The ‘keyboard cat’ is dead

Bento is dead.

The cat that did as much as any feline to usher in the era of cat videos on YouTube has expired, the Washington Post reports. He was 9.

The Guardian says Bento was part of the vast “cat-industrial complex” in which owners of cats in videos get fabulously wealthy.

Cat food company Friskies flew Grumpy Cat, real name Tardar Sauce, first class, to South by Southwest. They paid for a chauffeur, a personal assistant, and unlimited food. At a conference with Al Gore and Elon Musk, she was the star. The 2013 documentary Lil Bub and Friendz began when the makers witnessed 10,000 people turn out to the Internet Cat Video Film Festival.

How do you make a smash like Keyboard Cat? “You start with $850 of cat piano lessons,” Schmidt once quipped. Certainly, it helps if the cat has bodily issues. Keyboard Cat is notable among the truly great cats of the internet for being just a standard moggy, who had to work his way up on his boogie-woogie skills alone. Grumpy Cat has an underbite and feline dwarfism. Lil Bub a short lower jaw, toothlessness and osteopetrosis. Pop Tart Cat (Nyan Cat) has a pop tart for a body. Hipster Cat has a strange white moustache.

Bento’s generation is getting long in the tooth. Perhaps not for nothing has Maru’s owner adopted and begun showcasing a second cat in addition to the 10 year old. The death of a cat is a private tragedy. The death of an internet cat is an economic catastrophe.

Bento was actually the second “keyboard cat.” The original video was filmed in 1984, long before there was a YouTube.

“Trust me, not every cat in the world can do this or everybody would be and there would be a million Keyboard Cats,” Charlie Schmidt, who owned both cats, said.

Schmidt tells the Post he knows he needs to carry on Bento’s internet legacy.

“I’m not doing any dating right now with cats, but it can happen,” he said.