Bryan Bundesen had not yet met his sister's cat when he went to visit her in Arizona this fall.
But thanks to a picture he took of the cat, millions on the Internet are now acquainted with -- and amused by -- her grumpy-looking face. Tardar Sauce, also known as Grumpy Cat, reached the front page of social news website Reddit in less than a day, and had more than a million views on photo site Imgur in the same amount of time.
Tardar Sauce belongs to Bundesen's sister Tabatha. He said some people originally thought the photograph was a fake, so he posted several videos on YouTube to prove that the scowling expression was the real deal.
"That's when it really took off," Bundesen said.
The dark brown circles around her eyes angle upward onto her cream-colored fur, and look like a scowl. Add that to her sharply downturned mouth, and Tardar Sauce looks like she is pretty unhappy with the world.
Grumpy Cat had speckled fur as a kitten, and Tabatha's daughter thought the cat looked like tartar sauce. So, she wrote down the name as "Tardar Sauce" and it stuck. Now, the grumpy face is on T-shirts, greeting cards and Internet pages everywhere. Bundesen said that the same man who helps with merchandise for two other well-known cats, Nyan Cat and Piano Cat, is helping with Tardar's promotional gear.
So, between his job at Time Warner Cable and his work as a dad and boyfriend, Bundesen is shipping Tardar Sauce shirts, Christmas cards, mugs and other merchandise from his house.
He said the official site, www.grumpycats.com, has been averaging between 16,000 and 32,000 unique visitors per day. Grumpy Cat's official YouTube channel has almost 6.4 million views and more than 12,000 subscribers.
"We have sold over 17,000 Christmas cards and we are donating a portion of the proceeds to charity," Bundesen said. "Our first donation was made today to Sun Cities 4 Paws Rescue Inc, a no-kill shelter that is near Grumpy Cat."
He said Got Mail in Marion will have some Grumpy Cat cards for sale.
Though she looks upset, Tabatha and Bundesen both said that Tardar Sauce really isn't as grumpy as she looks.
"The cat is really cuddly and calm, she's good with all the pictures," he said. "She doesn't try to run away, she just meanders around. She doesn't weigh much, either."
Her older brother, Pokey, is more cranky. He makes several appearances on the Grumpy Cat website.
"We had to trim his claws," Tabatha said. "He squirms and tries to get away."
Bundesen and Tabatha said they have been surprised at Tardar Sauce's Internet fame.
"I thought this would be hot for a week," Bundesen said.
He said that part of Tardar Sauce's appeal may be that grumpy people find her relatable.
"If people are feeling grumpy, they like those photos," he said.
Tabatha said she is trying to keep up with the Twitter feed, and that she is taking things "one day at a time." She said her family enjoys looking at funny jokes that people come up with for the cat's pictures.
"It feels really awesome, with everything the world faces, just to be spreading joy like that," Tabatha said.
She also said that her cat's fame has strengthened her bond with her brother.
"We talk almost every day," she said. "I've been having fun. It's brought us closer."