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Colonel Meow and the Internet's obsession with cats

Colonel Meow visits the Take Two studio for an interview on May 23, 2013.
Colonel Meow visits the Take Two studio for an interview on May 23, 2013.
Jacob Freedman/KPCC

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Colonel Meow's owner, Anne Marie Avey, announced his death via Facebook on January 30, 2013. We'll miss you, Colonel!


Facebook loves to boast about how it has 1.11 billion monthly active users, but notice that they don't specify just how many of those users are human

An estimated 100 million Facebook profiles are those belonging to brands, products and perhaps most beloved of all, people's pets. Social media has turned pets, especially cats, into some of the biggest sensations online. 

One popular Internet cat personality is Colonel Meow, who currently boasts more than 166,000 Facebook fans and counting. He and his owner Anne Marie Avey live right here in Southern California.   

Avey says she was strolling through her local Petco, waiting for her dog to be groomed, when she happened to catch a gray fur ball in the adoptable cats section. She was drawn to Colonel Meow (before he was named Colonel Meow) and after watching him clawing and meowing at her through the glass, she decided she had to have him. 

"I adopted him as an impulse purchase," said Avey. "I saw him and immediately wanted to pick him up and squeeze him."

That was back in October 2011. By August 2012, Avey had created a Facebook page for him as a joke to share with her friends, never thinking it would end up as popular as it has:

Avey describes Meow's mixed-breed looks as a monkey mixed with an Ewok mixed with anything with a beard. His unique expressions, often depicting a kind of frown, have captured the attention of hundreds of thousands of people. Though Avey's captions help. 

"I'm a writer, and I always just thought it'd be really fun to create this little voice where 'if pets could talk, what would they really say?'" said Avey. "His pictures give off such a mean look. I'll wake up in the morning, stretch and look around, and Colonel's staring at me crazily and I'm scared. I'm like 'Don't look at me like that!' And he doesn't mean anything by it, but it's terrifying when you first wake up in the morning and he's staring down at you. And I just thought he should be a drinker and someone who swears. He's the Don Draper of the cat world."

What's Behind The Internet's Obsession with Cats?

Yes they're cute and engage in hilarious antics, but why have cats — as opposed to dogs or other pets — become so popular on the Internet?

Avey thinks it's because dogs are more public animals who we see out on walks, at the park, and hanging out with people at our friends' houses. Cats can be less social and you never see them out with their owners in public. 

"When you have a dog, people can go out and share their dog with the world. You have to take him out every day to use the restroom, they have dog parks where people as a community can get together and they swap stories, and there's not that for a cat," said Avey. "Even when people come over to your house, most cats…will run and hide and stay under the bed. With social media and with the Internet, people are able to post their cat's true personality when they're not scared. I think there's a lot of closeted cat lovers out there, and it's now become kind of hipster to like cats. It's cool to be cat."

Colonel Meow, along with other Internet cat sensations like Lil Bub, are featured in a recent documentary called "Lil Bub & Friends," which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival:

Correction: An earlier version of this story had a caption misidentifying "Take Two" host Alex Cohen.