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Published in 2003 by Lake Country Journal

Browser, the Library Cat

by Patricia Fry

Every library has books about cats. But few libraries provide a resident cat that curls up with you while you read those books.

Browser arrived at the Pine River Public Library over a year ago. The half-grown kitten seemed healthy, but he did eagerly accept a bowl of tuna. And he certainly enjoyed mingling with library patrons. According to branch manager, Muriel Erickson, the coal black stray especially liked spending time with children. "When story time came, he just wandered in with the kids and plopped himself in the middle of the room so all of the kids could touch him."

Within a few weeks, it became obvious to everyone that Browser had found himself a home. But what would happen in July when the library moved to its new building? Not a problem! He had made friends with the right people—the kids. And they weren't going to leave Browser behind.

Erickson chuckles when she tells the story, "The night before the move, it rained and the old building leaked. Everything was wet. Browser was sitting on top of one of the shelving units just watching us pack things. Finally, one of the kids who was helping with the move just picked him up and carried him over to the new building."

Browser didn't miss a beat. He quickly made himself at home in the new library.

But he almost lost his chance at this cushy lifestyle. Erickson explains, "When we took him to the vet for his first check up, he tested positive for feline leukemia. We had to wait six-weeks and retest him and there was no sign of it again."

This 15 ? pound cat maintains his good health through donations. "We have a kitty bank on the counter and the kids love to put money in there for Browser," says Erickson.

It's hard for cat lovers to understand this, but there are folks who can't tolerate cats. Some simply don't like them and others are seriously allergic to them. What can you do to protect that portion of the population when you have a cat in a public place? The folks at Pine River take this challenge seriously.

"We did our research," says Erickson. "We found that it's usually the dander from cats that causes allergic reactions." So the staff brushes Browser often. They put his bed and toys out of sight and they sprinkle the carpets with a powder designed to keep pet dander down. According to Erickson, "Now that people don't see Browser's things, I haven't heard any complaints. The children who want to play with Browser, just come to the desk and ask for his toys."

Some patrons still use the library without stepping inside. Erickson says, "Those who are afraid of cats, let us know that they're coming and we get their books ready. We either run them out to the car or they send someone in to pick them up."

All of this for a cat? One is tempted to ask why? "He's great PR for the library," says Erickson. Evidently, some people come in because of Browser. According to Erickson, "Adults and children both come in asking, ?where is the cat?'" He has become the family cat for people who can't have their own pets. This might include someone with a family member who has allergies. But Erickson has found that even some people with allergies can't resist Browser. She knows who they are and she always tries to remind them to wash their hands after petting the cat.

Maybe it's his personality that draws even those with allergies. He's a mellow fellow. In fact, Erickson says, "I've never seen such a relaxed cat." And he is an extremely social cat. Not only does he get along with everyone at the library, he also has friends throughout the neighborhood.

Erickson explains, "He has this three block radius where he goes in town and visits merchants during the day." He also visits residents in the area. There have been nights when Browser didn't come back in time to be let into the library before closing and he had to spend the night outside. But that's rare.

As far as Browser earning his keep as a mouser like some other library and shop cats; there's no evidence that he has ever caught a mouse. On the other hand, there are no mice in the library building and maybe that's because of the cat. Browser does chase bugs, though. According to Erickson, "He has this thing about eating grasshoppers."

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