What did Grumpy Cat die of?

Without detail, we are told that Grumpy Cat A.K.A. Tardar Sauce died of “complications from a urinary tract infection on May 14, 2019” at the age of seven. Her lifespan was similar to that of Lil Bub (8). She entertained millions and was perhaps the most celebrated of all celebrity cats in the history of domestic cats. It’s decidedly unusual, however, for a domestic cat to die of a urinary tract infection at the age of seven.

Grumpy Cat

Grumpy Cat and Rafi Fine at the 2014 VidCon at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Photo: Gage Skidmore on Wikipedia.


One veterinarian, David Harris BVSc MRCVS, helpfully discusses the cause of death and decided that her urinary tract infection was cystitis. Is it possible to have a urinary tract infection which is not cystitis? Unfortunately, 60-70% of cases of cystitis are idiopathic which means the veterinarians don’t know what underlying condition caused it. Cystitis is caused by a bacterial infection which inflames the bladder causing the cat to deposit small amounts of, often, bloody urine in inappropriate places because they simply have to go to the toilet.

Dr. Harris says that a bacterial infection is “very rare in cats under eight years old”. And normally a bacterial infection would not be fatal to a cat but Dr. Harris speculates that the infection might have travelled to the kidneys causing pyelonephritis leading to kidney damage which could prove fatal. Kidney failure is a common cause of death in domestic cats when elderly, which often means over the age of 15.

Grumpy Cat

Grumpy Cat. Twitter feed of Grumpy Cat

Dr. Harris also speculates that Grumpy Cat might have been resistant to antibiotic treatment. That statement sparks off a potentially big discussion about how veterinarians treat cats. I would argue that there is a tendency for veterinarians to prescribe and administer antibiotics too often because they do so as a precautionary measure. This is because sometimes they don’t know whether an infection is viral or bacterial. They play safe and in doing so it seems that in the long term they might be contributing to antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Harris also speculates that Grumpy Cat’s underlying medical condition probably assisted in the spread of the infection and allowed it to take hold. So, we don’t know really in clear terms why this celebrated cat died because domestic cats don’t normally die of urinary tract infections, certainly not at the age of seven. I sense that the cat’s owner deliberately kept the cause of death low key to avoid this kind of discussion: the ethics of dwarf celebrity cats.

I think we have to conclude, without being overly critical, that the thing that made this cat a celebrity, her dwarfism, an inherited genetic mutation which is deleterious in terms of health, also killed her. It’s more or less the same for Lil Bub.

There is therefore, a question mark over whether it is ethical to celebrate dwarfism and cats who suffer from a medical condition which makes them vulnerable to a much-shortened lifespan. It is not the sort of thing we would do for humans so why do we do it with cats?


Manchester a dwarf cat living in Moscow

Dwarf cats 2023 – full discussion

Update February 2023: this page was first published in around 2007 as I recall. The situation regarding the dwarf cat ...
Read More
Munchkinlanes Kinkalow Louie

Kinkalow dwarf cat – full details

Introduction The Kinkalow dwarf cat is a deliberate out-cross (a hybrid) between the founding dwarf cat the Munchkin and an ...
Read More
Napoleon dwarf cat

Are Munchkin Cats genetically modified?

Munchkin cats are not genetically modified in the conventional meaning of the term. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an ...
Read More
Plush toy or real cat?

Plush toy or real cat?

This bicolour, grey-and-white dwarf cat looks as if she was bought from a toyshop. You can imagine this being a ...
Read More
Picture of the forelegs of a Bambino cat, a dwarf hairless cat

Picture of the chest and forelegs of a Bambino cat

This is a picture of the chest and forelegs of a Bambino cat and I find it interesting. You would ...
Read More
Kinkalow kitten

Gray-and-white Kinkalow kitten

This is a picture of a cute gray-and-white bicolour Kinkalow kitten. It is quite hard to spot this breed unless ...
Read More

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *