Beloved celebrity cat to get $25,000 statue

Central Leader - - WHAT’S ON - TOM DILLANE

Erect­ing a $25,000 bronze statue in mem­ory of your dead cat may seem ex­ces­sive.

But, as the staff at Auck­land’s Devon­port Li­brary say, if you’d met Ben­jamin, their res­i­dent fe­line for 15 years, you wouldn’t think so.

‘‘Some­one said to me it’s not us that hu­man­ise an­i­mals, its an­i­mals that hu­man­ise us, and I thought ‘yeah, that’s what re­ally hap­pens when an an­i­mal be­comes part of the com­mu­nity of its own vo­li­tion’,’’ Devon­port li­brar­ian Fiona Startup said.

‘‘Ben­jamin just chose to be there. He had a per­fectly good home and de­cided, no, he was go­ing to live in the li­brary and he was go­ing to be the vil­lage cat.’’

Ben­jamin died on Jan­uary 27 and, fol­low­ing a pub­lic ser­vice that at­tracted over 200 peo­ple, Startup was encouraged by her daugh­ter to cre­ate a statue in his like­ness.

Fol­low­ing talks with her col­leagues at Devon­port Li­brary, on Auck­land’s North Shore, it was pro­posed a oneme­tre bronze statue of Ben­jamin sit­ting atop a pile of books could be placed be­side the li­brary en­trance.

Hav­ing trained as a sculp­tor in Auck­land and Cal­i­for­nia, Startup is confident she is ca­pa­ble of do­ing jus­tice to Ben­jamin’s ‘‘feisty per­son­al­ity’’.

‘‘I re­ally like the idea that it’s a bit quirky hav­ing a sculp­ture of the lo­cal cat in the vil­lage. I think it fits with Devon­port as well, it’s al­ways been quite an arty vil­lage.

‘‘It will get the af­ter­noon sun there and get warm. You can just imag­ine he will get a shiny head from every­one stroking it.’’

With the li­brary’s am­bi­tions set, it’s now a process of ob­tain­ing Auck­land Coun­cil con­sent to place a struc­ture on pub­lic land, and rais­ing the funds from the pub­lic.

Startup has al­ready knocked a con­sid­er­able sum off the $25,000 price tag, through a sub­sidy on the bronze cast­ing work from Richard Wells, of Art­works foundry, who said he could do it for $9000.

A fur­ther $1500 will be needed for in­stal­la­tion, with Startup sculpt­ing for free. A Givealit­tle page has been set up to raise $10,000 from the com­mu­nity, with fundrais­ing events planned.

A pe­ti­tion supporting the statue will add weight to the landowner con­sent ap­pli­ca­tion.

Ben­jamin lived at the Li­brary for more than a decade and, when it was re­built in 2015, a cat flap was in­stalled for him.

TOM DILLANE/FAIRFAX NZ

Fiona Startup with a rough sketch of the planned Ben­jamin the cat bronze sculp­ture.

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