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A graphic that layers a photo of a black cat over a white background and a pink and purple color gradient. The cat is holding its foot up and has its four little toes spread wide. Graphic: Will Joel/Polygon

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TikTok’s dabloon cat meme, explained

People online have created a fictional market with a cat currency

Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

In the throes of cryptocurrencies failing and Twitter bleeding staff, a meme about a fake cat-driven currency is thriving on TikTok. Much like the chokehold of Tumblr’s recent Goncharov (1973) memes, “dabloon” jokes have enraptured TikTok’s giant audience and become a communal bit where people role-play spending and earning a fictional “dabloon” currency. Thousands have joined in on it, as multiple videos exceed a million views.

These dabloon memes are playful and absurd in a way that defies easy explanation. Still, I think it’s great, and you should get in on the joke too. So here is the dabloon cat trading TikTok meme trend, explained.

What is the TikTok dabloon trend?

It’s a giant, internet-driven, communal role-play phenomenon. Here’s how it works: You scroll through TikTok until you bump into a dabloon video. The video will use TikTok’s slideshow feature to flip through a series of images. Each of these images will show off an item, and at the end a cat will either offer or charge you dabloons in exchange for those items. You can recognize a video easily, because it’s set to a sped-up version of a track from the game My Singing Monsters.

Here’s an example: The video addresses you, the viewer, and offers you an item like hot chocolate. Then this black cat pops up and tells you it costs four dabloons. To be clear, there is no sort of external website or entity that grants you dabloons. Every aspect is imaginary and mainly relies on you, the viewer, participating in the joke. An early example of one that took off proposed a trade of four dabloons for soup.

Several videos are embedded into this article, but you’ll need the TikTok app to view them. Because of that, I also included a full slideshow below posted by TikTok user Randombrainrot that shows trading various bakery items for four dabloons.

Though dabloons are generally traded for other items, TikTok users have gotten creative and expanded on the bit. Now you can bump into videos that will relieve you of your dabloon debt. Others have posted videos where people get robbed of their dabloons.

What are dabloons?

A “dabloon” is the fictional meme currency exchanged in the TikTok trend. The phrase and original image come from a 2021 Instagram meme, according to Know Your Meme. It’s not really clear what dabloons actually are, but based on the original joke, the dabloons likely refer to a cat’s toe beans. It may also be a riff on the real world historical currency “doubloon,” gold coins minted in colonial Spain. But I want to stress that this isn’t a cryptocurrency or anything, it’s just a massive joke.

Why are people talking about dabloons?

The joke — that we are all trading with these cats for a fictional currency to get fictional items — has taken TikTok by storm. Know Your Meme credits the origin of the joke to a few key posts that took off last weekend. Now, over 20,000 videos have used the audio clip associated with the trend, with the most popular videos exceeding 1 million views. Additionally, people are expanding on the world and jokes of the dabloon cat in other ways. One person analyzed the dabloon market over the past few days to the tune of 1.2 million views, and another predicted a “dabloon Great Depression.” In another popular video, a person shared a spreadsheet they made that tracked all their dabloon interactions.

I’ve been keeping a running list of my own dabloon interactions as they’ve come up in my TikTok feed. I went into dabloon debt when a cat version of Tumblr sexyman Reigen Arataka, named Reigen Meowata, charged me 10 dabloons for legal services. However, another cat declared me dabloon debt-free afterwards, so I am in the black now. It’s like a role-play game that’s interjected sporadically into my TikTok main feed as I scroll. I giggle and update friends as I move in and out of dabloon debt and keep a running tally of the items I’ve gotten. It honestly reminds me a lot of the role-play-esque online game Blaseball.

It’s also genuinely hilarious to see a fake currency based off a meme cat thrive after people are questioning the value of cryptocurrencies. Many of the people posting videos about dabloons are femme-presenting, and this feels like an appropriate response to a culture that has possibly taken too many crypto-bros on their word.

But beyond reading into it, it’s just fucking fun. I’m used to logging on to Twitter and dealing with mean-spirited responses and messages to nearly everything I put out online, while I mindlessly doomscroll. The dabloon cats offer a much-needed balm to an online world that has been sort of shitty lately. Now, my zombie TikTok scrolling gets transformed into a wait-and-see game that I can share with friends. It’s absurd. It’s fun. And unfortunately this cat will charge you 10 whole dabloons for reading this article.