Berkeley Wins a Visit From Famous Feline Grumpy Cat


The world’s most famous feline paid her second visit to the San Francisco Bay Area within the last two months on Saturday. Grumpy Cat, arriving amidst celebrity-worthy pomp, served as guest of honor at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society‘s sleek new mobile adoption center.

Heralded by a police escort past the Humane Society’s headquarters and a horde of ardent fans, Grumpy Cat was there because — well, because Berkeley had won her.

Last fall, Chronicle Books — whose volumes Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book and The Grumpy Guide to Life are both New York Times bestsellers — launched the #GrumpyTownUSA contest, challenging fans nationwide to submit proposals explaining why their towns merited a visit from you-know-whom.

The staff at Berkeley Humane, as it likes to call itself, believed that winning this contest would be a great way to publicize their new state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled, custom-built 26-foot RV.

Outfitted with modular and detachable kennels, with two doors permitting visitors to walk through and meet the animals lodged inside, and with roll-up windows also allowing access to the animals from outside, the mobile adoption center facilitates adoptions just about anywhere.

This worthy cause won the contest, so Berkeley was transformed into GrumpyTown. At least, the usually sleepy intersection of 9th and Carleton streets was, as book-and-refreshment booths, live musicians, and a swelling crowd of fans bustled around the gleaming RV, which sported a podium where Grumpy Cat would later preside over the ceremony.

Having registered online to snap selfies with the celebrity kitty at 1 p.m., fans had begun lining up in front of Berkeley Humane’s headquarters six hours earlier.

Friendly chanting burgeoned into delirious cheers as the police escort roared up Ninth Street, preceding the shiny black Escalade behind whose tinted windows sat Grumpy Cat and her sister-and-brother human companions, Tabatha and Bryan Bundesen.

See them there, inside the car?

Cameras and phones jutted wildly from the crowd at every angle, just as they might at a Hollywood premiere.

With her enigmatic Mona Lisa-esque smile, Tabatha Bundesen carried lovingly from the car the cat whose sneer is not emotional but skeletal. Deriving from feline dwarfism and a serious underbite, that dour demeanor has earned the Arizona-based Bundesen family a fortune.

While the UK’s Express tabloid reported last December that Grumpy Cat was worth some $100 million — a branding bonanza entailing a Lifetime movie and cat-food, greeting-card, and coffee lines — Bundesen promptly dismissed that figure as “totally inaccurate.”

But hey. Given the devotion on display in Berkeley that day — and given the amount of Grumpy Cat clothing, jewelry, and toys visible in the crowd — specific dollar figures aside, she’s still a pointy-eared, bewhiskered goose-kitty-who-laid-the-golden-eggs.

And, as such, she glared obediently from the podium as local honchos gave speeches welcoming her to Berkeley and praising the shiny mobile adoption center.

“This van is going to rock the world of Berkeley pet adoptions,” declared Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong, noting that certain family members had deemed the chance to share a stage with Grumpy Cat “a crowning career achievement.”

“This van will make the love come to you. This van will come to you, bringing dogs and cats that will bring you love and affection,” Armstrong beamed.

“In Berkeley, we like to call ourselves a world-class city. And if you’re going to call yourself a world-class city, you have to take care of your people — but you have to take care of your animals as well.”

Displaying a commemorative plaque, Berkeley City Council member Linda Maio announced: “This is the moment at which I hold up the plaque that will permanently reside in the Mobile Adoption Center.”

“It will live forever inside this van to commemorate this wonderful and terribly ungrumpy day,” Maio said.

After the ceremony, it was time for what most attendees had been waiting for: photos with the famous kitty.

Sporting tie-dyed T-shirts, peace signs, Bob Marley memorabilia, and other Berkeley “uniforms,” the Grumpy groupies (yes, we just made up that phrase) jostled for their few seconds of mean-face time with the event’s fluffy guest of honor, who glowered drowsily from a sky-blue fleece Chronicle Books cat bed as cameras clicked.

OK, everybody: One, two, three, frown!

All photographs are by Kristan Lawson.

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