It's almost as if the Internet was created just so people could amuse themselves by looking at cat memes. From talking cat videos to snazzily-dressed kitties that deliver science puns, these feline celebrities embody Internet culture. A few of these cats are so famous that they've transcended from Internet memes to pop-culture icons with their own lines of merchandise, and some have even made it onto television and film.
Ten of the Greatest Cat Memes
Chances are good you've seen at least a few of the best cat memes already, but they're always worth one more look, which is probably why they're so darn popular.
I Can Has Cheezburger? was the site that truly launched the Internet's fascination with cat memes. It began with a single meme, a British shorthair cat known as Happy that looks plaintively at the camera with the caption, "I can has cheezburger?"
This site allows users to upload photos of their cats and caption them using "LOL speak," a humorous form of broken English. The site was founded in 2007 and exploded in popularity soon after. A team of investors bought LOLCats after it had been live for just nine months, and they paid an impressive $2 million for it.
2. Chemistry Cat
This geekily-dressed Angora first appeared in 2011. The cat's true identity is unknown, but the image can be found for re-captioning on many meme-generating websites. Chemistry Cat is always accompanied by groan-worthy science puns, and some of his popularity can be attributed to the popular site IFLScience, which frequently shares Chemistry Cat jokes with its 18 million Facebook subscribers.
3. Nyan Cat
It's hard to say exactly why this cat-faced toaster pastry has captivated the Internet, but its fame is undeniable. Within two weeks of the video's first release in 2011, it had over a million views, and it was the fifth most-viewed video on YouTube that year. Not long after, Nyan Cat became the subject of several video games, and it continues to be referenced and parodied. The phenomenon of dressing up a cat to fit the part even led someone to win the world record for most streamers attached to a cat for a Nyan Cat costume.
4. Sad Cat Diaries
This 2013 video by YouTube comedian ZeFrank1 matches sad-looking cat photos with a dramatic voice-over that reveals their inner-existential misery while shedding some light on their most bizarre behaviors. All cat owners can find something familiar in these diary entries, which is probably why the video has more than 17 million views. That's almost twice as many as ZeFrank1's second-most popular video.
5. Keyboard Cat
This video of an orange tabby named Fatso playing an electric piano was actually filmed in the 1980s by Charlie Schmidt, the cat's owner. The video gained popularity in 2009 when YouTube member Brad O'Farrell found the video and remixed it with footage of a man falling down an escalator. He used the title "Play him off, Keyboard Cat" as an homage to the Vaudeville practice of pulling bad performers off the stage. It was the necessary ingredient to make the video go viral, and Fatso was soon playing off dozens of Internet "fails," which eventually led to an appearance on The Daily Show. The video was also remade into a commercial for pistachios during the 2010 World Series, but this version featured a new cat in place of Fatso.
6. Sylvester the Talking Kitty
In 2008, YouTube user SteveCash83 uploaded a video of his black cat, Sylvester, "talking back" to him about being woken up, accompanied by a perfectly-synced voice-over with the cat's mouth when he meowed. This is the first of more than 30 videos in an ongoing series. Sylvester soon became an Internet personality in his own right, with a blog and Facebook page in addition to his YouTube series. The foul-mouthed kitty's appeal is his attitude. While other cats are cute and cuddly, Sylvester is an evil mastermind who speaks his mind and thinks of his owner as a slave. It's an attitude many cat owners will find familiar.
7. Grumpy Cat
The undisputed queen of Internet cats, Tardar Sauce (known by fans as Grumpy Cat) first hit the Internet in 2012. Her adorably grumpy appearance lent itself perfectly to de-motivational style captioning. The Grumpy Cat meme exploded in popularity, and her likeness can now be found on merchandise sold online and in stores like Hot Topic. Tardar Sauce herself has appeared on numerous TV shows like Today and Good Morning America. She was also interviewed by Forbes, and she's the star of a Lifetime Original movie.
Maru, a tabby Scottish Fold that lives in Japan. He is the star of hundreds of YouTube videos that show snippets of his life, especially his absurd love of boxes that are too small for him to fit into. His owner, who uses the handle Mugumogu on YouTube, has uploaded more than 300 videos of Maru's antics. The dead-pan delivery of the videos, which use slides between clips to narrate the action like an old-fashioned silent movie, has helped earn Maru's channel almost half a million subscribers.
9. Colonel Meow
Known as "The Angriest Cat in the World," Colonel Meow had the persona of a Scotch-drinking, world-domination-plotting, evil genius. This cat's dramatic and grumpy appearance made him an instant celebrity on Facebook and Instagram before his death in January 2014. His Facebook page is still updated with older photos and provides entertainment for his half-million fans (or minions). Friskies cat food company launched a video campaign in Colonel Meow's memory to donate meals to cats in need, and the video features several other famous Internet cats, including Grumpy Cat.
10. Lil BUB
The runt of a litter of feral kittens, Lil BUB is an inspiration to cat-lovers everywhere. She first appeared on Tumblr in 2011 and immediately began to gather a following thanks to her adorable and unique appearance. Like Grumpy Cat, Lil BUB has dwarfism which causes her small size and under bite. However, her under bite creates a goofy expression rather than a grumpy one. Her Facebook page has over a million followers, and she's the star of Lil Bub & Friendz, a film that features many other famous cat memes. It won the Tribeca Film Festival "Best Feature Film" award in 2013.
Cats Rule the Internet
If dogs are man's best friends, cats are man's ambivalent roommates that enjoy their human company only when it suits them, and they love flaunting their smug superiority. These famous cats just prove that felines are one opposable thumb away from world domination.