A ‘Rosie’ outlook: NIE’s Pet Idol picked for upcoming school year

Rosie, a year-old black and white domestic shorthair cat, is the winner of The Daily News’ 2022 Pet Idol contest. She is shown being held by owner Jennie Vassar of Niagara, Wis. At right is Vassar’s 14-year-old son, Parker, with the family’s other cat, Oliver. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photos)

NIAGARA, Wis. — A cat born only a year ago in a feline foster home has become The Daily News Newspapers in Education Pet Idol for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.

Rosie last May was a palm-sized kitten with a dark patch over one eye, in a litter of four born to a former stray.

Her mother eventually would take on another seven kittens to watch over for Barn Cat Buddies and Babies, which works to acclimate strays and semi-feral cats into life as a house pet, along with coordinating low-cost spaying and neutering services.

That summer, the Vassars went looking for a cat to add to their family of three plus 14-year-old dog, Buttons.

“We didn’t want a kitten, we wanted an older cat,” Jennie Vassar said.

Rosie of Niagara, Wis., is the 2022 Pet Idol and will become The Daily News’ Newspapers in Education mascot for the 2022-23 school year.

But Rosie’s mom “didn’t like us at all.” The little kitten with the eye patch, on the other hand, “took to all of us,” Vassar said.

So Rosie moved to the Vassar residence in Niagara, Wis. Once in the household, they were struck by the fact the kitten’s facial markings were nearly a mirror image of Button’s — the dog with a patch over the left eye, the kitten’s on the right.

Unfortunately, the family’s rat terrier-Chihuahua cross died in October after battling diabetes and Cushing’s disease.

The family in November then acquired brown tabby Oliver, this time directly from the shelter in Breitung Township, as a companion for Rosie. The two almost immediately bonded.

“She’s been absolutely wonderful from day one … just very, very good natured and sweet,” Vassar said.

They kept the name Rosie she was given in foster care — all of the kittens in her litter got botanical names, Vassar noted — because she had “cute pink ears and a rose-pink nose.”

They entered Rosie in Pet Idol on the suggestion of a friend who owned Gordon Ramsay, the hedgehog that won the title in 2020 before the contest skipped a year due to COVID-19.

“Just ’cause she’s pretty,” Jennie Vassar said.

In addition to having her photo in the paper as NIE mascot for the next school year, Rosie received a trophy donated by BK Enterprises Engraving of Iron Mountain.

The Pet Idol competition invites residents in the region to submit photos of their living pet and cast unlimited 25-cent votes through the contest’s three rounds. Ballot stuffing was encouraged, with all proceeds benefiting the NIE program with area schools. Deadline for entry this year was Jan. 31, with voting from Feb. 9 to April 14.


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