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A Field Guide to the World of Lolcats

The world of ‘lolcats’ or ‘cat macros’ can be simply described as captioned images of cats, but it also incorporates a variety of aesthetic and literary complexities.  The origin of the practice is generally attributed to the image board 4chan.org (link goes to Wikipedia, as there are things on 4chan that cannot be unseen), although lolcats can currently be found on a number of websites, such as Icanhascheezburger.com, Macrocats.com,  and Lolcats.com.  Many forums that are not specifically dedicated to lolcats still welcome their presence.  Saturday, which has been dubbed “Caturday” by lolcat enthusiasts, is the best time to find lolcats on those forums.

The quality of images that are used for cat macros is not strict; professional photographs to digital images taken from cell phones are all welcome.  The cats in the images are often shown at play, although a skilled caption-writer can make a macro from an image of cat sitting still or sleeping.  Captions are traditionally written in a simple bold font like Impact, with white letters that have black outlines, although this is not always strictly adhered to.  While entirely original captions and images are not unheard of in lolcat communities, many images are recycled multiple times and most captions refer to older captions, either in a direct or formulaic sense.

Some of the earliest cat macros include:

The stylized language in which lolcats are captioned, often called “lolspeak”, is not set in stone, although a number of the grammatical rules are outlined at Lolcatbible.com, and translations can be acquired at Speaklolcat.com.  The general tone of lolspeak is somewhat childish, and the spelling is often derived from common abbreviations and typos.

One of the oldest caption forms is “I’m in your (noun), (verb)ing your (noun)”.  For example,

This caption form originated with the phrase “I’m in your base, killing your dudes” (or “im in ur base, killin ur d00dz”), used in Real Time Strategy games as a jab in response to the question “where are you?”.  The original phrase has been a popular internet meme since before the time of lolcats.

Another common caption form is “My (noun): let me show you it/them”.  This caption form originated from the following macro, which is in motivational form, although the “let me show you it” form has become popular enough that it is not always accompanied by the motivational format.

Other examples of this caption form include:


Almost all lolcat captions directly refer to some aspect of the image itself, although this is more true for some caption forms than others.  The “Invisible (noun)” caption form, for example, is used when a cat in an image appears to be interacting with an invisible object.

Other common caption forms include: “I have a (noun)” or “(noun): I have it“;  “Want/Do not want“, in which the cat is interacting with an object which it appears to want, or alternately, not to want; and “Om nom nom nom” which is meant to describe the sound of eating (“noms” is a common lolspeak substitute for “food”).

Some caption forms have led to the development of new lolcat forms entirely.  One such caption form is “(noun or adjective) cat is (same noun or adjective, or related action)”.

This caption form led to the development of a number of lolcat “characters” that are referenced in lolcat communities.  The most notable of these characters is Ceiling Cat, who first appeared in this macro:

Ceiling cat is generally referred to as a sort of lolcat deity, and has been incorporated into a variety of settings:

In opposition to Ceiling Cat, is Basement Cat.  Ceiling Cat is typically depicted as a white or light colored cat, while Basement Cat is typically a black or darkly colored cat.

Macros referring to Ceiling Cat and/or Basement Cat do not necessarily feature the characters themselves.  Often an image of a cat is captioned to make it seem as though the cat is praying to Ceiling Cat, or cowering in fear from an unseen Basement Cat.  The Ceiling Cat depicted in the above macro is actually another lolcat character, Longcat.  Longcat originated with the following image, and like Ceiling Cat, has since been incorporated into a variety of settings.

Unlike Ceiling Cat and Basement Cat, Longcat does not seem to have any special significance besides being comically long.  However, Longcat has a nemesis named Tacgnol, who is a black cat who also appears to be abnormally long.   Longcat has become one of the most well-known lolcat characters, appearing on t-shirts and even spreading into the animation realm:

These common forms and styles are only a brief introduction into a highly nuanced practice that is continually evolving.  The best way to get involved with a lolcat community is to simply start posting lolcats, since each community will have variances in aesthetic and comedic preference.

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