The Wildcat

Wildcat Statue

In 2018, the University unveiled a bronze Wildcat statue located in front of the Bell Memorial Union. Generously funded by the Associated Students, Alumni Association, Athletics, and the University Foundation (without the use of state funds or student fees), the project began in 2010 when students advocated for a wildcat statue as a symbol to promote school spirit characterized by respect, confidence, and commitment. Following a nationwide search, world-class wildlife artist Matthew Gray Palmer was selected to create the statue.

The statue depicts Lynx rufus californicus, the native bobcat, in a natural environment and is complemented by lighting and landscape improvements at the site.

Wildcat statue at night

Mascot History

The Wildcat became Chico's mascot in 1924 by a vote of the student body. Maxon Mellinger, who was a fan of the Northwestern Wildcats, submitted the winning name. It was adopted by the student body because, according to recollections of those who were around at the time, it typified the kind of sassy, spitfire vigor and vitality the students wanted to project.

A live wildcat mascot, donated to the school by athlete and 1925 alum E.R. Deering, first arrived on campus in 1928. The cat's first appearance at a basketball game included his nipping the leg of a referee and nervously answering the "call of nature" on the basketball court. Despite this somewhat embarrassing beginning, the Wildcat has endured as a symbol and mascot for the institution, whose students and alums proudly refer to themselves as Wildcats.

The mascot first appeared on the cover and borders of the interior pages of the Chico yearbook, The Record(opens in new window), in 1925. The portrayal was that of a lean, crouching feline with a defiant curl to its lips. In later years, under a generation weaned on the animals of Disneyland, it took on a sly, mischievous grin and metamorphosed into the prank-playing gremlin of SOCS, whose name is an abbreviation of the "Spirit of Chico State." SOCS eventually faded from the scene and in the early 2000s, Willie the Wildcat was introduced as the campus mascot. 

Cover of the 1925 yearbook featuring a wildcat drawing. SOCS mascot Willie the Wildcat mascot

The 1925 cover of The Record; SOCS mascot (1961); Willie the Wildcat (2017)

In the 1970s, the Chico Alumni Association spearheaded a revival of the original Lynx rufus californicus, the bobcat native to California. The University commissioned a painting by nationally acclaimed wildlife artist Gene Gray.

bobcat painting - cat is jumping over log

"Wildcat Lynx rufus" by Gene Gray

Chico State Athletics has also used a number of Wildcat logos over the years. Read more about University logos.