While she might not look a day over 8 years old, Hello Kitty is celebrating her 50th anniversary this year. This week we reported that the character is appearing in a bunch of weird and wonderful AR experiences in 2023 – but no piece of Hello Kitty-related trivia will ever be as shocking to us as our discovery in 2021 that she is in fact not a cat.
The famous character has been around since the 70s, and with her simplistic but adorable design has become a staple in Japan's kawaii culture. But while she might have whiskers, Sanrio, the entertainment company behind the Hello Kitty brand, recently revealed that the character isn't feline. (Fancy making your own character? Check out our top tips for character design.)
Despite being called 'Kitty', it turns out that the famous cartoon is actually a little girl, and in fact, she isn't even Japanese. According to the Sanrio website, Kitty White (full name) is a British school girl who "was born in the suburbs of London."
The revelation came to light back in 2014, when Christine R. Yano (Anthropologist from the University of Hawaii) was preparing information for a Hello Kitty exhibit. Yano told the LA Times that the manufacturers contacted her to say “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.”
It might be the cat-like ears and the whiskers throwing us off but we can't unsee the feline figure. According to good old Wikipedia, Hello Kitty is a 'gajinka' — which roughly translates to describe a form of anthropomorphism. The term refers to when non-human creatures or objects are re-imagined as humans, similar to when we saw this artists' realistic re-designs of his favourite cartoon characters.
We aren't the only ones feeling utterly bemused by the entire thing. This staggering revelation has completely stumped the internet too, so Twitter users have taken to the platform to express their confusion about the cartoon.
I have just learned that Hello Kitty! is not actually a cat and this revelation is threatening to upend my entire day. pic.twitter.com/owkxBVEt9WSeptember 1, 2021
i need of compilation vid of ppl's reactions the moment they find out hello kitty is not a cat.August 14, 2021
the fact that hello kitty is not a cat bUT A THIRD GRADE LITTLE GIRL WILL FOREVER HAUNT ME pic.twitter.com/7Kfyv6s1oaAugust 6, 2021
Cat or girl, the cartoon is still pretty adorable and an influential character in the kawaii (the Japanese culture of cuteness) movement. It might take a while to get used to Hello Kitty being an actual human, but for an even bigger shock, check out this totally horrifying image of what Toad looks like without his hat.