Source: News9Live (Extract)
Posted: January 28, 2024

Unlike the popular perceptions, cats do make for excellent pets and are very friendly with humans. For example, take the life of Room 8. The cat with this peculiar name became so famous at one time in the US that major newspapers published obituaries after its death.

New Delhi: Cats and dogs have been possibly the most popular pets, and their craze has increased more than ever in today’s age where reels of pets have taken over the internet. While dogs are considered to be friendly and loyal, cats are generally believed to be cold and nonchalant. Well, that is not the case. Unlike the popular perceptions, cats do make for excellent pets and are very much friendly with humans.

For example, take the life of Room 8. The cat with this peculiar name became so famous at one time in the United States that major newspapers published obituaries after its death which ran for longer columns than many eminent personalities.

The Tale of Room 8

The Elysian Heights Elementary School is located in California’s Echo Park. In 1952, a large, thin, shorthaired, grey-striped tabby cat entered the campus of the school and entered a sixth-grade classroom. He strolled on the desks and was patted by the children. Even though the teachers were sceptical about its presence in the classroom, the students’ fervent request meant they had to relent.

During the break, the students went out to fetch milk for the cat. When they returned, he was asleep on a desk with some of the lunch boxes of the children opened and food scattered. The children fed him during lunchtime, and he ate to his heart’s content. He dozed off again and later left the school.

Surprisingly, he came back the next day and sat with the children in the classroom. It became a routine and the children decided to adopt the cat. But what about his name? Well, he liked to go to the classroom ‘Room 8’ and it became his name. He became the official mascot of the school and strolled around the campus without being apprehended by anyone. He had found a home. Room 8 became such an integral part of the school that a student from sixth grade would be appointed every year to feed him. There was a strict rule about not disturbing the furry friend.

The fame of Room 8

Room 8 used to disappear from the school during the summer holiday. But every year, he used to punctually return there when classes resumed. The school’s headteacher, a great lover of cats, found out that the cat was born in 1947.

The cat became famous even beyond Los Angeles. He began to appear at cat shows and community groups and became an honorary member of several organisations. Magazines published his story, and he even got his biographical book in 1966 which had to be reprinted six times due to high demand.

Every year at the start of the school session, news cameras would wait outside to get a glimpse of the cat. At one point, Room 8 used to receive 100 letters every day at the school. He was featured in a documentary called ‘Big Cat, Little Cat’ and there was a children’s book on him titled ‘A Cat Called Room 8’. Every year, he was of the class photograph of sixth-grade children and the honour of holding him went to that year’s cat feeder.

As he got older, Room 8’s health began to fail and in late 1963, he was injured in a catfight. Also, he suffered from feline pneumonia, so a family near the school decided to adopt him. The school’s janitor would find him at the end of the school day and carry him across the street. In 1968, a summer school was held at Elysian Heights which Room 8 attended as usual. But then he became too ill and was admitted to the hospital. He died on August 13, 1968, of kidney failure, at the age of 21 after living a full and contended life.

After his death, the Los Angeles Times ran an obituary in Room 8 that spanned three columns with a photograph, which was bigger than some major political figures. Several other papers, even those in Hartford, Connecticut published his obituary. He was buried at the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas.

The legacy of Room 8 has remained intact to date. The teachers read his book to each new class and his paw prints have been made immortal on cement on the sidewalk outside the school.