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Hello Kitty turns 35, claws at our collective soul

To fete the famous feline on her special occasion, we breathed a sigh of resignation and gathered some of the cutest (aka scariest) Hello Kitty gadgets from the past year.

Thirty-five years ago, Hello Kitty dropped an atomic cute bomb on the world and the universe was forever changed.

Developed in 1974, the iconic kawaii cat debuted with Japanese character licensing firm Sanrio in 1975 on a small change purse that sold for 240 yen (around 80 cents at the time). Sanrio has since built a vast global empire on Kitty's popularity, and related licensing deals now account for a huge chunk (some say about half) of Sanrio's $5 billion in annual sales.

Over the past three and a half decades, Kitty's mouth-missing face has graced thousands upon thousands of products, from wallets, trash cans, alarm clocks, stationary, and airplanes to cell phones, cell phone chargers, Netbooks, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, USB lap warmers, karaoke systems, and even assault rifles--yes assault rifles.

Kitty's 35th birthday year has proven to be yet another opportunity for a merchandising bonanza, and fortunately (or tragically, depending on your perspective), the global fat cat shows absolutely no sign of slowing down or loosening her claw-like grip on the consumer electronics industry. So to fete the feline on her special occasion, we breathed a sigh of resignation and rounded up some of the scariest cutest Hello Kitty gadgets from the past year (see our gallery above).

Didn't we hear the retirement age for fictional Japanese cats is 36?