Having purred for the "Today" show and "Good Morning America," well-traveled international news sensation and hometown hero Tara the cat will go someplace she's never been Thursday: Bakersfield's Christmas parade.

It's a first for the parade, which has never named a nonhuman its grand marshal, at least in the past 31 years. It's a first for the former stray feline, too, who has never ridden in the back of a convertible Camaro -- or helmed the city's holiday institution.

Tara's accolade is only the latest in a whirlwind six months of stardom since she saved her young master, Jeremy Triantafilo, now 5, from a dog mauling on May 13.

Tara's running, four-footed lunge knocking the dog away, caught on home security cameras, lasted mere seconds.

She became a worldwide phenomenon after the Triantafilo family posted the edited video on the Internet, thinking at the time they would simply be updating relatives.

Now, Tara joins the august company of such former parade marshals as Mayor Harvey L. Hall, Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus and Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on television's "Bonanza."

In an interview at their home in southwest Bakersfield, Tara's human "mom," Erica Triantafilo, said the family, er, pounced on the invitation.

"I think it's just important to get involved with the community," Erica Triantafilo said. "It's our community. I think any way we can help ... ."

Her husband agreed.

"I think, for sure, the message we've wanted to send from the beginning is just that it doesn't matter how small you are or how insignificant you feel, you can make a difference if you choose to," Roger Triantafilo said.

Not everyone on the committee for the Kaiser Permanente San Joaquin Community Hospital Bakersfield Christmas Parade was immediately convinced Tara would be a good fit when group secretary Sylvia Cariker proposed it.

"Nobody's ever tried to save a kid before, and it's the social media thing. I watched it on every channel, going 'oh my gosh,'" Cariker said, remembering the media blitz that drew attention from Russia to Australia. "They even had Halloween costumes -- 'Wear a cat mask and make a medal for yourself and say you're Tara the hero cat.'"

Parade Coordinator Mira Patel said Tara's daring rescue revealed the heart of a lion.

"She's a brave little thing and she captured the hearts of many of us, even the non-cat lovers," Patel said.

And while Mike Kileen, the parade committee president, initially thought inviting the cat "was a joke," he became convinced of her heroism.

"She was doing something instinctive and it was certainly heroic in terms of the danger she was putting herself in. The more I think about it, the more I think it's probably a good decision," Kileen said.

He's not alone. Roger Triantafilo continues to field interviews from international media. Japan, he said by way of example, wants to talk on Skype.

In July, Tara and family jetted off to Las Vegas where they were guests at Superzoo 2014, a pet retailers industry show.

In August, cat and humans visited New York's writerly famous Algonquin Hotel, where they raised around $7,000 for New York City shelter pets at Matilda the Algonquin Cat's Birthday Party.

The following month, at the L.A. Feline Film Festival, family and feline rubbed furry elbows with celeb cats Lil Bub and Aragon, from television's "Glee."

In December, they'll board a plane for Frankfurt, Germany, then take a train to Cologne for four days to appear on a TV show reviewing the year's most memorable videos.

The family is planning to take Jeremy to meet Santa Claus, and to go ice skating.

"From what I've heard, they do Christmas perfectly, like you can't go to a better city for Christmas," his father said of Frankfurt.

It will be Jeremy's first time on a plane, but he's more excited about riding in the Camaro on Thursday.

"In our own fast car?" he asked a reporter.

"Yeah, in our own car, but we're not going fast because it's a parade," his mother said.

As they talked, Tara ascended her multipurpose perch in the living room, followed closely by Triantafilo twins Connor and Carson, 2.

As they closed in, in true cat fashion Tara simply jumped down, lodging under a side table to avoid nuzzles from Maya the dog.

The stray who followed Erica home from Silver Creek Park to her parents' house in 2008 -- when the couple was still dating -- has come a long way.

"From what we keep hearing, (Tara's) been the biggest advocate for cats ever. Because of the fact that her actions showed the world that cats are more than just lying around the house," Roger said. "They can take action and they can be there for you."

"And they can care about their people as much as a dog can," his wife said. "And we're happy she belongs to us."

As is her oldest son, long recovered from the 10 stitches he received to his leg following the attack.

"Yeah, she saved me," Jeremy said. "She growled at the bad dog."

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