine photograph” of the Laughing Cat: Every mother will want one for the nursery, it says. And she could, for $1.

1973

Under pressure to resign, Richard Nixon's vice-president, Spiro Agnew, is presented by supporters with a popular inspirational poster of a kitten dangling from a branch. It reads “Hang in there, baby.”

1984

Artist Charlie Schmidt makes a keyboard-playing hand puppet out of his cat Fatso and videotapes it. Fatso dies in 1987, 20 years before he becomes a YouTube superstar.

2006

The anything-goes imageboard 4chan creates, and falls in love with, lolcats.

2011

Nyan, an 8-bit cartoon cat with a Pop Tart for a torso, flies through outer space on a loop, set to a Japanese song similar to the “Hamster Dance.” It's been viewed 71 million times and counting.

2012

Though the original “breading” photo of a cat wearing sliced bread like a lion's mane is a year old, it trended in January 2012 when a Facebook page encourages people to “try this at home

Edmonton writer and rapper Omar Mouallem is the author of Amazing Cats .

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