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Local fans polarized over news that fashion icon isn’t a cat

Photo: Marta Kierkus

Confusion surrounding Hello Kitty found its way to the Ottawa Convention Centre for the first local Hello Kitty Con. While many fans were busy snapping up Hello Kitty themed merchandise, countless other Ottawans continued to express uncertainty surrounding the true nature of the Japanese icon’s species.

Recently, Sanrio, the company that manufactures Hello Kitty products, asserted that Hello Kitty is in fact a little girl, not a cat. This announcement has led to a wider discussion about the significance of Hello Kitty in our pop culture zeitgeist.

Ottawa Mayor and Hello Kitty connoisseur Jim Watson aptly summed up widespread public sentiments: “It just doesn’t make sense. Is there a girl hiding in that cat suit?”

On Twitter, fans are expressing their distress at the news, and the hashtag #WhatTheHellKitty has been trending for the last week.

Local feminist bloggers are also highlighting their concerns about this news, and are in the process of actively condemning all Hello Kitty products due to their promotion of an unrealistic body image.

“Girls should be girls. Hello Kitty was a product that helped girls show off their personality,” said Ottawa activist Michelle Mortimer. “Now, they are being pressured to grow whiskers and other cat-like features. This definitely sends the wrong kind of message.”

Schools in the National Capital Region are taking these societal concerns seriously and have counsellors available to address anthropomorphic feline body issues with students.

Before the controversy, the Ottawa Humane Society was looking to take advantage of the regional Hello Kitty fever by reminding the public that there are many cats in need of loving homes. However, now that Hello Kitty’s species has been called into question, they have backtracked on their promotional campaign and issued a public apology to Sanrio.

Nevertheless, the Humane Society’s promotional campaign exceeded expectations and the adoptions of white Japanese bobtail cats and red bow accessories have skyrocketed.

Additionally, local adoption agencies for human children reported that in the wake of news about Hello Kitty’s species, demand for the adoption of little girls has skyrocketed as well. However, like local animal shelters, the adoption agencies are urging the public to consider all available options.

A representative from the Adoption Council of Canada was quoted as saying, “Boys are just as good as girls. It is not good for us as a society to discriminate based on gender.”

Although Hello Kitty fever seems to have caused an intense amount of speculation, the makers of the product are still satisfied that their message is being heard.

“Hello Kitty is a 40-year-old cultural icon that has inspired and brought happiness to generations of people all over the world,” said a spokesperson from Sanrio. “And while the true nature of Hello Kitty’s identity is confusing for some, the important thing to remember is that cuteness is something that can easily transcend species barriers.”