Grumpy Cat is becoming a cash cow

The frowning feline is spawning an industry for its owners after a video of the pet went viral last year.

By Bruce Kennedy Sep 24, 2013 11:35AM

Grumpy Cat (© Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty Images)Here's a get-rich scheme few people envisioned in the not-too-distant past: Put a cute picture or video of your pet on the Internet, then sit back and watch the money roll in.

Of course, it doesn't happen to just any Tom, Dick or Hairy animal. But we can all dream of someday achieving the success currently surrounding Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat. The tiny feline is owned by Tabatha Bundesen, who lives outside of Phoenix. Tabatha's brother Bryan posted a short video of Grumpy Cat in action last year -- that is, scowling at the camera -- and the rest is viral history.

More than 1.5 million people watched the inaugural Grumpy Cat video during its first 16 hours on YouTube, and that video has garnered more than 13 million views. The frowning feline's image sped across the Web, complete with a variety of user-generated captions, generating enough interest that the house cat has become a house industry.

Spurred on by cat-crazy fans, the Bundesens got Grumpy Cat a Los Angeles agent. They released a line of Grumpy Cat cards last Christmas that saw modest success. But things really began to take off earlier this year with the production and publication of a Grumpy Cat book.

"Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book: Disgruntled Tips and Activities Designed to Put a Frown on Your Face" was released in July and has become a New York Times bestseller. It's currently in its sixth printing and, according to the Phoenix Business Journal, has been published in eight languages.

You can also buy Grumpy Cat T-shirts and other paraphernalia, and over the summer a Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino line of coffee drinks was launched. But all that pales next to the just-signed deal with Friskies Cat Food from Purina, which is part of Nestle (NSRGY), making Grumpy Cat its new spokes-pet.

"Friskies is always looking for new ways to celebrate playtime for cats and their owners through online content," Shawn Brain, a Friskies brand manager, said in a statement to the Phoenix Business Journal. "Signing on Grumpy Cat for a longer-term relationship allows Friskies to work with one of the biggest stars in the space. It's a win-win for everyone -- especially people who love watching cat videos and cat owners who love experiencing a variety of online cat content."

Regarding exactly how much everyone is making on this deal, the Bundesens are being coy. The Grumpy Cat has their tongue, perhaps? But Bryan says they've applied for trademarks of both the Grumpy Cat image and name.

"We'd really like it to become one of the brands that sticks around," he told the Journal. "We'd like Grumpy Cat to attain the staying power of Garfield."

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