Do Cats Really Own The Internet?

We were playing around with a really interesting tool from Google called Google Trends. It allows you to explore the searching habits of countries, states, and cities quickly. For instance, you can see the search interest level in sugar vs salt in the USA since 2004. (We love searching for sugar in December every year, if you care to know about such things).

Which led us to ponder questions people actually do care about. And probably care a lot about. Maybe even too much, in certain cases…

peering orange cat

That’s right. Cats. And more pointedly, this question:

Do cats really own the internet?

It’s certainly a well known fact, right? The internet exists mainly to proliferate funny, cute or weird cat photos, cat gifs and cat videos.

Scientific articles have been written that posited theories wide ranging, such that cats are homebodies with no dog park to easily show them off, which in turn transformed the internet into a giant cat park. Or they mention the long standing interest humanity has had in cats, harkening back to a 9th century Irish monk and his cat-obsessed poem “Pangur Ban.” And isn’t it possible a baby kitten reminds us of a human baby, both in it’s cuteness and vulnerability?

All of these things may carry some truth. In fact, they almost certainly do. But do these factors overwhelm our human psyche and lead to an internet of cats, or could they be applied to dogs just as easily? And if so, would we find a similar or (gasp!) greater interest in dogs than cats if we really dug into the issue?

That’s exactly what we sought out to do. Now, just in order to throw my personal bias right out on the table, I am a dog owner. And my dog is super awesome and way cuter than a cat:

His name is JD. He enjoys barking at tall people, growling at other dogs from behind the safety of a window, and peering around corners…But that’s neither here nor there. I simply wanted full disclosure before unveiling what we found.

The Internet War of Cats vs Dogs

graph of google search volume of cat versus dog
Handy graph making tool found here.

The above graph shows dogs with a slight lead in monthly Google searches. The stats reflect exact match only, meaning Google is only counting a search if the user wrote exactly dog or exactly cat into the google search bar. Because of this fact, the graph is surely missing plenty of related searches, such as funny dog, cute dog, crazy cat, etc.

Luckily, there is a tool available to measure interest in a general topic rather than specific search term, and we discussed it earlier. Good old Google Trends. We used GT to create the following graph, which shows relative search interest in the topic “dog” and the topic “cat” as it relates to the animal.

graph of google interest in cats vs dogs

This graph seems to show that dogs crush cats in terms of Google interest. What is the graph tallying, exactly?

This graph doesn’t demonstrate absolute search volume, but rather assigns an interest value of 1-100, with 100 being the all-time high interest level for either term in relation to all other search terms. In this way, a higher mark on the graph does not necessarily mean a higher search volume, but rather a higher percentage share of all searches.

According to Google, interest in dogs is 139% greater on average than interest in cats.

So are dogs really nearly twice as popular as cats?

For a second source we turned to Facebook. Our dataset of choice was Facebook Interest. What exactly is Facebook interest? According to Facebook themselves:

We identify interests from information users have added to their Timeline, keywords associated with the Pages they like or apps they use, ads they’ve clicked on and other similar sources.

This sounds like a reasonable way to measure pet popularity. So what happened when we looked at the overall number of people interested in dogs vs cats on Facebook? Well, we got this:

graph of facebook interest in dogs and cats

And it’s dogs in a landslide at nearly a 2 to 1 rate. To be exact, Facebook calculates user interest in dogs to be 92% greater. Not quite Google’s 139% proclamation, but still an easy win for dogs.

What about Youtube? Surely cats dominate there.

Cat’s last great hope… The Youtube video. How many videos have you been forwarded via email with a cat dancing or making a funny face? Likely too many to remember. Surely cats still hold a large edge in Youtube searches, right?

graph of youtube interest in cats vs dogs

What a relief for cat lovers everywhere. Cats still hold a slight edge in Youtube interest, though only 9.6% on average and approximately 7.2% in 2014. Considering cats were doubled up in Google and Facebook interest, this is a major victory for felines.

How confident are we in Google and Facebook Interest data?

Generally speaking, I trust the math minds at Google and Facebook implicitly. But there is one cause for concern in both these metrics that might indicate a discrepancy in perceived interest total versus actual interest total. Check out what happens when you add in the search term hot dog (in red) and the exact search term dog(in yellow).

graph of dog vs hot dog interest in google search

It’s clear that there is a peak every single July across all three search terms. July happens to correspond with the busiest hot dog eating month and the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, both of which seem to be interfering with the data in July every year. And if hot dogs are getting in the way in July, we can assume they’re getting in the way all the time. It seems to prove that the Google Interest algorithm isn’t perfect.

Unfortunately we couldn’t think of a way to similarly test Facebook’s stats, but we do have a feeling a similar bias would exist. How great does this shift the interest in the favor of dogs? It’s hard to say how much, since both cat and dog have a set of alternate meanings that could be googled at any given second. Cat fight, Cat Stevens, Cats The Musical. It would be impossible to sparse out all of this information to form a definitive conclusion without knowing exactly how these interest algorithms work.

So what’s the verdict?

It seems clear to us. No longer should anyone proclaim that cats rule the internet. Dogs are twice as popular on Facebook and Google based on metrics provided by both sites. Even if there are cursory terms making it into the interest algorithms on both sides, I don’t believe it would be enough to flip the results.

So why is a cat dominated world still such a pervasive thought, then? Probably because cat owners love to proclaim it at the top of their lungs and dog owners are too busy playing fetch.

Maybe this is why that cat’s always so grumpy?

Grumpy cat I had fun once it was awful