Meet Gatito, the campus cat taking over hearts and dorm rooms

Feb. 9, 2023, 8:44 p.m.

It’s not unusual for frequenters of Stern dining or residents of Casa Zapata to spot a black-and-white cat slinking around tables and purring down hallways. The welcome visitor, known for his ability to find the best nooks, crannies and stretches of sunlight to take his naps, is a rescue from Fresno County named Gatito Guillermo (typically referred to as Gatito) and one of the many pets owned by Zapata Resident Fellow (RF) Elvira Prieto ’96. 

Gatito has been part of Prieto’s family since he was rescued as a baby. Named after her nephew Guillermo, the feline was the second addition to Prieto’s family of “fur babies,” as she calls her pets. Luna, a poodle/terrier mix that was three years old when the RF rescued Gatito, took care of Gatito “like a good big sister,” according to Prieto. 

Prieto was already an RF when Gatito joined her family and the larger campus community. 

“Given how much Luna had already made her presence known as a community-builder and lover of Stanford students, I was not surprised when Gatito also took on his own role in my shared effort to bring love and warmth to our Stanford familia,” Prieto wrote to The Daily. 

And Gatito certainly has made his mark. On the social app Fizz, multiple posts highlight Gatito’s popularity and positivity on campus. One post in particular, featuring a photo of the cat napping and reading “peaceful gatito giving you immunity from repost or else posts” (an unpopular type of social media post), has been upvoted over a thousand times. 

His fame isn’t simply an online phenomenon either.

“When I tell people I live in Zapata, they’ll often ask ‘Oh, do you know Gatito?’” Ari Barbella ’25, who claims to have taken “at least a hundred photos of [Gatito],” wrote to The Daily. 

As his neighbors, many Zapata residents have a special connection with Gatito. 

According to second-year resident Kimberly Gonzalez-Zelaya ’25, he “waits (im)patiently outside resident’s doors” and will meow and claw until he’s let in. 

He takes naps on top of laundry piles and under residents’ beds. Though Prieto doesn’t personally let Gatito into the dorm or other residences, Gatito has mastered entering and exiting through the RF’s doggie door and waits by Zapata’s door to be let in or let out. 

Meet Gatito, the campus cat taking over hearts and dorm rooms
Gatito cuddles up on a student’s mattress. (Courtesy of Ari Barbella.)

When he’s not in Zapata, he’s likely wandering “around Stern looking for people to say hello to” or even in the dining hall, where he likes to go “sniff around and pet himself against people’s legs,” wrote Barbella.

Prieto “deeply appreciates everyone who helps her keep him safe and connects with him at Stanford,” she wrote.

Gonzalez-Zelaya explained that a lot of Zapata residents “lovingly refer to him as our landlord.” This nickname was donned on him for the way he “sassily commands the dorm with his routine trips across floors and his curious way of waiting for someone to open the door for him,” they wrote to The Daily.  

Barbella confirmed this, writing that they joke that “he comes by every month to collect rent or fix the sinks/toilets when they break.”

But his ‘tenants’ feel taken care of, according to residents and Prieto.

According to Gonzalez-Zelaya, Gatito is a “lovely little cat that, in some way, takes care of his residents.” Prieto wrote that her pets bring a “special energy of care and warmth” to the dorm community. 

Prieto now has a third furry addition to her family, another rescue called ‘Osito’ or little bear. But she says this increase in on-campus pets isn’t exclusive to her home. According to Prieto, there’s “more of a presence” of pets in recent years compared to when she first returned to campus in 2010. 

“Gatito has cat friends from other places on campus that he visits with or who come to visit him at home,” wrote Prieto. 

Barbella supports an even larger presence of on-campus pets. 

“I think that everybody can agree that the world would be a better place if there were more Gatitos in it,” he wrote. 

Oriana Riley ’25 is a News Managing Editor at The Daily. Every once in a while, she drops an iconic Campus Life article. Outside of The Daily, Oriana enjoys running a lot of miles and eating a lot of food. Contact Oriana at news ‘at’

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