At the close of each school year, most institutions announce a student lightheartedly voted “most popular”.
Until a cat named Simba decided this honor was meant for him. He graciously accepted this recognition for the past 19 years but sadly, crossed the rainbow bridge on June 27 at the age of 21.
School staff, town residents and students, both past and present, have forever been changed by the loving feline who unofficially ran the school.
In 2000, the ginger boy approached Tina Soucy, a new math teacher at Westbrook High School in Maine, as she was setting up her classroom. She grabbed some cat treats that were in her car, initially meant for her own cats, and instantly bonded with the boy. Simba showed no fear and followed Tina right into her classroom located on the first floor.
From that day on, Simba was a regular, likely earning a special attendence award too! His is owner joked that “we often say that Simba would have a Ph.D. by now if he would just stop napping in class.”
Eileen Shutts is Simba’s official owner, living just a few blocks away from the school. Simba initially belonged to another family who allowed him to roam the safe neighborhood, winning over the hearts of everyone in the area. When the family moved, they didn’t want to take Simba away from his larger “adoptive” family. This is when Eileen stepped in and happily became his mom.
Simba was content as an indoor cat at night, comforting Shutts’s daughter at bedtime. But each morning when she left for work, Eileen would cave to his demands to be let out to go about his daily routine. Knowing he was safely looked after by the entire community, Simba had many angels to monitor his whereabouts.
Eileen had the personal phone numbers of the custodial staff and would ask them to send him on his way if it was time for Simba to come home at night. Teacher Ms. Soucy admits that if the weather was bad, she would drive Simba home at the end of the school day.
He frequented city council meetings, supurrvised neighbors during their yardwork and even had his own chair in the guidance counselors office at the school. Knowing he needed to solidify his station and “purrmanent hall pass”, he wisely snuggled up to superintendent Marc Gousse, who was treated to a cuddle session each morning.
While attending class, students gladly gave up their textbooks when Simba decided they made a comfy bed.
The stresses of high school are likely well-remembered by all. Having Simba around admittedly brought a calming presence to all who met him. Even the students who suffered allergies and were safely kept at a distance from the orange cat, didn’t mind accepting him as a classmate.
So cherished by all, students and staff elected Simba as the subject of their annual art fundraiser in 2013. Simba related artwork and photographs taken of the handsome feline helped raise hundreds of dollars more than previous years. The kitty muse made national headlines and won the hearts of the world.
Eileen shared the heartbreaking news on her Facebook page this week of Simba’s passing. The beautifully written tribute honors the special feline that brought a town together.
Replies and reactions from hundreds of past and present students and nearby residents flowed in. One neighbor shared her recent interaction with the friendly cat.
“On Tuesday morning Simba came trotting up the driveway as Ryan & I were getting into our car to head to work. I hadn’t seen him in a while and he was a lot thinner than I had remembered but when he came by and I scratched underneath his chin I saw his bright shiny new name tag with his name on it and exclaimed to Ryan “it’s Simba!” We spent a moment saying hello & then he sauntered over to our back steps, as he had done many a times, to sit a hang out. I am so thankful we had one last moment with him. He was an amazing cat and the Franceschi’s will miss him terribly.”
Westbrook High School also shared their sympathies for the family on their Facebook page, complete with emotional photos and memories of their honorary school mascot.
Likely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support the Shutts family has received, they still humbly show what an amazing family they are. They have requested that anyone who would like to celebrate Simba’s life please consider donating to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in Simba’s memory.
R.I.P. Simba ~
Thank you for posting this beautiful story. I am missing our boy.❤ Math class will never be the same without his amazing presence. Tina S.
Thank YOU Tina for welcoming Simba into your classroom and taking such good care of him <3 His life is a truly beautiful story! Our deepest condolences to the entire community.
yes, thank you and the rest of the area for what ya’ll have done for him. We need more people like this in the world to step up and care.
Condolences for the loss. However I would like to point out that lots reporters lately have been using a headline saying that a certain animal has “crossed the Rainbow Bridge” as a euphemism for it passing away. They need to read the story again. The Beloved pet has not yet crossed the Rainbow Bridge. It is waiting for its master to join it in the sunlit meadow just this side of the Rainbow Bridge. The pet and master across the Rainbow Bridge together.
We could all learn a lot from Simba. Rest In Peace.
Westbrook High is not in Portland it is in Westbrook.
Thanks! We’ll make the correction =)
“Teacher Ms. Soucy admits that if the weather was bad, she would drive Simba home at the end of the school day.” – Ahh that is so nice. Glad to read a positive story!
I lost my 13 year old Simba on June 3rd. Rainbow Bridge received 2 Kings in June. My thoughts are with you.
Thank you for posting this heartwarming story about Simba. It sounds like Simba was an ambassador of cheer and goodwill, bringing joy to many people by being friendly and sharing goodwill and affection. What a blessing he must have been to the community.?
I recently inherited a kitty with a strong need to be indoor/outdoor. As in she was tearing up screens and prying open doors and picking on the other kitties in a bad way. I nervously gave it a shot for her to be indoor/outdoor and she is now an official meeter/greeter on my street. She loves to sit close by and greet people – I often here, “Look Mommy, a kitty cat!” And, “Oh, what a sweet kitty!” as she is friendly with children and adults walking by. It brings joy to my heart knowing that a child has a chance to see an animal’s love and affection and experience that unconditional love.
Your sweet Simba sounds like an incredible soul who brought joy to SO many people. May his spirit live on!
You are so right Mr. Livingston.Simba hasn’t crossed The Rainbow Bridge yet.He’s waiting for his special person to join him + they’ll cross over to Heaven together! This article is so beautiful.It made me cry happy tears.Animals are so innocent,selfless + loving.They are sweet angels.God bless you Simba!??
Incredible and amazing story. It never ceases to amaze me how animals affect so many lives. Thanks Simba for your many gifts and thanks to everyone for caring for Simba. He will be missed. ??????
I normally avoid reading most news articles. I came across this after I read one about a cat being adopted by a classroom in Turkey. It is a wonderful story to read with all the negative ones around. I am a cat person myself (having taken in a number of strays). It is sad that he passed away recently, and my condolences goes out to his family (all of Westbrook), i totally sympathize with them. May he be forever remembered and watch over those who loved him.