Grumpy Cat — the world’s most famous feline, whose frowning face spawned countless memes and an empire that includes plush toys, comics, books, calendars, perfume, sneakers, lottery tickets, and even her own Lifetime TV Christmas special — has died at age 7.
“We are unimaginably heartbroken to announce the loss of our beloved Grumpy Cat,” read a statement released early Friday morning by her family and manager. “Despite care from top professionals, as well as from her very loving family, Grumpy encountered complications from a recent urinary tract infection that unfortunately became too tough for her to overcome. She passed away peacefully on the morning of Tuesday, May 14, at home in the arms of her mommy, Tabatha. Besides being our baby and a cherished member of the family, Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people smile all around the world — even when times were tough. Her spirit will continue to live on through her fans everywhere.”
Grumpy Cat, also known as Tardar Sauce, was born April 4, 2012. She first came to fame on Sept. 22, 2012, after Bryan Bundesen, the brother of her owner Tabatha Bundesen, posted a photograph of her on Reddit. The photo went on to rack up more than 1 million views on Imgur in 48 hours. Grumpy’s permanently scowling expression, caused by her underbite and feline dwarfism, made her a viral sensation — especially after her family posted a few videos of her on YouTube in response to Redditors’ accusations that the image was Photoshopped. Grumpy’s frown quickly captured the mood and imagination of a disgruntled nation, and at the end of the year, MSNBC named her 2012’s most influential cat.
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By 2013, Tabatha Bundesen had left her full-time waitressing job and hired Ben Lashes, a former musician who at the time managed feline internet celebrity Keyboard Cat, to focus on Grumpy’s career. That year, an appearance by Grumpy at Austin, Texas’s South by Southwest Interactive festival drew hundreds of people who waited hours in line to meet her, prompting CNN, CBS, and CNET to declare her the biggest star of SXSW Interactive — over Elon Musk, Al Gore, and Neil Gaiman — and thus setting Grumpy madness into overdrive.
Over the years, Grumpy Cat became an icon, appearing on such TV shows as Today, Good Morning America, American Idol, and The Bachelorette and in publications like Time, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Magazine. She was also hired to be the official spokescat for Friskies for a total of five years. In 2014, she starred in Lifetime’s Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, with Parks Recreation actress Aubrey Plaza, who also produced the holiday special, providing Grumpy’s deadpan voice; Plaza has also been in development with Grumpy’s team on a cartoon and movie sequel. As of May 2019, Grumpy Cat had 8.5 million Facebook followers, 2.4 million Instagram followers, 1.5 million Twitter followers, and 1,082 merchandise items for sale in her online shop.
“Grumpy Cat’s biggest secret was that aside from her name, she was the sweetest cat you’ve ever met,” Lashes told Yahoo Entertainment. “She will be missed immensely. Everywhere she went, she brought nothing but happiness.”