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Why cat videos rule the Internet

Yes, cat videos rule the Internet. There’s no doubt about it. It is estimated that about 2 million cat videos were uploaded uploaded on YouTube in 2014 alone and they’ve got almost 26 billion views!  What makes people watch cat videos?

According to a study by an Indiana University Media School researcher, the effect of these may be more profound than we think. The study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed 7,000 people about their viewing of such videos and the kind of impact it has on them.

“We all have watched a cat video online, but there is really little empirical work done on why so many of us do this, or what effects it might have on us,” said assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick. “As a media researcher and online cat video viewer, I felt compelled to gather some data about this pop culture phenomenon.”

Findings of the study

Most of the participant reported that they watch cat videos on Facebook, YouTube, Buzzfeed and I Can Has Cheezburger. A single theme emerged out of the  survey: watching cat videos boosted viewers’ energy and positive emotions and decreases negative feelings. That may explain the craze. Positive emotions and the instant gratification provided by streaming videos largely drive the need to watch cat videos.

“Even if they are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward,” Myrick said.

They may also give us an insight into the personality of the viewer. The study found that cat owners and people with certain personality traits, such as agreeableness and shyness, were more likely to watch cat videos.

Lil' Bub cat
Lil Bub is one of the more popular felines on the Internet. Photo: Mike Bridavsky/www.lilbub.com

“Some people may think watching online cat videos isn’t a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it’s one of the most popular uses of the Internet today,” Myrick said. “If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have on us as individuals and on society, then researchers can’t ignore Internet cats anymore.”

And, we can’t agree more!

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