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FSU Professor's World-Famous Cat Map Website Could Soon Run Out Of Lives

Mundy
Jessica Palombo
/
WFSU News

A Florida State University art professor has been getting international attention for his website mapping the world’s cats. But the popular site will soon go dark if he doesn’t raise enough money to keep the computer servers purring.

Type Owen Mundy’s name into Google, and you’ll get recent headlines from The New York Times, USA Today and NPR.  

“I’ve had many moments where I was working on it, and I said to myself, ‘Yeah, this is gonna be big. This is really funny,’” he recalls.

Two weeks ago Mundy launched the website I Know Where Your Cat Lives. For a year, he and intern Alissa McShane had collected more than 1 million cat photos people uploaded to social media. They then pinned them on a world map using the photos’ metadata—that’s the hidden information digital snapshots contain about where they were uploaded, among other tidbits.

On the site, users click a button labeled “Random cat.”

“You can go to the website and just click that button over and over and over,” Mundy says.

He narrates while clicking four times, and up pop a “cat in Russia in a hamster cage, two feral cats in India, a cat with a snake in Italy,” and then “a silhouette of a cat in Bangkok, Thailand.”

Mundy explains the project’s feline focus this way: “I used cats very specifically because they’re funny, because they’re a meme, because people love them, because they’re sort of part of our domestic sphere. They’re as close to your child as you can get without being sort of, ultimately creepy.”

He says he wanted to use humor to explore a very real concern: that people often share their exact location without realizing it when they upload photos publicly without disabling geo-tagging. 

Back on the site, he says, “So, we’re zooming into Tallahassee, and, yeah, there are a lot of cats here.”

The project has gotten so much interest that the website attracted more than 90,000 visitors in a single day. But that kind of traffic drives up the bill for running it, he says, so Mundy’s turning back to the Internet to ask for help through a Kickstarter campaign. And if he doesn’t sell enough I Know Where Your Cat Lives beer cozies and cat nip toys? These cats’ online lives will end in nine days.