A stray cat living at Beijing's Palace Museum died on Monday after becoming an online sensation for making six successful predictions for this year's World Cup.
The cat, named Baidianr, which literally means "white spot", quickly won the hearts of tens of thousands of netizens after it made its first guess for the opening game on June 14.
Before each game, staff members at the museum would put two bowls of cat food in front of Baidianr, each with the national flag of the competing countries, to see which bowl Baidianr would go for. The chosen bowl was the cat's predicted winner.
Baidianr made its first successful guess by picking Russia in the opening game. It was rewarded for its accuracy with baby dried fish. It then failed a few times, after which the official Sina Weibo account of the Palace Museum posted pictures of Baidianr hiding its face behind its paws in shame.
The pictures soon generated huge attention online. Each Baidianr-related post would attract thousands of comments and reposts, whether the cat's prediction was right or not.
When Baidianr made its sixth consecutive successful guess on June 26 - picking Argentina over Nigeria - more than 8,000 netizens left comments saying they had prepared the best quality cat food and snacks as a reward.
The next day, however, the museum reported that the cat had fallen seriously ill and was sent to hospital. It said on Wednesday afternoon that the cat's hind legs had become suddenly paralyzed and it began breathing heavily and meowed in pain.
The museum opened a special Sina Weibo account under the cat's name to update the cat's treatment progress and health condition, drawing more than 21,000 followers.
Sadly, on Monday at around 8 am, the account announced that Baidianr had died. "Sorry," it said.
Thousands of comments were posted to bid the cat farewell. If it's true that a cat has nine lives, this story may continue, perhaps with the next World Cup.
Meanwhile, a second cat, named Changtuir (long leg), is filling in. It has correctly chosen the winning bowl two consecutive times.