Hello Kitty turns 40: 10 things to know about the pop culture icon

Hello Kitty turns 40 this year!

From attracting long lines at McDonald's to inspiring collectors to buy millions of dollars worth of merchandise, Hello Kitty is one of the most popular cartoon characters in the world. To mark her birthday, a series of celebrations will take place later this year, including the first fan convention, hosted in Los Angeles at the end of October.

Contrary to popular belief, Hello Kitty isn't a cat - at least according to the Japanese company behind the phenomenon. Sanrio corrected anthropologist Christine R. Yano in August when she described Hello Kitty as a cat while curating a Kitty retrospective.

Yano said: "Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature." Who knew?

Here are 10 other things about the pop culture icon:

1. Her full name is Kitty White and she was born on Nov 1, 1974
Her parents' names are George and Mary White. She also has a twin sister named Mimmy. Her grandparents are named Anthony and Margaret. Kitty even has a blood type. She is of the A blood group.

2. She weighs "three apples" and is "five apples" tall
This puts her at 1.8kg and 50cm.

3. Kitty's name was inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland
In a scene early in the book, Alice plays with a cat she calls Kitty. This is said to be the inspiration behind Hello Kitty's name.

4. Kawaii Kitty is in fact British
Although she was conceived of by the Japanese company Sanrio, her story explains that she was born in a suburb outside of London, and even attended a British school.

5. She has no mouth for a reason
According to Sanrio, "Hello Kitty speaks from her heart. She's Sanrio's ambassador to the world and isn't bound to any particular language". It worked. Kitty has even been named Special Friend of Children by the United Nations Children's Fund.

6. She loves apple pie made by her mother
Her hobbies also include traveling, listening to music, reading, eating cookies and making new friends. One of her most popular mottos is "You can never have too many friends".

7. The cat has a pet cat and a pet hamster
Her cat is named Charmmy Kitty and her pet hamster is named Sugar. Charmmy Kitty was a present from her father, while Sugar was given to her by her childhood friend Dear Daniel.

8. She shares a birthday with her creator
Her original creator Yuko Shimizu was born Nov 1, 1946. Hello Kitty has had two other designers to date: Ms Setsuko Yonekubo, and Ms Yuko Yamaguchi. Ms Yamaguchi is the current designer for the Kitty brand.

9. She hasn't worked a day in her life but she is a billionaire
Her image is licensed by Japanese company Sanrio, which says on its website that it makes more than US$5 billion (S$6.25 billion) in retail sales each year.

10. She is everywhere
From Hello Kitty dolls to stationery and household appliances, Kitty has it all. In fact, there are even chequebooks, debit cards and even an airplane with her face on it. The adorable cat has also inspired Hello Kitty themed restaurants and even a maternity hospital.

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