Is This Viral Image of a Cat Real or Fake?

When you think about cats, you probably associate a lot of words with them: Mischievous, adorable, cuddly, and possibly evil. But have you ever labeled a feline as “polite?”

If not, you haven’t seen Ollie. Ollie is the progenitor of the “Polite Cat” meme, also known as the “He Looks Very Polite” meme. It all started with an unsuspecting 9GAG post, where someone submitted a very peculiar-looking cat whose mouth resembled that of a human’s pressed in a straight line.

The caption on the image, which was posted in June, reads: “My face when someone expects me to be excited about something that I’m not excited about,” was spot on. The cat’s bizarre countenance is basically everyone who’s ever tried to disguise non-excitement on their face. The image was an instant hit on the image-sharing site and racked up 1,200 points, according to Know Your Meme.

That may have been Ollie the cat’s first documented appearance online, but it didn’t take long for him to be splashed across the internet. The meme that made Polite Cat go viral was a (likely fake) screengrab of a text message exchange between a renter and “Bruce Landlord” in which the renter asks the landlord if they can have a pet in the building.

The screengrab was posted by @livewithflip on Instagram:

Bruce Landlord says “no pets are allowed” until the renter shares a photo of Polite Cat. “OK I will make an exception because he looks very polite,” Bruce Landlord replies. It’s a great imagined text message exchange, and it’s a joke that’s easy to understand—everything you need to know is contained in the image.

According to Know Your Meme, the image was shared via the /r/GoodFakeTexts subreddit and began to spread like wildfire. People then took the original image of Polite Cat and started, weirdly enough, editing the cat’s eyes onto its ears.

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Weird, but strangely satisfying.

Meme makers have since edited Polite Cat into a variety of other memes, like this one that advertises “Polite Juice”:

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The Polite Cat meme is clearly beloved. But it left us with one question: Is the cat real?

The internet gods of cats and mayhem appeared to give us an answer over the summer. On July 9, 2018, the Instagram account @Khan_Amon_Ra popped up, and it claimed to be the cat’s owner. The Instagram account certainly appeared like the real thing, although that account was supposedly “hacked” and later reopened as @Polite_Cat_Olli on the service instead.

The @Polite_Cat_Olli account posts new photos of Ollie on a regular basis. So does this mean that Polite Cat is real? Well, the cat itself appears to actually exist in real life, but it’s unclear if the unique expression that made Ollie famous is real.

Photos like this one make the cat look completely normal:

This photo looks suspiciously “normal” as well.

While there are videos posted to the same Instagram, they could just as easily have been altered using video-editing software, especially since the area around the cat’s mouth always seems to look a bit “off,” and we don’t get a great look up close. The videos are always short and usually taken from a distance.

We edited a video of a cat owned by a Daily Dot contributor to see if we could replicate the effect of Polite Cat, and we were able to alter the cat’s expression. So it’s possible.

When the Daily Dot contacted the person running Ollie’s Instagram account, they initially responded and claimed to be the cat’s true owner. But when we asked whether or not the cat’s smile is real or fake, the individual ceased responding to inquiries. This doesn’t exactly lend an air of credibility to the situation.

So, what do you think? Is Ollie as polite as his owner claims he is? Is this smile genuine? Looks like it will have to remain one of the great mysteries of the internet for now.

As for us, well, we want to believe.



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