The Dec. 7, 1981, cover of TIME
Neil Leifer
October 29, 2014 12:15 PM EDT

Today is National Cat Day — even though it kind of feels like every day is National Cat Day on the Internet. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we decided to take a look back at a key moment in TIME’s history: that time in 1981 when cats were the most important news of the week.

It’s true. On Dec. 7, 1981, TIME’s cover featured a green-eyed feline model paired with the cover line “CATS: Love ’em! Hate ’em!” The corresponding story, called “Crazy Over Cats,” declared the animals a “national mania.” Fun fact: Maureen Dowd, then a young TIME correspondent, was a reporter and researcher on the story, which outlined humans’ complex relationship with felines. As J.D. Reed wrote:

Though this cover was obviously a very silly one, it should be noted that plenty of other TIME covers have been just as ridiculous — especially in 1981, for some reason. (See: this one about ice cream, and this one about fitness.) Few, however, have been quite so prescient. More than three decades ago, TIME knew that cats were nothing to LOL about.

The Dec. 7, 1981, cover story is now available free of charge in TIME’s archives. Click here to read it in its entirety: Crazy Over Cats

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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