Blast From The Past: The Origins Of The 'I Can Has Cheezburger' Meme

The history of the internet is a constant churn of memes. Almost all are forgotten in time, but one of the most foundational is "I Can Has Cheezburger." As seen on Know Your Meme, the image is of a goofy-looking British Shorthair with the text "I Can Has Cheezburger?" in the now ubiquitous meme font. Before this image, memes really weren't a thing beyond the more self-contained areas of the internet. 

That changed when the image emerged onto the Something Awful forum on January 11, 2007. According to The Daily Dot, the accepted story is that Eric Nakagawa was having a rough day at work, so he asked his friend Kari Unebasami for something silly, and Unebasami sent him the image. For reasons unknown, the image became overwhelmingly popular. In fact, it became so popular that it spawned the Cheezburger Network, which still accepts submissions of cat images, among other things. A few months later, the site grew too large for the two friends to maintain, so they sold it to Ben Huh. Talking to CNET in 2008, he explained that the question was, "Are we a one-hit wonder, or can we pump out memes. Can we popularize memes?" Looking back from 2021, it's obvious that they can indeed popularize memes.

But why cats?

As a food news site, Mashed has obviously taken an interest in the meme because it features a misspelled cheeseburger. Also obviously, the food isn't what fuelled the meme — it was the cat and the mangled English. It's less obvious, though, why cats should have become so big on the internet. Luckily, Ben Huh shed some light on this phenomenon in a 2014 interview with the International Business Times.

According to Huh, it's easier for people to project onto cats. "Unlike dogs, who have a handful of emotional expressions, there are nuances in a cat's face and body language," he said. "They are expressive." Some may disagree with that, but pretty much everyone will accept the second reason he gives. Namely that since dog parks exist, people didn't need an online platform to share their love of the pets in the same way that cat owners did.