The internet is filled with a variety of videos. In fiction, however, people will usually be watching videos of animals being cute or funny instead of anything else. The most common by far are domesticated cats, though dogs, piglets, birds, llamas, and other cute animals will pop up too.
This can be due to Small Reference Pools of memes. While it's true many internet memes are animal related, most actually aren't. That being said, this used to be very much Truth in Television, and to a certain extent still is; cute animals (cats in particular) are always popular on the internet, and while no longer the mainstay of memes and YouTube they once were, are still incredibly popular.
Note that Cute Kitten is about actually showing a cute animal. This trope is about people posting pictures and videos of them online and others watching them. In many of the examples we don't even see the kitten, just people's reactions to it.
- A 2017 Goldfish crackers ad has the goldfish discovering the internet. It's nothing but cat videos apparently.
- While trying to seduce Shirogane as part of a bet, Hayasaka from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War claims that she likes watching cat videos (she actually watches videos of things being crushed in a hydraulic press).
- In the manga adaptation of RWBY, Ruby expresses her stage fright before a spar by wishing she were at home, watching videos of puppies on the internet instead.
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, there's a crudely animated internet video of a DJ cat and a bunch of ducks singing "Fight the Power". When Sam Sparks and her cameraman try to question Flint Lockwood about the means of controlling his food-creating invention (which he wasn't able to control yet), he uses this video to distract them while he hastily puts together an appropriate device.
Sam Sparks: I can't believe I've been watching this for 3 hours!
- It reappears as a Brick Joke when Flint tries to shut down his machine, but discovers that his dad had sent him the cat video instead of the kill code.
- The Secret Life of Pets combines this with Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube! after Chloe is filmed careening through a party and it ends up on the Times Square jumbotron.
- Ralph Breaks the Internet sees Ralph enter an Expy of YouTube and marveling at the high volume of cat videos.
- In Night at the Museum 3 the Roman legionnaire pieces are watching a video of a cat being distracted by laser pointer on Youtube. It ends up being a Chekhov's Gun. Later in the movie, a pack of lion statues come to life because of the Moon Tablet and our hero gets an idea of distracting them with his torchlight.
- In Austin Powers in Goldmember, Austin Powers, who has gotten used to the 1990s by now, tells Foxxy Cleopatra, who is from the 1970s that the Internet "has completely revolutionized the way we live and access vital information" - and shows her a video clip of a cute baby chimp having an amusing mishap.
- The short story "Cat Pictures Please", as the name might have suggested. It's about a search engine algorithm that accidentally gained sapience, and only wants two things: to be moral, and cat pics.
I suppose you're wondering why I didn't start with the Golden Rule. I actually did, it's just that it was disappointingly easy to implement. I hope you've been enjoying your steady supply of cat pictures! You're welcome.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The normally Comically Serious Dr. Robbins appears in one episode laughing at internet cat memes in an Imagine Spot where he's incompetent.
- In Daredevil (2015), as Ben Urich prepares to launch his war against Wilson Fisk in bloggerspace, Fisk dismisses his efforts since people only use the Internet to look at "pictures of cats."
- In The Big Bang Theory Sheldon Cooper makes a disparaging reference to Penny doing this a lot on the Net (when she isn't looking for shoes). to which Penny replies along the lines of "So what's your point?"
- On an episode of Austin & Ally a video of Ally's performance becomes the top video on a website, beating a video of a sneezing panda. The characters are about to watch Ally's video when a video of said panda's baby sneezing becomes the top video.
- On NCIS, McGee apparently watches so many "funny cat" videos online that he makes a New Year's resolution to watch fewer.
- Garfield: The October 24, 2016 strip has Garfield claim that the internet was invented for the purpose of watching cat videos.
- The freeware image manipulation program PhotoScape has "cats" as its default filename in the save dialogue.
- Near the start of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Beep-0 gets an e-mail. It thought that the attachment was probably just a cat video, not something useful.
- The first Edison Hate Future comic is about how Edison looks into the future and finds out how the "World Wide Intar Wub" is for sharing cat pictures. "edison hate future."
- In the Nostalgia Critic review of Catwoman, when he got Anne Hathaway, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sean Young, and Eartha Kitt to make a video of themselves and adore at the end of the review. It bit him in the ass when Halle Berry appears and beat him up while the girls were distracted by the video. Also, considering how he and the girls lampshade the fetish aspects of Catwoman in general, it was a Bait-and-Switch of The Internet Is for Porn.
- The Key of Awesome's first video is "Heavy Metal Cats", which pokes fun at this trend.
- In the Atop the Fourth Wall episode on the Spiderman: Virtual Mortality this gets referenced. After the comic (which is from the 1990s) comments about how 'cyberspace' has no boundaries and has infinite potential and possibility, Linkara says "The capacity for pornography, cat videos, and harassment is infinite!"
- In another video, Linkara says at the end of the review that he'll be using his computer to surf the web to watch videos of cats being cute.
- Lampshaded in What the Fuck Is Wrong with You? after Tara first manages to get her nephew's cat on screen. It would become something of a running gag in later episodes.
Nash: You know, we're a ridiculous species because all it takes is to put a kitty cat on the internet and we lose our fucking minds.
- Media Molecule wholeheartedly believe this, using video on their site (originally from rathergood.com) which explains how the internet is made of cats.
- On Reddit, a user asked Sir Tim Berners-Lee note what he didn't expect what the Internet would be used for. His answer? "Kittens."
- Phineas and Ferb: In "At the Car Wash", Dr. Doofenshmirtz briefly interrupts his exposition to Perry to Platypus to show some funny cat pictures he discovered on the Internet.
Doofenshmirtz: Look! "Invisible cheeseburger"! (beat) No, huh? Well, it's not for everyone. I just think they're funny.
- There was an episode of Regular Show where Benson develops an addiction to cat videos.
- In the Steven Universe episode "Too Short to Ride" the first thing Peridot ever sees on the internet is a cat video.
Peridot: Why was this documented?
- Wander over Yonder In "The Catastrophe", Wander and Sylvia arrive on a planet in time for a space jellyfish migration, but Wander (and eventually everyone else on the planet except Sylvia) gets hooked on portable video players featuring cute and funny videos of a cat named "Baby Cakes", including one that's a Shout-Out to Keyboard Cat. It turns out to be mind-control, and "Baby Cakes" is actually Li'l Bits, a villain from a previous episode, trying to use her hypnotic cuteness to scam people out of their money.
- One of the main antagonists on We Bare Bears is Nom Nom, a koala who appears on cute videos but is actually a spoiled jerk. Most of the stories he's been in involve him becoming jealous of the bears when videos of their antics go viral, which he sees as a challenge to his celebrity.
- This applies even 20 Minutes into the Future in Big Hero 6: The Series. One episode has a popular internet celebrity get surpassed in popularity by a cute video of Mochi, which quickly becomes the most viewed video on the site. He gets so mad that he kidnaps the cat and tries to send him off in a rocket into space. He fails, and in the end a video of Aunt Cass and Mochi reuniting becomes the new most-watched video.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Internet", Gumball and Darwin beg for the Internet not to be shut down because of cute cat videos and pictures.