Nyan Cat spews rainbows over New York, is coming to a store near you

If you’re one of the few Web surfers able to avoid the cute, but time-chewing, rainbow-streaming Nyan Cat, your days of blissful ignorance and quiet are numbered: Nyan Cat now has its own popup store and may soon be musically mewing its way into your head at a store near you.

The first Nyan Cat popup store, names, #NYANCATCITY, opened in New York late last week with a party and an appearance by Nyan Cat creator Chris Torres, who never thought the YouTube video he uploaded in April 2011 would become one of the most viral videos of all time. The official Nyan Cat video on YouTube now has more than 89 million views.

“It’s been a roller coaster for the last year and a half,” said Torres, who left a job at an insurance agency to pursue his Internet-meme-themed dream. “I started the job the day it started getting popular.”

Nyan Cat creator Chris Torres.

The popup store opening was just the first event in four days of #NYANCATCITY, a series of activities in New York, which, according to a press release, celebrate “…creativity, and the influence of Internet culture—and cats.”

Nyan Cat, for the uninitiated, is a simple cartoon of a cat with a toaster-pastry-shaped body flying through space trailing a rainbow. The high-pitched musical meowing that accompanies it is notorious for clawing its way inside listeners’ heads and staying there for hours.

For reasons even Torres isn’t sure of, within ten days of posting the video on YouTube, Nyan Cat was the talk of college humor pages and was blazing its way across the Internet.

“A few days later people were trying to monetize the idea,” said Torres, who said he spotted his feline creation on tee shirts and other products peddled on various websites.

You can now buy Nyan Cat plushies!

Now armed with a trademark and ample merchandising help, he said he’s now ready to move forward with a full line of cute Nyan Cat products, but noted that he still has final word on which products can get the cat. Nyan Cat, billed as the first Internet meme to get its own retail store, is now on shot glasses, quilts, hoodies, small plush pillows, bookmarks and other products.

“I’m very proud of my work,” said Torres. “Once it [the trademark] came through, I just got the power [to press ahead].”

The New York Nyan Cat store is nestled in a storefront made available by New York Art Department at The Hole, a contemporary art gallery at 312 Bowery. The now-trendy neighborhood was once better known for its flophouses and soup kitchens. The store itself isn’t large—your bedroom may be larger—but it's well stocked.

The interior of the Nyan Cat pop-up store.

During the store-opening party, Sphero, a maker of a robotic ball-based gaming system based in Boulder, Colorado, released a new Nyan Cat smartphone app and previewed an early version of a Nyan Cat augmented reality game.

The Sphero polycarbonate robotic ball has an internal motor and flashing lights and can be controlled with a smartphone via Bluetooth much like a remote controlled toy car. The ball recharges its internal battery wirelessly once dropped into its inductive charging base.

“It’s basically like a Segway inside of a ball,” said Chuck Lepley, marketing manager at Sphero.

On Thursday Sphero released Nyan Cat Space Party, an old-style video game app forAndroid and Apple smartphones. The simple shoot-em up game can be controlled with the phone or tablet alone or with the Sphero ball, which offers more control as well as visual feedback.

More interesting was a preview of a Nyan Cat augmented reality app in which you can watch a virtual Nyan Cat scoot across your floor. As you control the movement of the Sphero ball on the floor, what you see on your tablet or phone screen is the Nyan Cat—of course streaming a rainbow behind it.

The four days of #NYANCATCITY include panel discussions, parties, art raffles and even a four-hour period in which pop-up store visitors can adopt real shelter cats; courtesy of New York City’s Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals.

So how will you be able to escape the Nyan Cat in the next few weeks? If you’ve read this far, you’ve already lost the battle.

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