In a ranch house on a dirt road roughly northwest of Phoenix, just past where my phone’s GPS says, “Screw it,” and sends me off in random directions, dwells a feline recently interwoven with the very fabric of the internet. Grumpy Cat is about as famous as a cat could get, and frankly, she couldn’t care less. My life is busy right now, but some chances you’ve just got to take. So, a couple weeks ago, when the chance came to interview Grumpy Cat, and her owner, Tabatha, I jumped on it.
The first time I saw Grumpy Cat, she was beating a derpy retreat from me across the floor, only to be scooped up by Tabatha, and deposited into my lap. Grumpy Cat is an ungainly creature, with legs too short for even her tiny body, and the back pair set at an odd angle. While her bowleggedness affects her movement, she is still a healthy cat, according to the vet. Apparently her older brother, Pokey, also had trouble moving around at first, but eventually grew into it, and now does normal cat things, such as jumping and running, though he still is not quite what a person could call graceful. He’s a little less friendly than his sister, and heads off after checking me out.
So what’s going on, anyway, with these cats? Why does Grumpy Cat look so gosh darned odd? Well, there are various diseases and birth defects which could be responsible for Grumpy Cat’s stature. Her frown may simply be intrinsic, made more obvious by her unusually short face. There are a few possibilities. The original assumption, back when Pokey was born, was that the weird stature was due to his mother nearly dying while pregnant with that litter.
Tabatha found her one day, unable to move, and took her inside, wrapped her in a towel, and poured water into her mouth. She expected the cat to die, but she hung on, and after a couple days could keep tuna juice down. Sometime later, she managed to make a complete recovery, but Pokey came out a little weird.
So when the first little oddball emerged, Tabatha just assumed that he was affected by whatever poison or disease the mother had had. To everyone’s surprise, the next litter contained Grumpy Cat. Tabatha’s daughter loved the little kitten, and so they decided to keep her. Originally named Tardar Sauce by her daughter, Tabatha decided that Tard would operate under a stage name in the wider world, to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, and so Grumpy Cat became the official moniker of the brand.
If you’ve been trying to place what she reminds you of. . .
The genetic possibilities are intriguing. Pokey and Grumpy Cat share many of the same traits, physically, although the older brother is far more coordinated and capable. Since Pokey is male and Grumpy Cat is female, that eliminates most sex-linked traits. They are also from different litters, which contained several completely normal kittens, and have different fathers, suggesting that whatever’s going on there has something to do with the mom, who is a rather pretty calico, further complicating things. Dwarfism and various neurological afflictions could also be at the root of Grumpy Cat’s odd physical construction.
I met Grumpy Cat’s dad while we were talking out in the yard. He is a true beast of a cat. A tabby cat with gray striping and a white belly, he is a semi-wild battle-scarred veteran of the desert, but friendly enough to let me pet him after some leery sniffing of hands. His body is a criss-cross of scars, some new, some old. Not surprising given the coyotes, owls, hawks, bobcats, and eagles who also make the Sonora their home, it takes a real survivor to stay in one piece.
This interview was a difficult one. Not because Tabatha and her family weren’t happy to talk, but because it’s hard to focus and ask intelligent questions with Grumpy Kitty and her older brother, Pokey, in gamboling about. And Grumpy Cat is actually quite friendly, happy to recline on her back in my lap and let me tickle her tummy. She may be sweet, but she doesn’t just look annoyed; she has a grumpy little meow, too. Tabatha explained how the Grumpy Cat phenomena came to be, more or less.