Five Famous Felines

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Most cats are content to stick close to home and family, but some have made a name for themselves by taking on other employment or pastimes.

1. The Ship's Cat
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Simon was born in 1947 in Hong Kong. As a half-grown cat, he was taken aboard the HMS Amethyst to control rats. In 1949, the ship was attacked on the Yangtze River in China by communists. Simon was wounded, but not found for days. The injured sailors had been evacuated, so the ship's doctor nursed Simon's facial burns and shrapnel wounds. As Simon recovered he resumed rat catching, but also added the duty of visiting sick and wounded sailors. Upon return to Hong Kong, Simon was presented with a campaign ribbon and news that he would receive a Dicken Medal, an award for animal gallantry. When the Amethyst reached England, Simon had to go into quarantine. He developed an infection and died just before his planned formal medal ceremony. The veterinarian believed the young cat would have recovered if his war wounds hadn't weakened him. Simon was buried in a specially-made casket with full naval homors.

2. The Undercover Cat
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Fred was a Brooklyn stray before he helped investigators bust a college student posing as a veterinarian last year. Robert Reid had suspicions about Steven Vassall when the fake vet treated his dog, so he contacted the Brooklyn Distict Attorney's office. Assistant DA Carol Moran took Fred from Animal Control and deputized him for an investigation. When Vassall agreed to neuter Fred for $135, he was promptly arrested. Fred became a media sensation for his part in the sting operation.

Three more cat stories, after the jump.

3. The School Cat
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Room Eight was the name students gave to the cat who visited them at Elysian Heights Elementary School in Los Angeles. He came in through an open window in 1952, and returned to room eight for sixteen years. He only came when school was open, so every fall the students would wait anxiously for his first appearance. Room Eight became a celebrity with quite a bit of publicity and even fan mail. He was the subject of a documentary and a 1966 childrens book. When he died in 1968, the students attended his funeral at The Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park. He was also memorialized in the cement sidewalks at the school.

Correction: I heard from Roger Vargo, who has researched and written a recent article on Room 8.

When Room 8 died on Aug. 13, 1968, regular school was not in session and the students did not attend  his funeral on Aug. 15. Only approximately 10-12 people were at the ceremony. Students did attend the placement of his headstone which was  done about a year later, in 1969. As your photo shows, his grave is still in good condition today.

More here. There is also a cat shelter named in his honor, the Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation.

4. The Commuter Cat
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Macavity is the mysterious white cat who rides the bus several times a week in West Midlands, England. He gets on the bus at a Churchhill Road stop and rides to the next stop near a fish and chips shop. He has even been observed running to catch the bus! Macavity wears a purple collar and has one blue eye and one green eye. Bus drivers named him Macavity after a cat in a T.S. Eliot poem, although his true name and owners are still unknown. He is a well-behaved passenger, but has yet to pay his fare.

5. The Bookstore Cat
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The story that inspired this post was the sad news of the passing of Fup, the Powell's Technical Books store cat. Fup was 19 years old, nearly all of which was spent at the store, save for a six-week period in 1997 while the bookstore underwent a remodel. A quarter of a million subscribers followed Fup's adventures through her column in the Powell's newsletter.

In her youth, Fup would sometimes climb ladders and hide at the top of book fixtures to look down upon the humans in her domain. Over the years, Fup acquired a well-earned reputation for biting employees who intruded on her time for more than about 30 seconds. However, she would always be sitting in front of the office to greet whoever came to open the store in the morning, demanding her serving of canned food for breakfast. She was more patient with visitors; Fup played the celebrity game well. She received many gifts and cards and emails from fans, which she appreciated.

Fup's image is available on the store's gift cards and t-shirts. Memorials donations can be made to the Oregon Humane Society.

Previously at mental_floss: Oscar, The LOLcat of Death.

See also: Five Fantastic Felines.

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November 1, 2007 - 1:05am
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