Cat Distribution System: Social Media Is Obsessing Over the Cat Distribution System · The Wildest

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Has a Cat Wandered Into Your Life? It Could Be the Cat Distribution System

TikTok thinks the universe just provides you a cat—is that really a thing?


by Savannah Admire
December 8, 2023
Tabby cat trying to open with her head window in order to enter the house.
Laura Stolfi / Stocksy

If you’ve spent any time on TikTok in the past year, you may have encountered videos of stray cats approaching people and snuggling right up to their new human friends. More often than not, these videos are littered with comments such as, “The cat distribution system strikes again!” But this cat is just a stray, right? It’s not like there’s some greater program at work. Is there?

The cat distribution system has become a meme of its own, thanks to cat-loving social media users and the propensity of stray kittens to chase down strangers in search of affection. But what exactly is this theory about how cats end up with their human parents? And will you ever get to experience the magic of the cat distribution system yourself?

What is the cat distribution system? 

So, what exactly is the cat distribution system? Unfortunately, it’s not an organized group where you can sign up to receive the perfect cat just for you. Instead, the phrase is how TikTok users — and now individuals across social media — describe the often random ways that cats enter their lives. Basically, the universal cat distribution system meaning can be boiled down to this: People don’t choose their cats, cats choose their people. 

When a stray cat or kitten walks up to a complete stranger meowing and demanding attention, and that person takes the stray home, that is the cat distribution system in action. You could be on a casual walk at your local park, loading groceries into your car, or strolling into the office with your mind on your to-do list, and a cat could simply appear and change your life forever — as pets so often do. 

Cat distribution system meme origins

The meme surrounding the mythical cat distribution system originated in November 2022 in the below TikTok. “You’ll just be like going to work, you’ll take a break, and you’ll go outside, and there’s a kitten in a bush,” the creator says. “Now, that’s your kitten.”

Since that original video, the phrase has taken off across social media, whether used to describe interactions with stray cats or commented on other users’ posts. A simple search of the phrases “cat distribution system” or “kitten distribution system” on TikTok will reveal thousands of videos of stray felines approaching strangers, looking for a little love — and people delighted to experience the cat distribution system in action. 

Is the cat distribution system real? 

While the cat distribution system is just a fun theory with a catchy phrase, it bears a little bit of truth. People who adopt pets often say, “I didn’t choose them, they chose me.” The cat distribution theory shows just how common this experience is and how often cats show up in people’s lives in unexpected places, seemingly out of the blue. 

“The cat distribution system finally found me!” one Reddit user gushed about their newfound black kitten. “He’s super friendly and is a purring monster!”

Another TikTok user posted a video showing off two cats who showed up at his house, proclaiming, “The kitten distribution system found me.” And this TikTok user posted a video of a striped gray kitten climbing their leg: “We have welcomed Chompers to the family.”

The original TikTok video describes the cat distribution system as the universe entrusting a person to take care of a cat or kitten. It’s a heartwarming thought that cats may have an innate ability to find the right people to care for them.  

While it’s certainly true that cats seem to simply show up in people’s lives sometimes, it’s also evidence of the abundance of stray cats and kittens in the U.S. — a number that has been estimated to be around 70 million. Think about how many times you’ve encountered a stray cat in your neighborhood or during your commute. The cat distribution system could affect any of us, unfortunately, because there are so many cats without loving homes.

Is there a dog distribution system?

It’s much less common, but there is a dog distribution system — at least according to TikTok. Stray dogs sometimes wander up to people, especially in more rural areas. In many cases, these dogs are lost or abandoned, and the person who finds a dog on their own may choose to take them to a local rescue, rather than adopt the animal themselves.

There are far more stray cats than dogs, partly because cats are more independent and less domesticated, making them capable of surviving on their own. Dogs rely on humans for care, so while you may encounter a stray dog through the dog distribution system, you’re more likely to experience the cat version. 

Considering adopting?

Fortunately, if you desperately want a cat in your life, you don’t have to wait for the universe to bless you via the cat distribution system. Visit your local shelter or explore online adoption listings on Adopt a Pet to find the right cat for you. Who knows: Your version of the cat distribution system may be going to adopt one cat and falling in love with two. There are plenty of cats in rescues and shelters who need love and care, and you can be their hero today, whether the universal cat distribution system singles you out or not. 

Savannah Admire

Savannah Admire is a writer, editor, and pet parent to two dogs and a cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing Animal Crossing, or being an obnoxious nerd about her favorite movies and TV shows. She lives in Maryland, where she constantly debates whether or not to get a third dog.

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