It would be disingenuous to say that Internet cats are currently having a moment—Internet cats are never not having a moment—but this particular moment in time is especially full of feline awesomeness. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will host its fourth annual Internet Cat Video Festival on August 12, and is actually moving to a larger venue to accommodate the kitty-obsessed crowds.
Here in New York, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria will give Internet cats the sort of serious curatorial treatment they’ve long deserved with “How Cats Took Over the Internet,” which opens August 7. In a statement, curator Jason Eppink said that “the Internet’s collective obsession with cats offers a window into the way we understand ourselves,” and the exhibit attempts to get at the heart of why that is; videos, GIFs, and a timeline will be on view, all with the goal of understanding why, precisely, people love cat videos so darn much. (Coincidentally, Will Braden, the man behind the Internet Cat Video Film Festival, will curate a selection of kitty flicks that’ll screen as part of the exhibit.)
Consider it excellent timing, then, that this week will also see the launch of the second issue of Meow Quarterly, an online magazine devoted to—you guessed it—Internet cats. The brainchild of husband-and-wife team Jack and Aja Dixon, the publication features interviews with some of social media’s favorite cats, including Sam Has Eyebrows (as his name suggest, he has a very expressive face) and Atchoum, an extremely fluffy Persian. The cats and their owners have very different stories, but they all have one thing in common: unexpected Internet stardom.
And the second issue is even more high-profile: This time around, expect interviews with Oliver Taco, a ginger tabby with 94,000 Instagram followers; and perhaps the biggest get yet, Princess Monster Truck, whose exaggerated fangs and goofy name have landed her in an American Express advertisement and on Buzzfeed, among many other places. There’s also a feature on the Acro-cats, a troupe of performing cats who recently sold out several shows in Bushwick.
It would be easy to dismiss Meow Quarterly as the extension of a possibly unhealthy cat obsession, but the site is really an incredibly thoughtful dive into the world of one of the Internet’s most popular—and enduring—tropes. “I’m hoping that naming it Meow Quarterly gives a slightly literary bent,” says Aja with a laugh. She and Jack are definitely cat people; their Clinton Hill apartment is also occupied by two hairless cats named Pearl and Herbie, and two small tuxedo kittens that they’ve been fostering (“I refuse to name them or else I’ll get attached,” says Aja).
The duo moved from Berlin, where both had been working, to Brooklyn last year, and soon after they adopted Pearl and Herbie. When Aja started an Instagram account for the cats, they realized how passionate the community of famous cats on the Internet truly is. “I became super-obsessed with all these other celebrity cats,” Aja explains, noting that deep Instagram dives are still how she finds new cats to feature. They decided to start the magazine both as a way to expand their creative output, and as a way to bring more attention to the cats who aren’t as famous as Lil Bub or Grumpy Cat. For every Princess Monster Truck or Sam Has Eyebrows, there’s also a cat like Kyle, who was rescued from a domestic violence situation, and whose owner now uses his minor Internet fame to raise awareness of those issues.
MQ is a totally DIY operation: Jack, a self-taught photographer, does the photo shoots and designed the website; Aja interviews their subjects and runs the social media accounts. “The thing I want people to understand when they land on Instagram or whatever, is that they’re actually original photos and all the work that goes behind it,” says Aja. They looked to publications like The Selby and Tiny Atlas Quarterly when coming up with the concept for Meow Quarterly, rather than the animal-heavy worlds of Buzzfeed or Reddit. “Aesthetic is really important for us,” explains Jack. “There’s a lot of consideration that actually goes into the execution and the creative, the design of the website, the photos we take…” Aja continues: “We obsess over every single aspect [of what] we post.”
While the cats are the obvious draw for Aja and Jack—“I never really had pets growing up so I’m living out my childhood dreams,” she says—there are other perks to running Meow Quarterly. One in particular is the traveling; the shoots have taken the couple across the U.S. and Canada, including to Montreal, Boston, and Philadelphia (and that was just for the first issue). “I’m English and relatively new to this country, so it’s been kind of crazy,” says Jack. “It’s been a warm introduction I think.” There’s also the chance to connect with like-minded creative types, and incorporate bits of their lives into the stories. “I find that the questions I’m asking people in the second edition, I’m asking them more about themselves,” explains Aja. “In the first issue, I was just asking things from the point of view of the cat. It’s a balance.”
Now that they have two issues completed, Aja and Jack are thinking about the future of Meow Quarterly. “What I would like to do is to put all four quarters into a print annual next year, and then go to CatCon with it,” says Aja. They’re also interested in expanding the website, and turning it into more of a community portal. “I’d like to branch out into smaller stories,” says Jack. “I’d like to do video as well. And turn it into more of a news community.” But for now, they’re simply thinking about the next issue—and which cats they’re going to feature. Their wish list includes famous cats like Pudge, Lil Bub, and—perhaps the most famous of all Internet felines—Grumpy Cat. “I feel like that’s not gonna happen,” says Aja with a laugh. “Maybe for the second print annual.”