Surely you’ve noticed it. Whether on Reddit or Buzzfeed or even this site, someone somewhere tucked away the kittens and released the hounds. Cats had a solid run as the denizens of cute videos, and there is still quite a plethora of cats chasing laser pointers or making weird noises (read: being cats). But within the last year or so, dogs have replaced our feline friends as the kings of cute, the aptly adorable, the cache of comely canine craft. Google Trends shows this effect, with dogs on a consistently-upward trendline and cats remaining stable. And as in business, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
The history of cats on the internet is well known, rising sharply with the dawn of Youtube and lolcats, a 4chan-born meme which gave us Caturdays and made Impact the official font of the internet. It gave us the “Lolcat Bible,” the world’s only Internet Cat Video Film Festival, and, through a very odd chain of memetics which passed through Advice Dog and ended up at Actual Advice Mallard, the very structure of much of the appearance of culture online.
However, despite being elected to the profound status of Monopoly token, it’s quickly obvious cats are losing where it counts. A trip over to Reddit (otherwise known as “Why China Is Beating Us”) finds you far more dogs. Dog memes, dog videos, dogs struggling with sticks, dogs fighting larger dogs, dogs after surgery stoned on anesthetics. What gives?
The simple answer would be the internet caught a collective feline fatigue. There exists only so many ways to enjoy a cat without it actually being in your presence, and after a while the only proper response is to get a cat. But let’s examine a deeper difference between cats and dogs.
Cats represent a strange independence, even in taking care of one. Get yourself a self-feeder and water container and you aren’t looking at much more than emptying the litter box a couple times a week. Cats are indifferent to your successes or failures, always existing in either a blissful malaise or a terrified sprint. They are a noun, not a verb; something to watch, not something to do.
Dogs, however, require far more care from the owner. If given a self-feeder, most dogs will eat themselves to death or drink until they piss themselves. They will get your attention out of an innately-social need, be it staking out your favorite part of the couch or rearing up their front paws or barking like death just rang the doorbell. They are full of expressions and obvious moods, and their curious desires show off both their intelligent, often-creepy use of logic and their severe misgivings in that field. While it can take months of cat ownership to detect any semblance of a “personality,” dogs can be known in mere minutes and, unlike cats, change their personas as they age.
The generation of lolcats is quickly approaching its mid-20s to mid-30s. They’re leaving the one-bedroom apartments of the world and venturing into property ownership, exchanging liberty for responsibility, jobs for careers, and parties for offspring. The listless nature which social pundits have said would debilitate our generation is being fought down by a sudden rise of self-worth, a spirited swelling of the realization that we are the adults now. No longer are we confining ourselves to the doldrum of a cat on the back of a chair in a studio apartment, but leashing ourselves to dogs which force us to schedule, to cooperate, to be loyal, to not leave food in low places and actually explore our own neighborhood.
While a dog isn’t exactly a baby, it is — if Marley & Me is to be believed — the first of a thousand steps in assessing your own ability to raise a life. Dogs can be fickle and misbehaved in ways cats never quite accomplish. Training a cat doesn’t involve much more than a scratching post and somewhere for them to instinctively bury their shit. But as anyone who’s owned a dog from puppy to maturity can tell you, some dogs might not get the hang of the whole “oh-I-shouldn’t-piss-on-the-laptop” thing until their second year of life. However, dogs are also typically more rewarding. They are a source of both exercise and calm, loyalty and protection. Cats, dogs, and children give exceeding rewards with exceeding work (though there’s a huge leap on that chart with children).
The reason you cannot escape dogs online — the official residence of our generation — is we are priming ourselves for the realities of adulthood, however inadequately. Of course owning a dog doesn’t hoist you to the peak of maturity, itself a relative term. But the transition from cat to dog is an obvious step toward not wanting to laze around the house and watch videos online all day. You can sit and watch Ninja Cat with your cat in your lap, but a dog is begging to be played with, to be walked, to be protected from illnesses and fleas, forcing you to watch dog videos at work while you contemplate how much you miss your dog. So grab a plastic bag, analyze your 401(k), put on your shoes, and start looking for trust in a companion more so than their ability to be cute without trying. Who’s a good millenial? Who’s a good millenial? It’s you! It’s you!