Hello Kitty is not a cat?

Thanks to an anthropologist's unusual discovery, the iconic cartoon character is considered by some to be a girl, not a cat. Even Sanrio spokespeople can't quite agree. Goodbye, Kitty. Hello...what exactly?

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

Hello Kitty is her name, not necessarily her species.


Hello Kitty may be celebrating her 40th anniversary this year, but it seems fans may be in for a bigger shock than just her age.

The cute, or "kawaii" character -- whose face has been on everything from clothes and stationary to smart cars and chainsaws -- may look like a cat and have the word "Kitty" in her name insinuating she's a cat, but word on the Internet over the last couple of days is that according to a spokesperson from Sanrio, Hello Kitty is just a girl, not a feline. Or is she?

The discovery was made when University of Hawaii anthropologist Christine R. Yano, who is currently curating a Hello Kitty retrospective for the Japanese American National Museum, did some digging into the popular character's backstory.

As the author of the 2013 book "Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty's Trek Across the Pacific," Yano was especially suited to research the pop culture character for the exhibit. And she uncovered interesting facts about Hello Kitty that fans might not already know. Hello Kitty is a twin sister and lives in England, not Japan. But most importantly, when Yano described Hello Kitty as a cat in her text for the exhibit, Sanrio didn't agree.

"I was corrected -- very firmly," Yano told the Los Angeles Times. "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."

According to Hello Kitty's official biography, she "is a cheerful and happy little girl with a heart of gold. She lives in London with her mama (Mary White), papa (George White), and her twin sister Mimmy."

She's also a Scorpio with the blood type A, just in case fans want to save her life one day. Her motto is "You can never have too many friends," which should resonate with anyone who lives and breathes social media.

And social media has indeed been clawing at this kitty-or-not cat-astrophe. But when Kotaku contacted Sanrio Thursday to ask whether Hello Kitty was indeed a cat, it got this response: "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."

So depending on whom you ask at Sanrio, the pop culture queen of cute is either not a cat or a personification of a cat.

The bewildering concept of a character that looks like a cat and has a name like a cat but isn't really a cat, or is maybe only partially a cat, may lead us to question every other cartoon character we thought we knew. Mickey Mouse is still a rodent, right?

Update, 3:15 p.m. PT: to add clarification from Sanrio.


Hello Kitty dress on display in the "Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju" SFO exhibit.

Bonnie Burton