The kawaii-osphere exploded when the LAist published an article declaring that Hello Kitty is not a cat. I’m sure they didn’t mean to cause an international cat-panic, but they did… and some context is missing from Sanrio’s description of their flagship… cat.
Kotaku sought –– and recieved –– clarification:
When Kotaku called Sanrio’s Tokyo headquarters today and asked whether or not Hello Kitty was indeed a cat, a spokesperson explained, “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.”
Hello Kitty and her cat are like Goofy and Pluto: they’re both the same animal… but… different.
Sanrio told the Kotaku blog that Hello Kitty is 擬人化 (gijinka), an anthropomorphized version (of an animal or thing).
I would take this description further; further perhaps than would make Sanrio comfortable.
Hello Kitty (ハローキティ) is a 化け猫 (bakeneko), an old and powerful cat that can take humanoid form and exact revenge among humankind. Hello Kitty is 40 years old, by the way. More than old enough to assume the powers of the 化け猫: opening doors by herself, placing thoughts into people’s minds, getting them to do her bidding. Look at Hello Kitty merchandise sales, and you will find that my case is solid.
“Hello kitty character portrait” by Official Sanrio website http://www.hellokitty.ne.jp/english/kt_family.html. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
In any event, I asked the cat herself for clarification as best I could; my Japanese isn’t super-hot.
@HelloKitty 40才です。擬人化 。ええ。。。済みません。。。化け猫ですか？
— jordan yerman (@jordanyerman) August 28, 2014
Incidentally, if you read Hello Kitty’s driver’s licence, it would read “キティ・ホワイト/Kitty White”. Perhaps she’s a distant relative of Walter.
In case you were wondering, Doraemon is most assuredly not a cat. He is a robot from the future. The more you know.