The purr-fect addition to a home

Karen Wils photo "Ma" is one of the cat knickknacks that came from Grandma Rose’s.

ESCANABA — Kitchen cats, calico cats, collectable cats and family felines… purr-fect our lives almost every day.

You don’t have to be a cat person to have been touched by silent paws at one time in your life.

We hail from homesteads all around the Upper Michigan wilderness and almost every farm, lumber camp or fish house had a domestic cat or two.

Like me, I’ll bet almost everyone can recall a tabby cat sitting sleepily on a rag rug by the cook stove at Grandma’s house.

My Grandma Rose lived in Gladstone. Her house and large garden was patrolled by several different striped gray cats over the years.

All of them were called the same name, “Purr-Lou.”

Purr-Lou was called with French twang in the pronunciation. Perhaps it was a leftover thing from Grandma’s childhood days. Her parents came from Quebec, and French was the language used in their house for many years.

I don’t recall Grandma’s cats eating much cat food, but they did receive fish heads, food scraps and were always on the lookout for field mice.

In Grandma’s kitchen corner shelf, she had two cat figurines. These little knickknacks added a cute character to the very plain kitchen.

I’d enjoy dusting off the cat statues on many of our Sunday visits. Grandma Rose was a collector of all kinds of trinkets and things, so when she gave me the two kitchen cats it was a green light for me.

At the age of twelve, I started to collect cat knickknacks. I received them as gifts and souvenirs. I have homemade hand carved cats, bone china cats, leaded crystal cats and ceramic felines of every color and shape. Some were wine decanters, some salt and pepper shakers, and some held perfume. The blue glass cats came from Sweden when my aunt visited there. “Nogales” came from Mexico and “Bellini” came from Italy. They were gifts from my sister.

My cat collection grew to over a hundred with most all of them having names. But “Ma and “Pa” were always my favorites, and they were the two that came from my grandmother’s kitchen.

Cats had a very important part in U.P history other than just being fluffy pets. Good barn cats were a must in the olden days. Mice ate grain and caused diseases.

At the lumber camps, a cat’s job was to keep the rats and mice out of the cook house and keep the insects down in the bunk house.

Besides dozens of cat knickknacks, I share my house with two real felines. They entertain us with their cute antics. Nothing seems to make a house a home like a cat who thinks he is the king of the jungle, all spread out on the kitchen floor.

Curl up in a warm sunny window or by the comfy woodstove with your favorite feline friend. Look in old family photo albums to see what kitchen cats or coal bin calicos made your kinfolk perfectly happy!


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.