Canada's earliest attempt at a viral cat video?

Before we had the Internet, Canadians were crazy for cats on TV. On this day in 1983, CBC explored what they called a "cat conspiracy," the craze for felines as pets and pop-culture superstars. Watch archival footage from Broadway's Cats, and meet Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield.

On this day in '83, CBC met Garfield, Cats on Broadway and the ancestors of Lil Bub.

Cat crazy in 1983

40 years ago
Duration 12:09
Wildly popular on the stage and the comics page, cats have really caught on among Canadians.

It's hard to imagine how such a flagrantly biased piece of reporting could ever exist, especially in these modern and progressive times — an age of cat cafes and international cat video film festivals where we all can haz cheezburger thanks to the glory of the Interwebs.

But on this day in 1983, CBC's The Journal aired a documentary that shows just how much Canadian culture has progressed in the last 33 years. Unless you're more of a dog person.

The story is called "The Cat Conspiracy," and in it reporter Tom Alderman accuses the common feline of being a sneaky good-for-nothing "only out for itself."

In a word, his attitude is catty. Because even in the unenlightened, anti-felinist 1980s, the stats were against him. By 1983, cat lovers were on the rise.

On this day in 1983, The Journal aired "The Cat Conspiracy," a 12-minute report revealing CBC's flagrant kowtowing to the Big Dog agenda. (Screen capture)

As The Journal explains, housecat ownership had seen an increase of 30 per cent over six years, with some 30 million kitties accounted for in homes throughout Canada and the U.S. "Never before in human history have we been so hooked on the little buggers," Alderman says in the piece, his vicious language somehow avoiding the notice of the CBC ombudsman.

And to prove his thoroughly flawed point, The Journal's cameras rendezvous with some of the entertainment industry's notable fat cats, including Champ, an animal actor with various theatrical and television credits and a diva with a proto-Mariah Carey work ethic.

Before we're on set with Champ, though, The Journal takes us to Broadway.The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats was just one season into its record-setting 19-year run, and theatre fans would probably claw your eyes out for a pair of tickets. 

And, because nobody hated Mondays more than an early '80s audience, we also meet Jim Davis, creator of the original grumpy cat, Garfield. The little money bag with claws was then just five years old, still young and kittenish enough that Garfield might, indeed, ship himself to Abu Dhabi.

Even cat-haters loved Garfield's fat-and-sassy ways in 1983. It's a phenomenon Davis explains thusly, once again revealing the CBC report's devotion to pushing Big Dog propaganda: "He represents everything they've always hated about cats and now everybody else is getting to see how really disgusting they are." 

Visit the CBC Archives for more throwbacks like this one.


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