Don't be deceived by her name or pointy ears. Hello Kitty is NOT a cat, according to the company that owns the cartoon, Sanrio.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, a Hello Kitty trend expert and anthropologist Christine Yano, who has spoken with Sanrio, says she was told sternly not to confuse Hello Kitty with a cat. While preparing a script about Hello Kitty for a big conference, Sanrio set Yano straight.
From LA Times:
When Yano was preparing her written texts for the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, she says she described Hello Kitty as a cat. "I was corrected--very firmly," she says. "That's one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it's called Charmmy Kitty."
Other things Yano has learned about Hello Kitty: The cartoon's real name is "Kitty White," and she is British with a twin sister, according to a backstory Sanrio and the cartoon's creator, Yuko Shimizu, made about her. She's also a perpetual third-grader.
Yano explains some of the backstory to LA Times:
A lot of people don't know the story and a lot don't care. But it's interesting because Hello Kitty emerged in the 1970s, when the Japanese and Japanese women were into Britain. They loved the idea of Britain. It represented the quintessential idealized childhood, almost like a white picket fence. So the biography was created exactly for the tastes of that time."