ESCANABA - Every home had one when I was a kid.
They were useful, handsome, entertaining and comforting like most household objects.
The furnace spewed out warm air. The refrigerator kept us fed.
Karen Wils photos
My sister Lori and a favorite tiger cat.
The kitchen table was the focal point of our daily life, and the family cat could be found sitting next to all three of these household items.
As far back as I can remember, our family owned a cat or two.
Back in the olden days, when I was young, our cat had free-range of our house, garden, neighborhood and the whole Bay Shore East of our home.
Over the years Blackie, Rusty, Dusty, Tippy, and Tiger kept the yard mouse-free. They devoured spiders in the basement, cut down the number of cottontail rabbits in the area, and purred and nuzzled each family member as they came and went at our house.
Most of them were good companion cats. In the evening, around the old black and white Motorola TV, the cat took turns jumping on laps.
"A house without a cat just isn't a home" was the philosophy that I was raised with. My husband grew up on a farm with barn cats. A couple of weeks after we were married and setting up house keeping, I announced that something was missing. We needed a pet cat.
David was a little surprised that a pet cat should live in the house, but now he even shares his cheese and crackers with his favorite red cat.
At some point in my life, I started to collect cat figurines. I remember my Grandma Rose giving me two cat knick-knacks that she said once belonged to her mother.
When family members went on an out-of-town trip, they often brought me back a kitty-cat souvenir. I have crystal cats from Sweden - a gift from an aunt. I have a cat from Italy and one from Mexico - gifts from my sister.
Cats of bone china, carved wood, pewter, copper, glass, fabric, fur, and ceramics of all kinds decorated the sun porch at my house. Most of them have a name and a fun memory that goes with them. From the size of a dime to life sized cats, my kitty collection multiplied over the years.
Most people think of me as the beagle dog lady, but I'm a cat lady, too. Cats are such easier to care for, low maintenance pets compared to dogs. A bowl of food, water and a little box hidden away in the basement and cats are good for the whole day. When you come home late at night, there's fluffy tail swishing and all happy to see you.
Cats come in many colors and personalities. One of my Mom's favorite cats was Moses with his shiny black fur. My aunt owned Moses' sister, a tortoise shell calico named Miriam.
Tippy was called the scab-cat by my brothers, because of all of his cuts and injuries from hunting and catting around. This big black and white tomcat of my youth brought home mice, rats, muskrats, birds, and snakes. Tippy was a fierce predator outdoors and a cuddly pet indoors.
Tiger was my favorite cat of all times. She was a calico, a mother cat and the cleanest cat ever. Her white paws and under part were always snowy white.
My daughter Ellen is a fourth generation cat lover. Her Topaz cat and orange tabby, is the best-trained cat I ever saw. Ellen says, "Come on, Topaz, I'm going up to bed" and this cat comes running up the stairs like she understands every word.
This month, Ellen and I have a good portion of our cat figurine collection on display at the library. If you're a feline fan, come and check out a cat book.
Currently we share our house with two cats. Gone are the days of free roaming cats. The faster, busier world requires us to put tethers on our cats when they are outside. Spaying or neutering, a few shots and you have a friend for life. Our local animal shelter is a great place to find just the right kitty.
If you can't have a real cat, collect cat knick-knacks. They are easier to feed and clean up after. Have a purrr-fect weekend.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.