Bigger than Garfield

Viral video felines hit the Seacoast

Four years ago, Katie Hall made a joke at work. The joke? Someone should create an Internet Cat Video Festival. Her workplace? The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The result? The Walker curated the first Internet Cat Video Festival in 2013. A clear success, its popularity saw the festival travel across the country — eventually finding itself in film festivals in Vienna and Jerusalem.

Now, Portsmouth joins that list of illustrious cities. The Internet Cat Video Festival will make its next stop at The Music Hall on March 25 at 7 p.m. Truly, it is a wondrous time to be alive. Angry cats, talking cats, Roomba-riding cats, ninja cats, not-so-cute cats, and cute-despite-how-much-they-look-like-Hitler cats: They’ve all found notoriety on every form of social media.

Some famous felines are a likely lock for the silver screen at this weekend’s festival, while others will be relegated to the cutting-room litter box. The Internet has no shortage of its furry raison d’être, so we’ve decided to shine a little red dot on some of the bigger viral cat stars of our times with commentary from Clarabeth McNibbins, a local self-proclaimed “crazy cat lady” and definitely not this author’s alter-ego.

Grumpy Cat

One of the most popular cats in the world, Grumpy Cat (known to her family and friends as Tardar Sauce) owes her look of perpetual consternation to feline dwarfism and a severe under-bite. She debuted on Reddit in 2012 when she was just a kitten and soon found her face on mugs, calendars, and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. In 2014, she starred in “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever.”

Clarabeth McNibbins: I’m just going to come right out and say it, OK? I don’t like Grumpy Cat. I know she’s not really grumpy and it’s just her nickname, but she sells it too well for me. I don’t want my cats to make me grumpy. My little angels keep my blues away. You’ve had your fame, Grumpy. Step aside for those angels less fortunate than you.

Nyan Cat

Nyan Cat, the borderline hypnotic GIF animation created by Christopher Torres in 2011, is a Pop-Tart/flying cat hybrid that creates rainbows in its wake, all set to a four-minute looping vocal track from famed Japanese “vocaloid” Hatsune Miku. A viral smash, soon different versions of Nyan Cat appeared all over the world.

Clarabeth: A fake cat with music from a Japanese robot? I’m sorry, but I grew up going to church every Sunday. I knew the value of a dollar and was taught that the moon was for dogs, monkeys, and, one day, astronaut men. So a fake half-cat with music from a fake girl? This is why my cat, Lady Meowmarlade, isn’t appreciated for her education and fine breeding.

Lil Bub

The runt of a litter of feral cats, the tiny Lil Bub was born severely underweight — when found, she was the size of a hacky sack — and with multiple birth defects. Her stunted jaw and lack of teeth create a vision of dopiness. Initial fame came from a series of Tumblr posts made by owner Mike Bridavsky in 2011.

Clarabeth: Now here’s a little angel I can get behind. Everyone gets dealt a bad can of beans in life. It’s how you make those beans into a royal flush that shows the measure of man. And man and woman have been placed on this planet to take care of its creatures. It’s our job to provide for them as much as we can. Unless your hateful niece threatens to call animal control on you for being a “hoarder.” And that’s why I’m not going to Diane’s for Easter.

Keyboard Cat

In 1984, cat owner Charlie Schmidt got to the natural point that most sane pet owners reach when he decided to dress his orange cat Fatso in a blue T-shirt and film him “playing” the keyboard. One of the first cats to find fame on YouTube, Keyboard Cat’s footage was uploaded to the site in 2007. Unfortunately, Fatso wasn’t able to experience his digital fame; he’d been dead for 20 years.

Clarabeth: Now it just breaks my heart that Keyboard Cat is no longer with us. My little angel, Fuzzpot Feet? His mother’s mother — Fuzzpot’s grandmother — lived to 32. She was half Abyssinian and they worship cats like gods in Abyssinia. So I think it was the Old World magic kept her going all those years. But Keyboard Cat? He respected music for its craft. God bless him. He is missed.


The tenacious Scottish Fold cat named Maru (Japanese for “round”) was first introduced by his owner, YouTube user “mugumogu,” in 2008. Vintage looking black and white title cards with simple phrases such as, “I am Maru,” “Very playful,” and, most famously, “I love a box!” were written in both Japanese and English, so there’d be less of a language barrier. But you don’t need to be bilingual to find humor in a very large cat who’s insistent on settling into smaller and comically smaller boxes, chairs, and tubes.

Oh, Maru. What have you gotten yourself into this time?

Oh, Maru. What have you gotten yourself into this time?

Clarabeth: Now I love some Maru. This big angel makes me laugh and laugh. Come on now, Maru! You’re doing it again! Only one I ever seen come close to Maru’s antics is Thaxter, who I found in an apple orchard. He loved putting his snarly head in jars. I’ve got pictures of it. Just let me find them and I’ll show you. You’ll just love Thaxter.

The Internet Cat Video Festival screens Friday, March 25 at 7 p.m. at The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Tickets are $11, available at 603-436-2400 or