A Sanrio spokesperson explained:
Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It’s going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.
So, to clear things up for you: Hello Kitty is a cat. Not LITERALLY A CAT, like the living breathing animals we keep as pets, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE RIDICULOUS.
One again, to clarify, I asked the Sanrio spokesperson, “Then, it would be going too far to say that Hello Kitty was not a cat?” The spokesperson replied, “Yes, that would be going too far.”
So, yeah. She’s a cartoon cat. Cartoon cats talk and eat lasagna and are hobos. No one thinks cartoon cats are real, live, things. Certainly not anthropologists, so I don’t know why they felt they had to “correct” Professor Yano so strenuously about her museum exhibit descriptions. Thanks for being needlessly literal, Sanrio.
An interesting thing that has come out of this: I discovered that Dr. Yano has written a book about the cultural impact of Hello Kitty, which I’m totally gonna read now. Had this subject not come up again, I wouldn’t have bothered to look her up further to make sure this entire story wasn’t some sort of bizarre marketing scheme.
Also, Jimmy Kimmel got a bit out of it: