The History of Cat Emoji
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The History of Cat Emoji

Est. read time: 3 min.

It’s World Emoji Day! The last decade has seen tremendous growth in the everyday use of these digital ideograms. In truth, emoji have been around for more than twenty years. So why are cat emoji in particular so prevalent? Learn more about the history of emoji and how cats have made an impact.

History of emoji

poop emoji held between two hands
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Before the emoji we know and love to use today, there were simple emoticons that made use of punctuation and letters—for example, ":)" to denote a smile. A WIRED report explains that the first emoji were created in 1999 by Japanese artist Shigetaka Kurita. Kurita worked on the development team for an early mobile internet platform from Japan’s main mobile carrier. According to the report, Kurita “wanted to design an attractive interface to convey information in a simple, succinct way: for example, an icon to show the weather forecast rather than spelling out ‘cloudy.’”

Emoji quickly gained popularity in Japan. It wasn’t until the mid- to late-2000s that companies outside Japan—including Apple and Google—began to incorporate emoji on their own platforms. In 2011, Apple added an official emoji keyboard to iOS. Android followed suit two years later.

Why are cat emoji so prevalent?

various cat emoji designs
Via Wikimedia Commons

Whether or not you’re a fan of cats, you’ve likely noticed that there are far more cat emoji options than other animal emoji—even dogs! Why is that?

Again, we have Japan to thank. From its Maneki Neko “lucky cat” figurines and calico cat station master to its world-famous cat cafes in Tokyo, the Japanese culture has consistently paid homage to felines. (In fact, Japan is our top-recommended vacation destination for cat people!)

According to Emojipedia, a Japanese phone vendor (au by KDDI) added cat faces to their proprietary emoji set in 2003. In 2010 when emoji characters were officially accepted by the Unicode Consortium—a nonprofit that maintains global text standards across computers—these cat face emoji were retained for compatibility.

early cat emoji designs from softbank, docomo, au by KDDI
Via Emojipedia: Earliest cat emoji designs from au by KDDI, Docomo, and SoftBank

Below you can see what cat emoji look like on various platforms today.

current cat emoji on apple, google, microsoft, samsung, whatsapp, twitter, facebook, joypixels, openmoj, emojidex, messenger, lg, htc, mozilla
Via Emojipedia

What about black cat emoji?

Unfortunately, black cat emoji are not so prevalent. In 2012, Android 4.3 comprised a release of black and white emoji, which included a set of black cat emoji by default.

black cat emojis Android 4.3
© 2012 Google Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0

However, there’s some hopeful news on the horizon for black cat emoji: Emojipedia lists Black Cat as new in Emoji 13.0, coming to more platforms in the second half of 2020.

Celebrate World Emoji Day and use the heck out of those cat emoji!

various cat emoji designs - the history of cat emoji


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