By Barbara Ortutay
Game over. Cats have won the Internet.
At least that was the conclusion among the many attendees of the Internet Cat Video Festival on Friday. Decked out with cat ears and painted-on whiskers, they lined up around the block to do in a group what they already do in front of their computers: Watch amusing cat flicks. This time, there was beer and pierogi.
Cat videos have been so popular online that watching them has become synonymous with wasting time. There are tens of millions of cat videos on YouTube on any given day. They are also abundant on Vine, Twitter's video-sharing app, and on Instagram. One older gem, uploaded to YouTube in 2007, has generated more than 33 million views. It's called "Keyboard Cat." ''Keyboard Dog," meanwhile, has just a measly 4.6 million.
"The cute factor is very important," said Steve Lozic, 28, while waiting for the show to begin at the Warsaw concert venue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, a borough that even President Barack Obama has declared "cool."
Lozic, who works in advertising, said one of his favorite clips involves cats interacting with iPads, with one cat simply "killing it," as it paws at an iPad screen.
The event was a traveling offshoot of the Minneapolis Walker Art Center's festival of the same name, which now draws 10,000 attendees who ooh and ahh at famous felines such as Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, Henri the morose, existentialist le Chat Noir and nameless kitties trying to jump into cardboard boxes with hilarious results. The inaugural festival, held last year, received more than 10,000 video submissions from fame-seeking cats — or at least their owners.
The star attendee of Brooklyn's video festival, though, was Lil Bub, a runty kitty who was born with "multitude of genetic anomalies which all add up to one of nature's happiest accidents," according to her website. Lil Bub, it turns out, is a "perma-kitten," that is, a full-grown cat that has stayed small and kept kitten-like features. On top of that, she has an extra toe on all of her paws and her tongue is always out because her teeth never grew in. Lil Bub merchandise, from stickers to T-shirts and baby onesies, has helped raise money for animal charities around the country.
It's hard to say why cats have proven far more popular than, say, dogs in the online video world. Neysa Smith, 22, who also works in advertising offered one theory:
"Cats are the best animal ever," said Smith, who, like Lozic, painted on a cat face in honor of the festival. "They are smarter than dogs."
Also spotted at the event were several cat tails and a man with a surprisingly calm gray cat perched on his shoulder.
Not spotted: dogs.
The festival's next stop is Rochester, N.Y.'s George Eastman House on Dec. 1. Next year's schedule includes Austin, Texas, Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis.