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Sylvester the campus cat receives his own line of merchandise to support charity

12 May 2023

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The animals most people associate with the University of East Anglia (UEA) are the friendly population of rabbits, but now a new contender has entered the field as the University’s furry mascot – Sylvester the cat. Sylvester, whose self-led tours of campus grounds and buildings contribute greatly to the happiness and wellbeing of those he meets, can now boast his very own line of merchandise, with a proportion of the sales going to support Norfolk and Waveney Mind (NWM).

Although it’s not clear exactly who adopted who in the UEA-Sylvester relationship, his regular jaunts around campus, which include turning up randomly in lectures and sleeping on the library information desk, has earned him the love of the whole UEA community.

Sylvester’s owner Emily Birkett who lives near to campus, has embraced Sylvester’s new-found fame, she said:

“When he first started wandering off, I was understandably worried, but having a Facebook page where people post pictures of him enjoying university life means I always have plenty of eyes watching him.

“Sylvester is a lovely character and brings such joy to my life, it’s heartening to know he has plenty to spare to share with the staff and students at UEA. Anyone that has a pet knows the benefits they can bring to your sense of wellbeing, I’m over the moon that Sylvester’s popularity is going to help support Norfolk & Waveney Mind who do so much to help local people in their time of need.”

The Facebook page run by Emily, documents his life, helps her to keep track of his movements, and also acts as a resource to record his frequent jaunts around campus. The page is brimming with posts from students and staff, with Polly Morgan, Associate Professor in Law at UEA, recently posting: “2pm. Sylvester briefly makes an appearance in feminist theory (you will recall he has attended this class before), but is now ensconced in the law clinic, working alongside the Norfolk Community Law Clinic debt advice team and helping me write an article for the Financial Remedies Journal. He is a cat of many talents.”

With an army of fans already enthralled by his friendly disposition, boundless wanderlust, and distinctive stub tail, Sylvester was an ideal candidate to appear on a new range of t-shirts and hoodies. Alice Ladbrooke, Divisional Marketing & Communications Manager for Sport & Commercial Services at UEA was instrumental in designing and developing the merchandise, she said:

“We had been discussing new lines of merchandise featuring campus favourites that better represented people’s time at university. Obviously, the first UEA icon I thought of was Sylvester, whose adventures have captured the hearts of students and staff alike. With 10% of all profits going to Norfolk and Waveney Mind, we hope to not only spread joy, but also contribute towards a great cause that promotes mental health awareness and support.”

The support for NWM follows on from a recent collaboration between the charity and UEA in developing an innovative ‘Mindfulness and Active Hope’ course, the only one of its type in the UK, which aims to help students cope with eco-anxiety, cultivate self-care, and understand how to transform their fear and grief on issues like climate change.

The Sylvester t-shirts and hoodies are available from Shop at UEA on the UEA campus from Tuesday 9 May at 10am.

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