Purr-fectly quirky: This Midwest cat ‘mewseum’ attracts donations from around the world

A Wisconsin couple turned a pandemic passion project into a museum to help raise money for local animal shelters

Photo: Julie Grace Immink

The word “meow” cascades down the cream side-paneling of a Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, home that otherwise appears to be an ordinary ranch-style house in an unassuming suburb. When I knock on the back door, the tall and tattooed homeowner greets me with a smile—and a cat standing on his shoulder. 

Nestled in a subdivision on the outskirts of Milwaukee is Redner’s Rescued Cat Figurine Mewseum. Shawn Redner and his wife Hilary Siegel-Redner share their home with eight rescue cats and thousands of relics. The Redners have lived in this house for 10 years, but began collecting feline trinkets just a few years ago. They were trying to find something productive to occupy time during the early days of the pandemic. 

As cat lovers, the couple began taking road trips to thrift stores and collecting whiskered bric-a-brac. Then came the idea to transform their living quarters into a figurine museum to raise funds for local animal shelters. 

Shawn and Hillary both work full-time jobs and open their home for guests in their spare time. During my tour, Squeaky, named for his chatty demeanor, repeatedly dives into Shawn’s beard like he’s a 6-foot comb. This life-size grooming brush is as friendly as his furry accessory. Together, they show me the wall-to-wall kitty plates in the kitchen, and on the couch, Hilary also has a furry family member curled up in her lap. She sits amid mounds of cat trinkets in the living room, and behind her is a sign declaring that their children have four paws, which is true: The couple has no human children, so the spare bedrooms in their home double as exhibition spaces. 

The Redners mission is to raise money for local non-profits; they choose a new shelter or spay and neuter clinic each month and feel passionate that they’re making a difference, one cat at a time. Future goals include expanding and creating a new museum with a cat café and adoption center so guests can mingle (and hopefully fall in love) with rescue animals that need a forever home. 

“Cats are a symbol of love and understanding,” Shawn says. “People think they are [all] just cats, but their personalities are so different.” 

a beige wall with blue letters that spell out "meow" hung beside two pieces of cat artwork
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

“Meow” means welcome to the Redner’s Rescued Cat Figurine Mewseum in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 

a man with a beard and glasses holds a striped tabby cat in front of a purple wall with rows of decorative cat plates
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

Shawn Redner, the co-founder of the cat Mewseum, stands with his sidekick Squeaky, a 12-year-old tabby male.  

a collection of cat figurines on display
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

Bride and groom faux taxidermy appeared in a package on the Redners’ doorstep, addressed from someone in New Jersey. The majority of the museum’s treasures are second-hand, and the rest are donations—the couple receives boxes from across the world from cat lovers who bestow their collections. 

a woman stands in front of a couch full of cat pillows and a wall full of cat-themed artwork
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

Hillary, a teachers’ aide for disabled students, says her summer vacations are “time consuming” since she spends them dusting. She takes photographs first, then removes each item, and after a good wipe replaces them. Each shelf takes about 1 hour to complete. 

a ceramic cat figurine plays a violin
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

This pastel jester plays a tune and dances when you twist its back. The couple travels on weekends via motorcycles, searching thrift shops and rummage sales throughout the Midwest, looking for the purr-fect pieces. 

a green wall filled with framed cat-themed artwork
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

This wooden decoupage of a cat named Taffy from St. Vincent de Paul was their first find. Inspired by the decade listed on the back—since this kitty lived through the Vietnam War and the moon landing—Shawn bought it for a dollar. Each trinket in the museum has a story, and the couple wants to honor the figurines they find. 

a striped tabby sits in a pile of stuffed cats under a painting of a cat
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

Snooki, an 18-year-old tabby, awakes from a nap amid a pile of furry stuffed animals. 

a purple wall with rows of collectible plates featuring cats
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

Purr-fectly lined kitchen with a wall-to-wall decorative plate collection. 

a shelf with cat figurines
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

These darling kittens are a tribute to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

a man with a cat on his shoulder stands in front of a wall full of collectible plates
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

 Squeaky dives her whiskers into Shawn’s thick facial hair. 

a curtain featuring four kittens in space
Photo: Julie Grace Immink

Kitten nebula space curtains.

If you go

Redner’s Cat Mewseum recommends a $5 donation for each tour. Guests can visit during a monthly open house or contact the owners via Facebook to make a private reservation at least 24 hours in advance.