According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Year of the Snake began on Feb. 10. But by most other standards, 2013 is shaping up to be the Year of the Cat. In the first week of February, Hasbro, makers of the Monopoly board game, announced they were replacing one of the traditional tokens, the flat iron, with a curvaceous silver pussycat. Ailurophobes howled, blaming the “all-powerful cat lobby” (so teased a reporter on NPR), but the evidence suggests that public taste alone explains the switch. There are 86 million cats in American households, and in a Facebook survey, the nimble cat instantly leapt ahead of the regular Monopoly retinue to become players’ piece of choice — nearly twice as popular as the Scottie Dog, and three times more popular than the Car and Battleship. Take that, cat detractors! 

In March, Grumpy Cat, a scowling feline who receives one and a half million hits a month on her Web site,, further heightened the profile of her species with a multistop media blitz. On the 6th, she traveled to Austin, Tex., where she was met by her sponsor (Friskies) and her agent, Ben Lashes (who manages many memes), and attended the South by Southwest 2013 festival. Two weeks later, she flew to New York, where she appeared on “Good Morning America,” gave an interview to Forbes, and dropped by Time Magazine for her close-up as meme of the moment.