What Mrow? Hello Kitty Is Not a Cat (Update: Or Is She?)

Sanrio is forced to clarify the cat vs. person vs. anthropomorphized animated doll object.

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Think Hello Kitty is a kitty? Think again: She's a hello anything but.

The LA Times reported Wednesday that University of Hawaii anthropologist Christine R. Yano first stumbled upon the disconcerting news when she was curating an upcoming Hello Kitty retrospective at the Japanese American National Museum.

When Yano was researching for the exhibit, Sanrio, the company behind the expressionless icon, corrected one word. She told the LA Times the following:

I was corrected — very firmly. That's one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it's called Charmmy Kitty.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter let out a collective gasp:

Congratulations, Sanrio. You've blown everyone's minds. Then again, if you had named Hello Kitty anything else — Hello Cartoon Character? Hello Little Girl? Hello Friend? Hello Mouthless Spokesthing Of Significance To The Asian American Community? — it doesn't sound so sweet.

Update (8/28, 10:30 a.m.): Kotaku called Sanrio over the brouhaha, and a Sanrio spokesperson clarified their position:

Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It's going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.

The spokesperson added the iconic not-a-cat-but-maybe-a-cat is a "gijinka," in Japanese, which means "anthropomorphization." So... Hello Kitty is not not a cat, but she is also not 100 percent cat, which means she's somewhere in the middle on the feline spectrum, which in turn means she could be almost a cat, but not a cat, but almost not totally not a cat either, so in sum, she's just kind of sort of a cat. Case closed!

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