For 40 years, her face has adorned backpacks and lunch boxes, jewelry and theme restaurants, TV shows and even laptops.
Hello Kitty has long been a staple of Japanese pop culture, but for decades, one expert says, the world has been under a false impression.
Hello Kitty -- despite having a name that's 50 percent devoted to the term that refers to a young cat -- is no feline.
She is, rather, a little girl, the Los Angeles Times reports.
"She's never depicted on all fours," Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist with the University of Hawaii who is curator of a Hello Kitty retrospective at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles in October, told the newspaper. "She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat."
It's not a matter of opinion, either, Yano said. When she was preparing written texts for the museum's exhibit, she made the mistake of referring to Hello Kitty as, well, a cat.
"I was corrected -- very firmly," Yano told the Times. "That's one correction Sanrio (the company that owns the character) made for my script for the show."
However, a rep for Sanrio is now refuting the quotes made by Yano, saying that Hello Kitty is “a personification of a cat.”
“Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat,” the rep told Kotaku. “It's going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat."
Some other facts about Hello Kitty, according to Yano:
• She's British.
• She is a Scorpio.
• She loves apple pie.
• She has a twin sister, and is a perpetual third-grader.
• Her actual name is Kitty White.
Wikipedia, for what it's worth, refers to Kitty as a Japanese bobtail cat, though her species isn't made clear on Sanrio.com, where a page devoted to the character's 40th anniversary says she was created "to inspire happiness, friendship, and sharing across the world."