Sanrio: Hello Kitty Is Not A Cat

“She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. “

Sanrio: Hello Kitty Is Not A Cat
[Photo: Flickr user Artondra Hall]

Oh, hi there. Did you have a nice childhood full of warm and pleasant memories? If so, you should probably avert your eyes and go read something else.


Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii who will be curating a Hello Kitty retrospective at the Japanese American National Museum in October, revealed a, shall we say, interesting bit of mythology about the character to the Los Angeles Times. Apparently the tidbit came straight from the mouth of Sanrio (emphasis added):

When Yano was preparing her written texts for the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, she says she described Hello Kitty as a cat. “I was corrected–very firmly,” she says. “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.”

Also revealed: Hello Kitty is British. (Her name is Kitty White.) She’s in the third grade, and lives outside of London. She has a twin sister.

So Hello Kitty isn’t technically a kitty, which has thrown the Fast Company newsroom into something of an existential crisis. Is Mickey not a mouse? Is Barney still a dinosaur? Do cats not actually say hello? At least Keroppi’s still a frog, right? Right?!

“Hello Kitty is not a cat, she’s a girl,” Sanrio told Fast Company in an official statement. The company then pointed me to her official biography:

As tall as five apples, and as heavy as three, Hello Kitty is a bright little girl with a heart of gold. She loves to bake cookies and play the piano, and dreams of one day becoming a pianist or maybe even a poet. She has a gift for music and English, and a soft spot for Mama’s apple pie. Hello Kitty and her twin sister Mimmy are the best of friends.

For what it’s worth, NPR described Hello Kitty in 2010 as “a Japanese bobtail cat who loves baking cookies.” Maybe it’s possible that Hello Kitty is both a cat and not-a-cat at the same time.

Makes you think.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.