- Bravo/YouTube; Tumblr/Smudge
- 2019 produced several popular internet trends and viral memes, including “woman yelling at a cat,” which uses side-by-side photos of a woman yelling and an angry white cat sitting at a table.
- The cat in the picture is named Smudge, and he’s used to getting his own seat at the dinner table, his owner, Miranda Stillabower, told Business Insider. He first appeared on Tumblr in 2018.
- The woman in the photo – Taylor Armstrong, a former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star – told Business Insider that the screenshot of her was from a particularly emotional and stressful time but that she could now look back and “laugh at things and be lighthearted about it.”
- Even though neither image was posted online this year, the composite of the two photos blew up this year after someone posted them together on Twitter in May.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
There’s no reason for you to know about a white cat named Smudge who lives in Canada, except that he’s the face of one of the most popular memes of 2019.
The “women yelling at a cat” meme is as versatile as it is iconic – it has been used for everything from arguing about pronunciations and interpretations to describing ultra-emotional drunken moments to referencing headlines and combining with other memes. The simple composite of a screengrab from a reality-TV show and a photo of an angry white cat has become so popular that it’s generated epic Halloween costumes, Etsy-like home goods, and a protest sign in Guatemala.
However, the meme’s story doesn’t start on May 1, when a Twitter user with the handle @missingegirl shared the first known tweet with these pictures side by side.
These photos together is making me lose it pic.twitter.com/kJi9d8MpbG
— chey (@MISSINGEGIRL) May 1, 2019
The massively viral tweet – which has over 350,000 likes and comments – not only launched the composite image into 2019’s mainstream memeosphere, but demonstrated the internet’s ability to bring a second life to outdated content that didn’t take off the first time around.
The origin story of ‘woman yelling at a cat’
It didn’t take long for Miranda Stillabower, an Ontario resident, to realize in 2015 that her new cat was an especially anxious guy. He was, like a lot of cats, antisocial when strangers came into their home. But when others weren’t around, he would cuddle and beg for pets – as well as demand his own seat at the dinner table.
“He gets upset if he doesn’t have his own seat,” Stillabower told Business Insider in an email. “Sometimes we have people over and don’t have room to fit his chair. As soon as someone gets up from the table, he jumps on the nearest chair.”
That’s how Smudge found himself – and how the rest of the world would soon see him – in front of a plate of salad. Stillabower says Smudge has a “very expressive” face, and he visibly and vehemently showed his distaste for the vegetables in front of him.
Stillabower posted Smudge’s face on her personal Tumblr in June 2018, with the caption “He no like vegetals” and low expectations. She often posted pictures of her pets online; the photo of Smudge was just one of many.
Yet this one was different. It captured the attention of Tumblr users, for whatever reason - perhaps because of the internet-jargon-filled caption, or the unique face Smudge shows. Stillabower says it's because of how adorable he is but admits she may be biased. Her post accrued thousands of notes and reposts, which was nothing compared with the attention Smudge would get less than a year later.
The woman pictured next to Smudge in the meme is a bit further removed from her experience, in a moment that's now immortalized in nearly every part of the internet. Taylor Armstrong was a cast member on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" in December 2011 and dealing with the fallout of her divorce - in which she accused her husband of domestic abuse - and his death by suicide shortly after. After another housewife started to gossip about the abuse, the shot was born: Armstrong, held back by her fellow cast member Kyle Richards, as she yells at the woman.
However, that TV moment was eight years ago, and Armstrong said she could now look back and "laugh at things and be lighthearted about it."
Armstrong told Business Insider that the emotions she was experiencing in the photo in the meme "have no impact on me at this point, it was so very long ago," adding, "My life is in such a great place now."
But neither Armstrong nor Smudge and his owner anticipated how rapidly and drastically their shared meme would catch on after its debut on Twitter. Stillabower quickly learned how to turn off notifications after the influx made her phone unusable.
"I think people like the meme so much because of how versatile it is," Stillabower told Business Insider. "You can use it for almost any scenario you could think of. Also, Smudge's face is pretty relatable in general."
Just as TikTok did to Lil Nas X, the viral meme turned Smudge into a star. He's become arguably the most popular online feline since Grumpy Cat. His viral fame has earned him 1.4 million Instagram followers and an official "Smudgeposting" Facebook group with 23,000 members who want to share their favorite iterations of the meme with Smudge's owners. Smudge appears on a variety of official merchandise, as well as lots of fan-made home decor and Christmas sweaters found on Etsy and Amazon.
Unfortunately, Smudge and Armstrong have never had the chance to meet each other in person or reenact the meme for the internet's delight. However, Stillabower said she'd exchanged messages with Armstrong and discussed meeting up in the future - if Smudge feels comfortable leaving home.
"If Smudge were able to meet her in person for a photo, I would definitely be interested," Stillabower said. "However, that would be Smudge's call."