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LOLcats are image macros consisting of humorous photos of cats with superimposed text written in a form of broken English known as lolspeak. The LOLcat meme gained much of its traction through the weekly ritual of Caturday on 4chan and I Can Has Cheezburger.
According to an article in The Star, LOLcats originated on the imageboard 4chan sometime in 2005, when an anonymous user submitted a picture of a relaxed cat waiting for “Caturday.” In a blog post on Time Magazine’s TechLand, writer Lev Grossman published an email claiming that Caturday was created in 2005 as a protest to “Furry Friday” threads.
“There is more than enough EXIF data scattered around the internet to prove that cat macros are ancient, by internet standards. Caturday, for example, was a meme on a 4chan.org imageboard which originated around the beginning of 2005 as a protest against \”Furry Friday\” threads (In which basement-dwelling creeps would post anthropomorphic disney characters giving [sorry, gotta go family values at this point.”
In the 1870s, photographer Harry Pointer took black-and-white photographs or cats posed in a variety of different situations, adding humorous text referencing the context of the photo (shown below, left). In the early 20th century Harry Whittier Frees, an American photographer, produced similar-looking photographs with overlaid text (shown below, right)
In the 1970s, a motivational poster of a cat hanging from a tree branch with the caption “Hang in there, baby” was released (shown below, left), which spawned a series of imitations (shown below, right).
The first Urban Dictionary was submitted by user bridgepiercingbex on September 12th, 2006, which defined the terms as “an added extra to the normal use of ‘lol’.” On June 12th, 2007, Time Magazine published an article about the LOLcat phenomenon, reporting that a Google search for “lolcat” already yielded over 3.3 million results and that the webiste I Can Has Cheezburger was receiving 200-500 submissions per day. On January 5th, 2008, the /r/lolcats subreddit was created, which garnered over 67,000 subscribers over the next five years. On December 4th, 2009, Entertainment Weekly ranked LOLcats as #99 in a list of the “100 Greatest Movies, TV Shows and More.” On December 22nd, 2010, the cat enthusiast blog Catster published a list of the “top 10 most famous LOLcats,” including Happy Cat, Monorail Cat, Limecat, Ceiling Cat and Basement Cat. On May 8th, 2012, The Atlantic published an article about the academic study of lolcats, reporting on researcher Kate Miltner’s dissertation on the appeal of LOLcats.
On November 10th, 2012, The Huffington Post published an article about an exhibition at the Framer’s Gallery in London titled “LOLCAT – TEH EXHIBISHUN,” featuring 49 original LOLCat inspired artworks. On January 24th, 2013, The Huffington Post reported that a new version of the exhibition had opened at The Framer’s Gallery.
The Huffington Post – New Exhibition of Original LOLCats raises money for charity