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Maru (まる, Japanese: circle or round) is a male Scottish Fold cat from Japan who has become well-known in the YouTube community for the videos of him playing in a childlike fashion, mostly lying around, jumping into small cardboard boxes and sliding across his owner’s wooden floor.
Maru was born on May 24th, 2007. His anonymous owner launched the photo blog “I am Maru” in November 2007 to curate photos of his cat. Maru’s official YouTube channel mugumogu was created almost a year later in July 2008, showcasing Maru’s daily adventures in short video format. As of May 2013, mugumogu’s channel has more than 330,000 subscribers, 210 million views overall and averages approximately 118,000 views per day. At one point, the channe was the 8th Most Subscribed channel and 11th Most Viewed YouTube channel of all time in Japan.
Throughout 2008, Maru’s YouTube channel was featured on Internet culture blogs like BoingBoing, Neatorama and Urlesque. In the following year, Maru’s videos were linked in numerous cat-related hubsites like I Can Has Cheezburger, CuteOverload and Ebaum’s World. Maru’s videos also appeared on Sundance Channel’s SUNfiltered blog and tech news blog Laughing Squid. Meanwhile in Japan, Maru’s videos were featured in NHK’s variety program Exclusve! Post Pictures and World News segment as the “world’s most famous cat,” accruing between 800,000 and 3,600,000 views during the month of June 2009 alone.
The news media coverage of Maru continued throughout 2010; In March 2010, The Los Angeles Times’ Unleashed Blog published an article titled “Your Morning Adorable YouTube Star: Maru the Cat”; In June 2010, a video clip of Maru was showcased during an episode of the Ellen Degeneres show; In July 2010, The New York Times mentioned Maru in an article about the popularity of cats and dogs in the media titled “On Films and TV, Cats and Dogs Playing Cute.” Following the March 2011 earthquakes in Japan, it was reported via Maru’s blog that the cat was safe and unharmed, though a carrying case was prepared in the event of an evacuation.
In 2008 and 2009, Maru won YouTube Japan’s video awards in the Pet / Animal category for two consecutive years. In August 2010, Maru was voted the Internet’s Favorite Feline in Urlesque’s “Catfight” event, beating the Ceiling Cat in the final round.
In April 2010, the cat blog LoveMeow published a transcript of an interview with the blogger behind Maru’s YouTube channel and websites.
Amy: Why do you like boxes so much?
Maru: I don’t know why, but I can’t seem to stop going into a box when I see one. It just gets me so excited!
Amy: What else do you like besides boxes?
Maru: I love hanging out on top of a cat tree, by the window and in the bathroom.
Amy: Do you prefer big boxes or small boxes?
Maru: When I nap I like a small box because it is snug and fits me just right. However, when I play, I prefer a huge one.
On September 1st, 2009, the first Maru photobook was published in Japan. Over a year later in August 2010, a second book and compilation DVD were released. Maru’s videos have been featured in more than one commercial as well, including a web advertisement for the cat food brand Fresh Step as well as other commercials for various products sold in Japan.
Derivative: X Sliding In
In July 2009, the trend of using characters drawn with cat ears and tails sliding into cardboard boxes emerged on the Japanese video-sharing site Nico Nico Douga. It was then called “すべりこむちぇん”  (Chen sliding in) and featured a well-known catgirl character from the Touhou Project series. It also used the soundtrack from the squeak! squeak! squeak! meow! dance, the “meow!” sound indicating the moment when the character is seen sliding into the box.
For more information about that particular phenomenon, please check the KYM entry for X Sliding In.
Search queries for Maru show a rise in popularity in November of 2008, and have shown an increase in popularity well into May of 2011.