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'Cat Care
Jameson Copp '09 has just the right touch.

Jameson Copp
Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services

Armed only with toothbrushes and cotton swabs, Jameson Copp '09 is nose to nose with a giant cat—the UNH Wildcat. Copp adjusts his ladder, leans in, and scrubs around the ears, working the bristles into every crevice. Each paw gets the same treatment: white cleaning paste, followed by a mild soap and a rinse of distilled water. After 15 hours of scrubbing, the 850-pound cat is clean.

It's a long and painstaking process, explains Copp, an art conservator who was a UNH student six years ago when the cat was installed. An artist himself, Copp is especially appreciative of the university's first commissioned work of art, which was created by sculptor Matthew Palmer Gray. "Everyone loves the piece," says Copp, who also works in bronze. "It's become such an important part of the institution. It just shows what a difference art can make."

Passersby often stop to give the cat a pat or sit on its back; students and their families love to pose for photographs with the mascot, which stands watch at the intersection in front of the Whittemore Center; and the bronze feline is one of the main attractions on the 'Cat's Eye Web Cam. Proof of the sculpture's popularity is most visible on its nose, where the dark patina has been rubbed off by thousands of incoming freshmen who "pat the cat" for good luck. One of the back paws, where people often lean in for photos, has also lost its dark finish.

Jameson Copp
Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services

These worn spots are a sign of success, Copp points out: "It's supposed to be an interactive piece. That's the true beauty of an outdoor sculpture—it has become part of the environment." Regular cleaning and maintenance can help prevent permanent discoloration from handling and natural weathering.

The cotton swab and toothbrush treatment is only the first step. Next comes the wax. After 30 hours of methodical application with more special brushes, Copp is finally satisfied. Next, he gets out his burnishing cloths and rubs until the cat is polished from nose to tail. When he's finished, Copp gathers his brushes and folds his ladder. Then he pauses, just for a minute, to give the cat a final pat. ~

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