The first peer-reviewed academic study to investigate and document the internet’s cat-video-proliferation-phenomenon might well [we think] be :
● Do Cats Know They Rule YouTube? Surveillance and the Pleasures of Cat Videos by Radha O’Meara, in the M/C Journal, Vol. 17, Issue 2, 2014.
Since then, the prevalence of scholarly investigations which reference internet cat videos has not abated. Here’s a partial list [no particular order] :
● Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect? Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 52, November 2015, Pages 168-176.
● It’s Not All Cat Videos : Moving beyond legacy media and tackling the challenges of mapping news values on digital native websites Digital Journalism, Volume 6, 2018 – Issue 8.
● Cat Videos and the Superflat Cinema of Attractions, Film Criticism, Volume 40, Issue 2, July 2016.
● Not Just Silly Cat Videos: Exploring Student Knowledge Sharing via Social Media Association for Information Systems, Conferences, AMCIS2015 , ISEdu, 6.
● What can science researchers, practitioners learn from the success of cat videos? CSA News (Crop Science America), Oct 2017.
● A Note From the Digital Scholarship Editor: Digital Media Scholarship—Beyond Viral Cat Videos Journal of Family Theory, Volume 7, Issue 3.
● QoE matters more than QoS: Why people stop watching cat videos IEEE INFOCOM 2016 – The 35th Annual IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications.