It’s almost too sad to think about, especially if you’re a cat or animal lover. Grumpy Cat — super meme of all feline bad attitude — died at the age of seven from complications related to a urinary tract infection. A message announcing her death on May 14 was posted on The Official Grumpy Cat Facebook page with an appreciation by her human family and, at this writing, some 43,000 comments, commemorations, and condolences from her millions of fans on both Facebook and Instagram.
“Besides being our baby, and a cherished member of our family, Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people smile all around the world — even when times were tough,” said Tabatha, Bryan, and Chyrstal, Grumpy Cat’s humans.
Grumpy Cat — originally named Tardar Sauce by the family’s young daughter — had a perpetually “grumpy” facial expression, not because she hated everything, but because of a condition called feline dwarfism combined with an underbite. Grumpy Cat seemed born an embodiment of recessive genes, as she resembled neither of her normal-looking tabby parents; dad cat is a gray striped tabby, mom cat is a calico, and neither have even a hint of a grumpy visage.
Despite her condition, Grumpy Cat maintained what appeared to be a full to bursting schedule — complete with personal event appearances, photo shoots, and commercials. Her accomplishments rivaled that of many humans, with movies, books, and even her own Madame Tussauds wax figure.
It seems like forever — but it was just a few short years ago in 2012 — that Grumpy Cat’s family posted a photo of her on Reddit saying, Meet Grumpy Cat. Life for them, not to mention their cat, would never be the same. In 2013, her scowling, blue-eyed countenance was named Meme of the Year and she soon became an internationally recognized commercial success. She had some 8.5 million Facebook fans, 2.4 million Instagram followers, 1.5 million Twitter followers, and some 260,000 YouTube subscribers.
She appeared on nearly 900 items in her own internet store and served as “spokescat” for Friskies cat food, starred in a movie called Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, graced the cover of New York Magazine, and was the inspiration behind the bestseller, Grumpy Cat, A Grumpy Book. Her likeness is on toys and shoes, and she even has her own Grumpy Cat fragrance (Kitten Fur). Her owners had objected to allegations of exploitation, writing on their website that “99% of the time she is a normal kitty” and that “for the safety of our family and that of Grumpy Cat” she did not do personal meetings.
I met Grumpy Cat at SXSW in 2015, and like every other crazy cat person in that crowd, I was enthralled, despite my dog-loving companions giving me the side-eye. In cat, she was super docile, extremely cooperative, and not averse to what I’d consider (as a 15-year cat volunteer at San Francisco Animal Care and Control) an excessive amount of handling. Exceptionally even-tempered and tolerant, Grumpy Cat was, in real life, the opposite of her online persona.
With all the heartbreak and tragedy happening in the world every minute of every day, let us spare a moment for a sweet natured creature whose frown meant so much to so many. It’s no meme. RIP, baby girl.