Hello Kitty not a cat, company says ... or is she?

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.

Wrong answer.

"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."

So there.

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."