Lil BUB, beloved viral internet cat, has died at age 8

Celebrity cat Lil BUB attends the Lil BUB meet and greet at The Belasco Theater on August 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

(CBS_ - Lil BUB, the beloved viral internet cat known for her perennially stuck out tongue and massive eyes, has died, her owner announced in an emotional Instagram post Monday. She was 8 years old.

"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," owner Mike Bridavsky wrote on her official Instagram page. "I am forever honored and humbled that you chose me as your caretaker. Please visit all of us in our dreams."

Bridavsky said the famous feline was "cheerful and full of love laying in our bed with us Saturday night," but passed away "unexpectedly" in her sleep by Sunday morning. The cat had many health issues and was battling a bone infection, which Bridavsky had openly posted about on social media. But he said she was not expected to pass away "so soon."

"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," Bridavsky added in the caption, which accompanied his first and final photos with her.

In 2011, Lil BUB was discovered as a kitten in a rural Indiana toolshed as the runt of a feral litter of cats. She was born with "a multitude of genetic anomalies," according to her website.

The feline was a "perma-kitten," meaning she retained her kitten-like features and remained "kitten sized" for her entire life. She also had an "extreme case of dwarfism," so her limbs were disproportionately small in relation to the rest of her body. Her lower jaw was much shorter than her upper jaw, and her teeth never came in, which lead to her signature hanging tongue.

She first rose to fame when Bridavsky posted about her on Tumblr, CNET reported. At the time of her death she had over 2.4 million Instagram followers. Lil BUB has been featured on various types of merchandise and stuffed toys, appeared on television many times, and even has her own book.

The famous pet and her owner also regularly used her platform to advocate for other animals. Her national fund for special needs pets, Lil Bub's Big Fund for the ASPCA, has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for animals in need since 2014, according to her website. She was also "the subject of groundbreaking genetic and biological research," according to Bridavsky's post.

This year has not been a good one for internet cats. Grumpy Cat, the world-famous feline whose signature frown is used in memes everywhere, died at age 7 in May. Despite care from top professionals and loved ones, her family said she died following complications with a recent urinary tract infection.

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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

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