These days, it’s not unusual for a dog or cat to become “internet famous,” yet in the 1950s a cat called Room 8 managed to become famous all on his own, without the help of web traffic or algorithms.
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His story begins in 1952 in a classroom at Elysian Heights Elementary School in Echo Park, California. A brown and white striped tabby cat strolled into the school one day and made himself right at home. Since he favored one classroom more than others, they named him after it: Room 8.
Room 8 quickly became a favorite pet for the students and staff. He lived there full time during the school year, but no one knew where he went during the summer breaks. His comings and goings became so regular, you could set your watch by him.
As his reputation grew, media started covering the story, sending camera crews to document his return to the classroom each September. The children absolutely adored him!
Before long, Room 8 was officially famous. He was the subject of a magazine photo spread, a documentary, and a children’s book. By the 1960s, the cat received about 100 letters from fans every day, and the students were tasked with answering those letters.
Room 8 continued to visit the school each day even as his health declined. At the end of his life, the school’s janitor carried him to and from his new home with a local family. He was happy as long as he could see his students.
When Room 8 passed away at the age of 21 in 1968, the students took up a collection to purchase a special gravestone marker for him. He is buried in Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas, California. The marker displays a photo of Room 8 along with his story of enduring love and friendship.
The cat’s memory lives on at the school as well. There’s a mural dedicated to Room 8, and students and teachers wrote messages about the cat in the cement outside the school. Every year, teachers read his book to new classes so they can learn about the special feline who once roamed their halls.
The Room 8 Memorial Foundation, a cat shelter dedicated to his memory, is still going strong today!
Who knew that Room 8 was the original Grumpy Cat, but without all the sass? It’s amazing that one adorable animal can mean so much to so many people. Rest in peace, Room 8!
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