An Amusing History Explaining How People Sometimes Show Up as a Kitten on Video Chats

A rather amusing short New Yorker documentary explains how attorney Rod Ponton accidentally joined an online Texas court proceeding with a kitten Zoom filter in place.

This also happened to Paul J. Bracher, albeit eight years earlier. Bracher had been interviewing for a University job through Skype. He was completely prepared for the interview yet wasn’t able to make a good impression as his avatar was of a little white kitten.

The first school that wanted to interview me wanted to do a Skype interview. That wasn’t as prevalent back then. October 30th of 2012. The call comes through from the university. So, you know, you sit there, you pull your shirt down and you make sure that you’re looking okay. … The committee, which was around a table, was chuckling and there was some murmuring on the other end.

‘Do you see me as a kitten?’

And they were responding: ‘Yes, we do.’

My eyes and my fingers were desperately trying to search through every menu in Skype to figure out how to become human again.

As it turns out the image of the white kitten was the default avatar for the Dell Inspiron N5030 , a since discontinued model. A spokesman for Dell confirmed that this was indeed the case as web cameras in earlier days had very low resolution, making avatars very popular.

It wasn’t anything like what we have today. Back in 2007 to 2010 when we had lower performing computers, less broadband capacity, the idea of bringing an avatar to bear where you superimpose a visual of a cat, for instance, that reflects your emotions, it blinks, its mouth moves, its head moves with your emotions, actually has the implication of creating a richer user experience than low quality video.

The New Yorker also learned that the kitten who provided the image for the avatar was born in Taiwan under the name Eldest Mouse.

The owner of the cat is named Loma and is a photographer from Taipei, Taiwan. The parents of the Lawyer Cat are named Meow Meow, is the mom and the dad is Little Adorable. They had five kittens. They called the kittens, the mice and Lawyer Cat was the first one out, so they called him Eldest Mouse.