Social-media and marketing star “Grumpy Cat,” whose famous frown attracted millions of followers and may have been the first-ever viral meme, has died at the age of 7, her owners said Friday.
The cat, whose real name was Tardar Sauce, first appeared on Reddit in 2012 with over 1 million views in 48 hours, then immediately clawed her way into social-media and television lore thanks to a permanent pout that was the result of feline dwarfism and an underbite.
She died in the arms of owner Tabatha Bundesen earlier this week, due to complications from a urinary-tract infection.
Grumpy Cat, through the company founded by Bundesen, adorned clothing, calendars and soft toys. In fact, her image could be found on nearly 900 items in her own online shop. She was named meme of the year at the 2013 Webby awards, beating out “Gangnam Style” and “Harlem Shake.” Some social-media trackers consider Grumpy Cat to be the first viral meme. The official Grumpy Cat accounts have 1.5 million followers on Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +0.07% and 2.4 million followers on Instagram /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -0.04% .
Grumpy Cat helped sell Honey Nut Cheerios and Friskies cat food. Skechers BOBS shoes once included a Grumpy Cat print, with proceeds from sales going partially to pet charities. She starred in a Christmas film, voiced by Aubrey Plaza. President Obama in 2015 channeled Grumpy Cat to describe “gloomy” Republicans at the time.
In at least one instance, in 2018, her owners were awarded $710,000 in a federal case in California. Grumpy Cat Ltd. had sued the owners of coffee company Grenade for exceeding an agreement over the cat’s image.
Her brand’s monetary value was unclear at the time of her death; a 2014 report that estimated $100 million earned over just the two years after the Reddit share was widely disputed by Bundesen , though she has never said what the cat’s likeness had brought in.
“Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people smile all around the world — even when times were tough,” her owners said in their post.