Online devotees call themselves "cat sniffers." /Gif via Weibo
A student surnamed Wang, a "cat sniffer" herself, aimed to find out the ultimate reason behind these behaviors, calling “cyber cat petting” the “spiritual opium” in her 62-page thesis for her course at Zhejiang University in eastern China.
Many netizens doubted whether "cyber cat petting" was a proper topic for a postgraduate thesis.
"I think it is an interesting issue that deserves to be written about. My research looks into a kind of sub-culture that reflects the changing of times," Wang said in responding to the doubts, reported Wenhui Newspaper.
Some also showed their support to her research as they found the thesis really innovative and to some extent, reflective of modern young Chinese lifestyles.
"Why can't the thesis focus on issues that are close to people's daily lives? 'Cyber cat petting' does reflect young people's psychological state," commented a user @Shaoniantingyu on Weibo, China's Twitter-equivalent.