Plates, figurines, paintings, salt and pepper shakers, and even real cats!
You’ll find it all at Redner’s Rescued Cat Figurine Mewseum, owned by Hilary Siegel Redner and Shawn Redner.
Their massive collection is a reflection of their love of all things feline – including the living, purring versions.
“I got my first cat when I moved to Milwaukee in 2008 because the previous tenant had left it behind,” Shawn says.
And now the pair have…
“Nine!” Hilary says, with a laugh. “Nine cats!”
But they’re still far outnumbered by the Redner’s pretend cats. They’re made of everything from cement to porcelain, from wood to paper.
“A woman in Menomonee Falls found this valentine in her attic from 1937,” Shawn says.
It’s fascinating to see all of the history – “or that there’s this much cat stuff!” Shawn adds with a chuckle.
But this collection stems from one of the darkest times in Shawn’s life.
“My life was going terribly,” he says. “It was just going on for such a long time and I kept lying to myself and saying this was going to stop and it was the night before my 45th birthday and I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ And I just made the commitment to myself to stop drinking.”
But Shawn says he struggled with boredom and needed a hobby.
“So I said to Hilary, ‘come on! We’re going to find some cats!’”
“I’m like ‘we’re doing what?’” adds Hilary. “Those were my exact words, ‘we’re doing what?’ He goes, ‘come on, it’ll be fun.’ And… it took me a couple of months to kind of get used to it.”
But over those months, the house filled up.
“And now I can’t pass a Goodwill without bringing stuff home!” Hilary says.
“We were finding so many cats and just filling the curio cabinets, and then a bout a year and a half after that is when the idea for the Mewseum came along,” says Shawn.
The pair have opened the house to the public – just call ahead for a tour! Your five dollar donation is donated entirely to local cat rescues like Happy Endings No Kill Cat Shelter and Second Hand Purrs.
“Last year we donated almost $2000,” Shawn says.
And the Redners have expanded their generosity to give people dealing with major challenges like housing insecurity or cancer diagnoses.
“We drove a lot of cat food down to Indiana and cat litter,” Shawn says. “She should be good for a little while. On a monthly basis, we’re sending cat food to people through Chewy.com”
“That’s just Shawn’s personality,” Hilary adds. “100% he has always wanted to help anybody and everybody. Cats, people, businesses. Any way that he can help, he will.”
That sense of community is a huge motivator for the growing collection. Shawn says the human connection he feels inside the Mewseum keeps him sober.
“You can see when people – the rest of the world just disappears for a minute,” he says.
These rooms and shelves are bursting with memories – like this donated collection from a woman named Jane.
“She reached out – handwritten cursive letter, highlight of my week!” Shawn recalls. “Saying ‘I’m the cat lady of Bruce, Wisconsin and my son has declared for years that he wants nothing to do with my cats, will your museum help me please?’”
“When you do a tour of the house, you’ll see a lot of cabinets with names in them,” Hilary adds. “Those are their cats and we’re cherishing and keeping their memories.”
Shawn and Hilary have traveled from the Carolinas to California to rescue cat figurines for the Mewseum.
“It’s just too hard not to, you know? I mean, I just would feel terrible if we didn’t do everything we can to keep someone’s cats together.”
And when Shawn thinks about where he’s been, he gets a little overwhelmed.
“When I see what this has become, it makes me feel like you had to go through that in order for this to happen,” Shawn says of his journey to sobriety. “And I’m okay with that. I’ll never hide that from anybody.”
Instead he’ll proudly show his success the best way he knows how – through his love of cats.
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