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Lil Bub, a cat beloved by the internet, dies at age 8

The big-eyed internet celebrity who inspired everything from toys to shirts to calendars "passed away peacefully in her sleep."

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Lil Bub, a cat whose unusual appearance made her an internet celebrity, has died at age 8, owner Mike Bridavsky announced on Sunday. "Bub was cheerful and full of love laying in our bed with us Saturday night, but unexpectedly passed away peacefully in her sleep," Bridavsky wrote on the cat's official Instagram account, calling her "the purest, kindest and most magical living force on our planet."

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This is my first photo with BUB next our last photo together. On the morning of Sunday, December 1st 2019 we lost the purest, kindest and most magical living force on our planet. BUB was cheerful and full of love laying in our bed with us Saturday night, but unexpectedly passed away peacefully in her sleep.. I have always been fully transparent about BUB's health, and it was no secret that she was battling a persistent and aggressive bone infection. Even knowing this, we weren't expecting her to pass so soon or so abruptly without warning. I truly believe that she willingly made the decision to leave her failing body so that our family would not have to make that difficult decision ourselves. It is impossible to put into words the profound effect that BUB has had on my life, on the lives of thousands of homeless pets, and on the lives of those of you that have cared for her as if she were your own family. She taught me everything that I know about unconditional love, she brought my wife Stacy and I together, she's the reason we have our beautiful children Rosco and Lula, and she has been a constant source of warmth and love in our lives for the past 8 years. To say that our family is devastated would be an understatement. But most importantly, BUB has made a huge difference in the world of animal welfare, and in the lives of millions of people worldwide. She has literally saved thousands of lives (both pets and humans), she started the first national fund for special needs pets, she was the subject of groundbreaking genetic and biological research, she's helped raise over $700,000 for animals in need, and has spread a message of determination, positivity, and perseverance to people all over the world. And even though my heart is absolutely crushed by her graceful departure from planet Earth, I know that her sprit, magic, and overwhelming energy are still with us, reminding us every day to be better. Dearest BUB, I will never forget your generosity, your limitless supply of love, or your uncanny ability to bring so much magic and joy to the world. I am forever honored and humbled that you chose me as your caretaker. Please visit all of us in our dreams o

A post shared by Lil BUB (@iamlilbub) on

"I have always been fully transparent about Bub's health, and it was no secret that she was battling a persistent and aggressive bone infection," Bridavsky wrote. "Even knowing this, we weren't expecting her to pass so soon or so abruptly without warning. I truly believe that she willingly made the decision to leave her failing body so that our family would not have to make that difficult decision ourselves."

2.3 million people follow Lil Bub on Instagram, and as of Monday morning, more than 126,000 had liked the cat's farewell post in just over one hour.

Lil Bub was the runt of a litter of feral cats found in a tool shed in rural Indiana in July 2011, and was born with a number of genetic anomalies, including dwarfism, polydactylism (extra toes), osteopetrosis, and jaw and mouth issues, her official website says. The site dubbed her a "perma-kitten," since her condition meant she stayed the size of a kitten her entire life.

Lil Bub gained fame once Bridavsky began posting about her on Tumblr. She was featured on calendars, shirts, greeting cards, as a stuffed toy, appeared on numerous national television shows, and had her own book and web series. Her merchandise site notes that a portion of the proceeds from every sale goes to Lil Bub's Big Fund for the ASPCA, a national fund for special needs pets. The site says Bub has helped raise over $600,000 for animals in need since 2012, and that Lil Bub's Big Fund has awarded over $400,000 in grants to shelters nationwide since 2014.

"Dearest Bub, I will never forget your generosity, your limitless supply of love, or your uncanny ability to bring so much magic and joy to the world," Bridavsky writes in the farewell post. "I am forever honored and humbled that you chose me as your caretaker. Please visit all of us in our dreams."

It's been a sad year for fans of internet-famous cats. Meme-making cat Grumpy Cat, whose frowny face sparked smiles and memes, died in May at age 7 after suffering complications from a urinary-tract infection.

Originally published Dec. 2, 11:08 a.m. PT.