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By April 19, 2020May 22nd, 2020No Comments

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Sarah Maria Griffin writes about her beloved her cat Mo and the misogyny behind the mockery of a woman who loves cats…

In the mornings, when I open the back door, I step outside before he does. He’s hesitant, as always. Not an outside cat, not in the real way. He lived the first three years of his life in a two-room apartment. I remember watching him watching the rain for the first time, almost a year into his Californian existence, wide-eyed at the window, the noise making his fur stand on end, his pupils tiny slits in his big, egg-yolk eyes.


His name has changed a dozen times, weird variations of what he was originally called, but always comes back to Mo. This morning in particular I walk outside, trying to inhale the day like an antidote to quarantine, and he pads out beside me. Examines the perimeter. Are there any bees here for me to eat? Any other local cats for me to scream at, but inevitably refuse to fight as I am a soft, stupid duke of the living room?


I watch his weirdly large, almost undefined body move and it makes me laugh. He’s not a feline as much as he is a large bag of heavy liquid on four conveniently placed legs. He looks over his back at me and blinks, his mouth slightly ajar. I take a picture on my phone and upload it to the internet immediately. In this way, I am an internet cat person. I am his voice, I tell the story of him through pictures, through my experience. When the cat makes me laugh, I want him to make other people laugh too.

Let me tell you something that I am ashamed of.

Once, in a bar, the husband of a school-friend who has never thought much of me (or any woman who talks very much), revealed that he had been following me on Instagram and thought that I ‘seemed like a person who had a lot of cats’. I don’t. I’ve only ever had one, that my husband and I adopted when we emigrated. Mo. Large and weird. This remark came in the middle of a theatrical takedown of me which eventually made me leave the bar, mortified, just as he and his friends had continually made me feel as a teenager.

To be a joke to a group of people is something that you can’t simply undo, it’s just how things work out sometimes. But this cat remark stuck in me, a burn that worked. But why was this insulting? If the cat was a dog that I posted occasional entertaining pictures of, would it have been a source of insult? Why is it that a woman with a cat is a joke, but a man with a dog is utterly normal – if not noble, or sweet, or some kind of proof that he is humane and kind? I am ashamed because I don’t like to admit that this man and his friends who I have known since I was a child are still capable of making me feel tiny – not of being a person who owns a domestic animal and posts pictures of it on the internet.

I blocked him the second I was out of eyeshot of the bar, so scarlet for myself that I’m pretty sure I had a small cry on the walk home. I haven’t had to deal with him or his wife since. I don’t know if they have any pets. This insult gave root to so many questions. What is this weird cultural chasm between men with dogs and women with cats? I mean, I can end this discussion with a single word: misogyny. Obviously. The be all and end all. But, to unpack it yields something more: especially with the existence of the Internet Cat as a phenomenon.

Every few months we are graced with a new cat that is the answer to every question: my current and lasting favourite being ‘no talk me im angy’ and its more recent evolution, ‘no talk me im social disty’. From the Old Cats of the internet: Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, Maru and his boxes, to even further back, the cat who just wanted a cheeseburger, an early meme, stylistically emerging from 4chan’s Caturday postings and thus, birthing the lolcats phenomenon – to more recent, niche cats of the internet.

Instagram cats, Tiktok cats, cats in comics. Lucy Knisley’s Linney, who she illustrated beautifully all the way up to his death, made me both laugh and cry. Peepee, who’s Twitter presence was an utter joy until he also left us, was voiced by a person who did more than hilarious things with the structure of a tweet and poor spelling. In the endless scroll of horrific news, of arguments and bad takes, a joke is a balm – a cat is a balm. I prefer the surreal, dank end of things to the twee (as in all things) but I will take more or less any cat I get on the internet.

To talk about the origins of cat memes is almost an insane undertaking: but I post my cat online almost every day, so I kind of feel I have to know a little bit about the wider culture I’m participating in. From what I can gather, it is implied by the patriarchy that being a woman who owns cats is sad. This is because cats are aloof, despondent, occasionally violent, and would eat you if they were marginally larger than they are. You give them love and they don’t love you back in the obvious, primary coloured manner of dogs. They don’t play fetch or answer to their names. They leave dead animals at your door (or still-live, barely buzzing bees, if you’re Mo), they get overstimulated easily if you rub them the wrong way and are liable to scratch.

The ways in which they show affection are nothing like the ways in which dogs show affection. They’re domesticated, they have four legs, but they are a completely different animal. In the words of T.S Eliot, sung back directly into the eyes of the audience beyond the fourth wall in Tom Hooper’s 2019 adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical, Cats, by one Dame Judi Dench, a cat is not a dog. The ways in which they show affection are more subtle. I’m not Jackson Galaxy, here to unpack the ways in which cat behaviour is nuanced and complex and actually not that difficult to get your head around once you stop expecting your cat to be a dog.

And maybe that’s why we post them so much. Maybe that’s why the internet loves cats in all their surrealism, their strange displays of emotion, their lack of concern for the laws of physics or any interest in human expectation. Maybe that is why people give them stupid voices and post tweets about them, or illustrate their lives and deaths. I stand in the garden with my enormous, stupid eight-year-old cat who my husband and I have been locked in a tiny house with and I think, eight years in human is almost fifty in cat. That is half of this animal’s life. As he leaps gracelessly onto the wall with all the composure of a wet plastic bag in an updraft, and walks off into the neighbour’s garden, I am certain that he won’t be more than an hour. He doesn’t wander. He’ll swan back in looking for ham and attention in no time.


A dark flicker of paranoia wonders can he get the coronavirus. At night, he lies at my feet, heavy and purring. He steps on my husband’s chest and face at the same time every night, around 4am. We adore him. His endless snowy belly. His mad eyes. The purring from him, a healing noise. As he disappears, I wonder if anyone else lets him into their house, does he keep a second family, or a third, as many cats are known to do.

The internet is Mo’s second family, though. A place in which I share him with others. His enormous eyes, his shapeless form, his very good paws. People print up stickers with his face on them. One or two have even drawn him. He’s their boy too. Just as Linney was my pal, as Maru was, as is Bone Bone. As is Yam, who sticks her tongue out a lot. Maybe in this way I am a person who has a lot of cats, in how I alleviate the dark pressure of the internet with spots of strange joy. As I write, Mo is beside me on the sofa, lying untidily all over my notebook. When he is finished there, he walks to the mantelpiece, soundlessly leaps up, and knocks every single book up there to the ground.


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