Grumpy Cat, one of the internet’s most famous cats, died this week due to complications with a urinary tract infection. She was just over seven years old. Grumpy Cat’s owners announced her death on social media, with a post celebrating how her unique disposition “helped millions of people smile all around the world.”
The cat, whose real name was Tardar Sauce, rose to fame after a Reddit post went viral in 2012, when she was just five months old. Grumpy Cat quickly became a meme, with image macros posted on top of the viral photo playing off her remarkably displeased look. Her owners say her perpetual frown and small size are due to feline dwarfism.
While plenty of cats have been famous online, Grumpy Cat’s standing in the pantheon of Online Cats is unique. For most cats, their fame rests entirely in a specific, memeable image that they’re known for — see keyboard or lime cat. But Grumpy Cat was a meme unto herself, because her look was carried with her everywhere she went.
Some days are grumpier than others... pic.twitter.com/ws209VWl97— Grumpy Cat (@RealGrumpyCat) May 17, 2019
That allowed Grumpy Cat to become a cultural phenomenon that far exceeded the internet. At her height, she appeared on talk shows, drew crowds at SXSW, and appeared in promotions for Cheerios and Friskies.
At one point, Lifetime even made a Grumpy Cat holiday movie, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. It was directed by the guy who made the 2007 Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, and it had Aubrey Plaza voicing Grumpy Cat. It’s legitimately inspired casting, even if it’s a little bewildering that this all happened.
There was also a ton of Grumpy Cat-branded merchandise and even a Garfield crossover comic. At one point, Grumpy Cat’s corporate overlord sued a merchandise partner for creating an unauthorized ground coffee and won $710,000.
The internet will always have famous cats, but few will attain the status that Grumpy Cat did. She was a walking meme, proof that the internet’s often bizarre and nonsensical humor could translate beyond a screen.