Room 8: The Cat That Adopted a School

On the corner of Baxter and Echo Park Avenue in Los Angeles is the Elysian Heights Elementary School. It spans almost an entire block, but if you look closely you’ll see messages of love carved into the cement. That’s because back in the 1960s, students left behind written tributes to one of the school’s most beloved figures of all time: a cat named Room 8. The feline made his appearance in 1952, wandering into the school during recess and ransacking the students’ lunches. The children named him after the room where they found him. He lived at the school while classes were in session and then disappeared during the summer, returning again only when students did. For 16 years following his arrival, he wove himself into the community and Los Angeles history. It wasn’t that the school adopted the cat, but that the cat had adopted the school. During his time at the school, Room 8 received more than 10,000 pieces of mail from all over the country. During his life, he never took a permanent home, but was always technically a stray cat. So, when he died in 1968, the students wanted to give him a permanent resting place. The students set out to secure a burial for Room 8 at the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery in Calabasas. When they put out a call to help raise funds, they were overwhelmed by the response, gathering enough funds to buy one of the largest headstones in the cemetery. Room 8 also made waves posthumously. His obituary in the L.A. Times took up three columns and included a picture. To celebrate his life on the school's campus, Elysian Elementary painted murals around the building, etched his name into the sidewalk, and hung portraits of him in hallways.