Tater Tot, the kitten whose grumpy face went viral and turned him into an internet sensation over the summer, died suddenly on Wednesday after a brief illness.
Ash Houghton, who’s been fostering Tater Tot and who first introduced him to the world in a Facebook group aimed at sharing photos of grumpy cats in June, shared the news on social media. According to her post, Tater Tot’s energy had decreased over the past several days, and had started exhibiting signs of what she believed was pneumonia; she also suspected Tater Tot had a heart condition, but the kitten was too small for the veterinarian to run tests.
@kittycrusaide A message from Ash. We will miss this skunkly little potato. #tatertot #spudbud #bonkers #grompycat #TTbonkers #rescuekitten #specialneedskitten #specialneeds #specialneedscat #utahfosterpets #fosterpetsoftiktok #kittycrusaide #TT #KCtatertot #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #tatertotcat #kitten #catsoftiktok #kittensoftiktok #cat #badonkabonk #badonkabonks ♬ original sound – Kitty CrusAIDe
“This tiny little potato has had such a profound impact on my heart, and I am so unbelievably happy I got to share him with the entire world,” she wrote. “What started as me sharing some photos of the goofy new foster I had turned into an entire community focused on kindness, humor and compassion. I am astounded at the reach Tater Tot’s story had, and I cannot express to you just how incredible it has been to see how he has impacted the world.”
In her post, Hougton asked people to make donations to their local cat shelter in honor of Tator Tot.
Tater Tot’s first claim to fame arrived at the end of June after Houghton posted a photo of the kitten—who was born with malformed legs and a cleft palate—to THIS CAT IS G R O M P Y. You can’t see most of his body, but his face is scrunched up, which Houghton said was because he just had his first bath. In mid-July, after going to an orthopedic appointment, Houghton posted more photos of Tater Tot, who now had splints on his front legs (referred to as “bonkers”).
From there, Tater Tot’s popularity skyrocketed as people drew fanart of him, memed him, and placed him in the middle of Photoshop battles. He even ended up on his local news station in Utah. It almost harkened back to an older internet era when felines like Lil Bub and Grump Cat could become internet sensations simply because they were cute little guys (and who also happened to be born with steep medical issues).
But even if people’s relationship with Tater Tot was purely parasocial, that didn’t stop the internet’s grief over Tater Tot’s death from pouring out as they learned the news.
They also shared fanart they created of Tater Tot.
On TikTok, people have posted tributes to Tater Tot and reaction videos of themselves crying.
@bodmanford @Kitty CrusAIDe rest in peace to the one true tater tot #tatertot #cat #kitten #bonkers #meme #catsoftiktok #grumpy #CapCut ♬ You will be missed – LC Editing
“I hope hes runnin full speed in the afterlife with no bonkers,” Emery Rayne wrote.
But even amid the grief, some offered a course of action. Echoing Hougton’s wishes, people could pay it forward to help other cats who might need it.