There seems to be a general consensus in our society that there are two types of people: Cat and Dog people, with no in between.
I use to believe that I was firmly rooted on the cat person side, but for the last half year I, too, have fallen victim to cooing over what I can only call “bork” memes: Cute pictures of dogs with their presumed inner monologue written next to them in a mix of grammatically cumbersome English and Irish. (For examples, please refer to this or this facebook page, but don’t complain if you lose an hour or two on them, please.)
While both cats and dogs seem to be infinitely meme-able, the trend of giving a cat a job for PR purposes does not extend to dogs. (Maybe because dogs with “jobs” already exist: Seeing-eye dogs, for example.)
I first noticed that a cat employee when I first moved into University accommodation, and on the board that introduced everyone working in and around the residence, there was a picture of a black, self-sufficient looking cat in the middle titled “Batman – Public Relations Officer”. Batman was and is to this day still our campus cat, who is fed by the other Accommodation officers, petted by every student who passes him and identifies as a cat person and likes to hang out where it is warm and cozy: the laundry room.
I’m not sure if he has ever done a single day of PR work in his life, but he sure is shared on instagram, twitter and facebook a lot, so I’m sure everyone is happy with him.
And Batman is by far not the only cat with a position like this: The official resident cat of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at 10 Downing Street, also known as “the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office”, but probably better under the name “Larry”, doesn’t just draw students with their fingers and phones. There are journalists who report about his whereabouts and what he is up to.
Similar to Larry, the Chief Mouser to the Foreign Office goes by the name Palmerston and supports the diplomats’ PR with his own twitter account:
Paying a visit to the neighbours to negotiate a Free Treat Agreement pic.twitter.com/61vFDc8HtF
— Palmerston (@DiploMog) October 26, 2016
So what is it about cats (and dogs) that seems to inevitably draw public attention, makes videos go viral and journalists write articles that are shared thousands of times online? Is it just the soft news we all need right now as we can’t seem to escape the hard news?
I don’t think it’s a question we’ll ever be able to answer. Cat memes have just been around since the dawn of the internet, and if that doesn’t change, then at least that answers what you need to make your online communications a success – a funny picture of a kitty or puppy, paired with your message.
I might just sneak a picture of one into the appendix of my dissertation.
P.S.: I have not forgotten about Bo Obama, the former First Dog of the United States, but his office wasn’t quite as permanent as Larry’s: The Chief Mouser doesn’t leave No 10, even if the PM has to.