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Cat-astrophic revelation purr-turbs Hello Kitty fans

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1716 GMT (0116 HKT)
Forty years and (almost) no one knew the truth... Forty years and (almost) no one knew the truth...
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hello Kitty is not a cat, anthropologist reveals ahead of retrospective
  • Interview in LA Times ricocheted around Internet among shocked fans
  • Cat-like character is a British girl who has a twin sister and a pet cat

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Six simple words have sent Hello Kitty lovers into a spin.

"Hello Kitty is not a cat."

The apparently shocking revelation was made in an LA Times article published Wednesday about a retrospective of Kitty paraphernalia opening next month at the Japanese American National Museum.

The story started innocently enough before the bombshell was dropped by Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist at the University of Hawaii, who has delved more deeply than most into the Hello Kitty phenomenon.

Goodbye 'Kitty,' hello ... kid?
Comic-Con: Hello Kitty

"That's one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show," Yano told the LA Times.

"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."

Whoa.

MORE: Hello Kitty jets: 5 cutest airplanes ever

The news reached far and wide, including backstage after the Linkin Park gig at the Minnesota State Fair.

"I just got off stage to find out that Hello Kitty is not a cat. This is worse than finding out Pluto is not a planet," tweeted clearly shocked rapper Mike Shinoda.

For those who don't know, Hello Kitty is an international superstar who was introduced to the world in 1974 by Japanese company Sanrio.

In the last 40 years her button nose has appeared on a dazzling array of merchandise, generating billions of dollars for the company.

Until now, her pointy ears and whiskers gave her legion of fans the distinct impression she was feline.

She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat.
Christine R. Yano

Wrong.

Summing up the disbelief, @jkltoraay tweeted: "You cannot say hello kitty is not a cat after 40 years no human has whiskers and pointed ears and a little yellow nose."

For some, the news raised more questions than it answered.

"Been tossing and turning for the last few hours trying to figure out how Hello Kitty isn't a cat. How is it possible? What does it mean?" @NotKennyRogers tweeted.

"Since Hello Kitty isn't a cat, wtf is My Melody?" tweeted @mrsunlawyer.

Users raced to update Kitty's Wikipedia entry, which now reads: "She bears the appearance of a white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow although she is actually a little girl."

Singer Katy Perry stepped in to try to calm the masses: "IT'S OKAY HELLO KITTY FANS, KITTY PURRY IS A CAT."

At last count it was retweeted more than 13,000 times.

MORE: At last: World's first Hello Kitty Beauty Spa

As the Sanrio website clearly states, Hello Kitty is a "cheerful and happy little girl ... who lives in London with her mama (Mary White), papa (George White), and her twin sister Mimmy."

Yes, she's also British.

For the record, Kitty's birthday is November 1, she likes baking and making pancakes, origami and eating apple pie.

Her favorite saying is "You can never have too many friends."

She may have lost a few today.

Meow.

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