Famously grumpy cat brings smiles to pet lovers at Berkeley Humane Society shelter opening

Kayla Baskevitch/Staff

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Internet icon Grumpy Cat made an appearance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Berkeley Humane Society’s new mobile adoption center Saturday, along with local officials and more than 400 fans.

The event christened Berkeley Humane Society’s mobile adoption center, a shelter on wheels that will allow the nonprofit to continue rehoming animals while its main facility undergoes reconstruction. Grumpy Cat, a house cat known for her naturally bitter facial expression, attended the ceremony after Berkeley Humane won a contest to dub the city “Grumpytown, USA” for the day. The cat and her owner were given a small procession, including a police escort, before being called onstage to cut the ribbon.

Among those in attendance were City Councilmember Linda Maio, a representative from the office of Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Polly Armstrong, all of whom spoke to attendees before the ribbon cutting. According to Armstrong, the chamber of commerce, Berkeley Police Department Chief Michael Meehan and Mayor Tom Bates all wrote letters in support of Grumpy Cat’s Berkeley Humane visit.

“Everybody thought it was a good idea,” Armstrong said. “Berkeley is a big dog and cat town, so it’s a cause that everybody can get behind.”

In addition to Grumpy Cat-themed merchandise — the proceeds from which were donated to Berkeley Humane — concessions from Whole Foods were available for purchase, and local band Possum Family Singers provided music.

The mobile adoption center — which only showcased cats on Saturday in honor of Grumpy Cat — will be especially vital for Berkeley Humane once construction begins on the nonprofit’s new animal shelter, according to Berkeley Humane marketing manager Sherry Liu.

Only one-third of the original shelter building’s space is usable, Liu said, after it suffered severe fire damage in 2010. A new shelter is planned to be built in place of the old one, but that will require the demolition of the nonprofit’s current building, and the mobile unit will be its main method of housing and rehoming animals until construction is finished.

When Berkeley Humane’s staff members found out that they had won the Grumpy Cat contest, Liu said that they were “beside themselves” and that she was thrilled to see the famous feline in person.

Those who RSVP’d to the free event were guaranteed one photo with Grumpy Cat — whose real name is Tardar Sauce — though according to event staffer Kathy Joller, all 400 spots filled up “immediately.” A second line for nonticket holders attracted at least 100 more fans.

Kristy Winn, a 32-year-old attendee from Alameda, said she felt that the cat’s popularity stemmed from the fact that everyone could relate to her apparent grumpiness.

“Everyone has been grumpy at one time or another,” she said. “(Grumpy Cat) embraces that side of us.”

G. Haley Massara is a news editor. Contact them at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter @BylineGraph.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Grumpy Cat’s name as Tartar Sauce. In fact, it is Tardar Sauce.