AUSTIN, Texas — The cat is out of the bag here at SXSW, or out of the Internet.
While that furry and very cute feline sat in a small bed in Mashable’s dry and warm tent here at SXSW, hundreds of people waited in line in the pouring rain just to get a photo and quick look at her.
Why, though? Why would people wait hours just to see one cat? Because she is one of the biggest cats on the Internet. That’s why.
Grumpy Cat, for those who don’t know about the latest Internet fun, is a cat with a bit of a sour face, she always looks, well, grumpy. She has become the face of a popular Internet meme and has amassed thousands of Twitter followers with snarky and complaint-filled 140-character updates.
Of course, the cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce (or Tard, for short) herself doesn’t do the talking or tweeting. That’s done by her owners — Bryan and Tabatha Bundesen. Tabatha adopted Tard’s mother and on April 4, 2012, Grumpy Cat was born. A couple of months later, Bryan decided to put the always-mad cat on Reddit just for fun.
“She was lying in my lap and she looked extremely grumpy so I decided to put it on Reddit,” Bryan told ABC News at the festival. “It went viral and I never expected it.”
The rest, as they say, is Internet history. People started circulating the photo and slapping funny text on top of it and then Bryan started grumpycats.com. The other, non-official, Twitter account — @ItsTheGrumpyCat — has more than 300,000 followers.
In real life, the cat never does shake her grumpy face and that’s because she has feline dwarfism, a condition, the Bundesens say, causes her to have small sighs and stiff back legs. Other than that, they say, she is a completely “healthy and happy cat.”
But Internet fame turned to real-life fame. Grumpy Cat has now struck a deal with Friskies: the cat will appear in a Friskies commercial soon. At SXSW, Friskies held a press event with the cat and Mashable has signed up to have her on display for the next few days for a couple of hours at a time. Yes, the Bundesen siblings even have a manager for all her press.
But you can’t help but feel bad for the cat that is constantly being photographed, which is why some are saying it’s time to free Grumpy Cat. But Bryan says there’s no reason for that and that they are doing things to help other cats. Here in Austin they made a contribution to Austin Pets Alive, a no-kill shelter in the area.
“A lot of people think we are exploiting the cat, we limit her exposure greatly,” Bryan said. “She is only here for an hour at a time. Ninety-nine percent of the time she is just a regular cat. She is not front of the camera at all times, she is a normal house cat and we love her.”
As do the hundreds of people waiting in line to see her.