If you’ve been on Twitter, Steam, Tiktok, or Reddit recently, you may have come across a 3D model of a black-and-white cat. This is Maxwell, and while the cat’s become very popular among modders and gamers over the last few months, its origins date back before 2023. So why is a low-poly model of a cat from years ago popping up everywhere? Well, I can explain.
Maxwell is a cat. The internet loves cats. Done. That’s it. A short explanation, I know, but there you go. See you next time!
Okay, there’s more to the story of why Maxwell the spinning cat has become a meme. It started back in November 2017 on photo-sharing website Imgur. That’s when user Voidhawk42 posted a simple image of a black-and-white cat laying on a piece of paper, which said “Please do not bend.” Cats don’t give a shit about your rules, and indeed, the cat was deforming the paper. But it was from that first Imgur post that others found and re-shared the image of the cat.
Cut to October 12, 2022. After years of people re-sharing the image from Imgur—often giving the cat different names—a Steam user uploaded a low-poly model of Maxwell to the Garry’s Mod Steam Workshop. Now anyone could download and add this cute cat to the classic PC game. The model became fairly popular, racking up over 20,000 views and 500 likes.
Later that month a different Steam user, ScottRim, tweaked the original model and made it a holdable object that players could run around with in Garry’s Mod. In about a month, this new version of the cat brought in over 100,000 views and over 6,500 faves. This second mod is also where the name Maxwell became the cat’s most popular online moniker.
From here, Maxwell the spinning cat exploded across the internet. YouTubers began making videos featuring the cat and viral tweets began popping up. Then on November 4, 2022, Maxwell the cat started spinning. Twitter user blastycat posted a GIF of Maxwell spinning that quickly got thousands of likes and retweets. The next day another Twitter user edited the spinning cat GIF and made it appear as an in-game Final Fantasy item. This tweet was even more popular, and likely introduced a lot of people to Maxwell.
Later in November, Tumblr users began sharing videos of Maxwell spinning to different songs and this quickly became the hot new trend. You can find countless videos across YouTube and Twitter featuring Maxwell spinning to classic video game songs, “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Funkytown,” and many more. Many of these videos would get millions of views. People really liked that spinning cat!
That brings us to today, where you can still find people uploading videos and shitposts starring the internet’s favorite spinning cat, like this animation created in Minecraft and posted on Reddit a few weeks ago. (It was later shared on shared on Twitter by Shockbyte, getting 40k views.)
Sadly, Maxwell the spinning cat’s story takes a decidedly unfun turn at this point. Sorry about that. It turns out Maxwell’s real name was Jess. According to an Imgur post from cat owner Voidhawk in January 2020—years before they became a meme phenomenon among gamers and modders alike—a visit to the vet revealed that Jess had a blocked intestine. Voidhawk didn’t know what to do.
“I am just totally devastated. Sitting here crying,” Voidhawk posted on Imgur. “She’s only nine years old. My fiance got her just after a suicide attempt, and she’s been the rock of her mental health ever since. I have no idea what to tell her when she gets home from work.”
As far as I can tell, that’s the last confirmed status update on Jess, aka Maxwell, available at this time. While rumors have popped up that the cat lived or died, Kotaku wasn’t able to confirm either way, and has reached out to Voidhawk.
However, regardless of if Jess is still with us in 2023, it doesn’t change how much joy and happiness this one cat has brought thousands of people online. If Jess didn’t make it, at least she will be remembered for years to come as that cool spinning cat everyone loved and made memes about.
Update 2/22/2023 1:55 p.m.: Jess aka Maxwell’s owner, Voidhawk, has sadly shared the news with Kotaku that the famous cat passed away in early 2020.
“She was a lovely girl, but alas what we thought was an intestinal issue at first turned out to be cancer,” explained Voidhawk. “She passed away shortly afterward. We miss her dearly, but we remember her ‘take no crap’ attitude fondly—when I first met my wife, I knew that impressing her parents mattered much less than impressing Jess!”
Voidhawk also explained that, despite being online “24/7” they didn’t know that Jess had become a meme in games and on YouTube. They said it was “charming” to hear that her model lived on across the internet. They also had one final and weird little nugget of info to share with Kotaku:
“Slightly weirder is I previously had a completely different cat when I was a child named Max! Odd coincidences!”