One year ago, the internet got a little less funny with the death of Grumpy Cat — the feline with a sour expression who spawned a million dollar-plus business for her owner, triggered copyright lawsuits, and won coverage from major news organizations around the world. But most importantly, she warmed our hearts, made us laugh, made us smile. Grumpy Cat became an intent legend by doing nothing but being her natural, authentic and wonderful self.
Or at least, appearing to frown. Grumpy Cat was famous for having a face that seemed to have a human-like scowl, as if everything and everyone irritated her. Grumpy Cat’s owner Tabatha Bundesen says on the feline’s official website that her unique appearance is likely the result of dwarfism, which also caused a slight wobble in her read end. But generally, Grumpy Cat was in good health, albeit with a face that’s impossible to forget after seeing it.
Grumpy Cat enjoyed plenty of press coverage (and enjoyed many happy belly rubs from her owner) over the years, up until to her death age seven on May 17, 2019.
There’s so much to explore with the story of this one-of-a-kind kitty, from her birth and original name — she wasn’t always called Grumpy Cat — through to her global fame.
From Tardar Sauce to Grumpy Cat
Grumpy Cat was born on April 4, 2012, one of four kittens fathered by an unnamed blue-and-white tabby and her calico mother known as Callie. Although her precise breed was never resolved, it’s said she’s a mix that might include Ragdoll, Snowshoe and/or Persian.
Tabatha originally named the cat Tardar Sauce, but very quickly her special appearance became obvious and she earned the nickname Grumpy Cat.
Things really took off when Tabatha posted a picture to Reddit on September 22, 2012, just a few months after the kitten was born. “Meet Grumpy Cat,” said the post, which featured a simple picture of Tardar Sauce appearing to look irritated, even though that was her natural appearance. The post garnered more than 600 comments and at least 4,000 upvotes. Some people thought the image had been photoshopped. Others made memes out of it. And a few posters even asked whether they might be able to meet Grumpy Cat for a selfie.
To prove that, yes, her cat really did look like that, Tabatha made some YouTube videos showing Grumpy Cat living her best life. These quickly racked up thousands of views, and before long it was clear that a new internet sensation was born. People loved to laugh at the unusual pictures and videos, giving them a joyful break from the real world.
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The Grumpiest Million Dollar Enterprise Ever
Most people would be delighted to earn more than a million dollars, but even though Grumpy Cat’s fame led to a very lucrative enterprise for Tabatha, the cat never stopped frowning.
As she developed more and more followers online, Grumpy Cat was soon being courted by major companies to appear in advertisements. She filmed a commercial on television for Honey Nut Cheerios, made cameos on shows like ABC Network’s The Bachelorette and WWE Monday Night Raw, and even became the official “spokescat” for cat food company Friskies.
Grumpy Cat also traveled occasionally to glare at her fans, including a March 2013 appearance at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. People loved to get pictures with the grouchiest-looking cat in the world because they thought it was hilarious.
The high demand for anything and everything Grumpy Cat also spawned a merchandise empire that’s said to be worth more than one million dollars. It includes books, t-shirts, a video game, and even a stuffed toy so anyone who wants their own Grumpy Cat can have one. Even though the feline has been dead for more than a year, her online shop continues to stock an almost countless list of goodies dedicated to the memory of Grumpy Cat.
And Grumpy Cat was even at the center of a lawsuit, when Tabatha sued a U.S. coffee company called Grenade for violating the terms of a licensing agreement. The coffee company had permission to sell a “Grumppuccino” iced drink but then started to offer other merchandise. Tabatha said this exceeded the deal they’d made for marketing a drink based on her pet. And she even made an appearance, albeit very brief, during the arguments in the lawsuit. In a January 2018 ruling, a federal judge in California ordered Grenade to pay Tabatha’s company total of $710,000.
One Last Frown: Grumpy Cat’s Death And Legacy
On May 17, 2019, Tabatha broke the sad news that Grumpy Cat had died a few days earlier. “Some days are grumpier than others…” she wrote on Twitter.
Today, more than one year after the beloved kitty’s death, the post has seen more than 144,000 retweets, at least 15,000 replies with messages of sympathy, and over 491,000 likes in tribute to the memory of the sour puss who gave people across the globe a reason to chuckle.
Signaling just how much of a big deal this loving and adorable purr face had become in her short life, the death resulted in coverage from major news outlets including CNN and others. Oh Grumpy Cat, we sure could use your authentically accidental dry sense of humor right now!
In a statement at the time, Tabatha said, “We are unimaginably heartbroken to announce the loss of our beloved Grumpy Cat. 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 died peacefully on the morning of Tuesday, May 14, at home in the arms of her mommy, Tabatha.”
The statement added that “[b]esides being our baby and a cherished member of the family, she 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.”
And sure enough, Tabatha continues to oversee a busy empire of merchandise, social media and more all dedicated to the grumpiest feline that ever graced the internet. We miss you!
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