It is difficult to truly explain the intense popularity of cat videos on the internet, as ostensibly they are simple clips of cats just being themselves.
Part of it is that, unlike the unconditional love of dogs, cats often have a very broad range of personalities from rogueish independence to cold standoffish surliness to wild enthusiasm, which gives the rollout of cat microchipping a different significance to the similar law for dogs.
However, to celebrate the first anniversary of cat owners being required to update each pet microchip with their most recent address details, it is worth looking at the first example of a cultural artefact created by people’s fascinated love for our feline friends.
Whilst cat videos are typically associated with internet culture thanks to repositories such as “I Can Has Cheezburger” [sic] and an upload of a 1984 video more famously known as “Keyboard Cat”.
However, before the uploading of Keyboard Cat, before the filming of the video, before the invention of video and only a few years after the invention of cinema itself as a medium in 1888, a cat film was released.
The Boxing Cats, directed by William Dickson, the inventor of 35mm perforated film and William Heise, was a 23-second film of two cats in a miniature boxing ring pawing at each other with boxing gloves on.
It was filmed in the Black Maria studio, an experimental film studio set up by Thomas Edison and featured Henry Welton and two cats from his “cat circus”, chosen presumably because of the strangeness of the subject matter.
The film was one of many test films made in 1894, showing a range of actions including a bucking bronco, a contortionist act, lasso throwing, the first ever filmed boxing match and a man sneezing, the latter of which was the oldest motion picture with a copyright attached.