The story of ‘Room 8,’ beloved schoolhouse cat immortalized in gravestone

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If you visit the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas, California, you’ll come across the resting places of numerous famous pets, such as Pete the Pup from The Little Rascals and Jiggs the chimpanzee from Tarzan.

However, among the notable grave markers, one that often captures visitors’ interest is that of a cat with the unique name “Room 8.” Who was this cat, and how did he earn such an unusual name? Delve into the heartwarming tale of this special feline to find out!

Back in 1952, a short-haired gray striped tabby cat made an unexpected appearance at Elysian Heights Elementary School in Echo Park, California. As narrated in his 1966 biography, “A Cat Called Room 8,” the cat strolled through the classrooms, receiving pets from the children. The students, touched by the feline’s presence, began sharing their lunches to feed the hungry cat, creating a strong bond. In homage to their classroom, they named the cat “Room 8,” and remarkably, he remained a constant companion for the entire school year.

At the end of each school year, Room 8 would vanish for the summer, only to make a return when the children returned to class. This routine persisted for numerous years, allowing many successive classes of kids to become acquainted with Room 8.

“My earliest memory of Room 8 was Miss Mason introducing him to our kindergarten class,” reminisced former student Angie Nicolai in a post on Explore Historic California. “I recall thinking he was a sizable cat in her arms. She wanted us to understand that he belonged to the school and that there might be times when he would come into our classroom to visit. As soon as she put him down, he promptly leaped onto the desk next to the window, settling in for a nap in the warm sun.”

Room 8 swiftly became a local sensation, drawing the attention of news cameras that would arrive at the school to capture images of the cat’s return. He garnered an abundance of fan mail, receiving hundreds of letters from admirers.

Room 8’s narrative became the focus of a documentary, a book, and a three-page feature in Look magazine.

The cat called the classroom home until the mid-1960s when his health started to decline. He reportedly suffered injuries in a cat fight and battled feline pneumonia. A nearby family, sympathetic to his condition, took him in.

Room 8 passed away on August 13, 1968, at the age of 21. Following his demise, the cat received an overwhelming outpouring of affection, marked by a three-column obituary in the Los Angeles Times that gained nationwide coverage. Students rallied to collect funds for the gravestone that still stands in his honor.

In 1972, the Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation was established to commemorate the cat, and it remains active to this day. At Elysian Heights Elementary School, Room 8’s legacy endures: he is featured on a mural, and his pawprints are forever preserved in the sidewalk’s cement.

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