Valerie Murphy wasn't barking up the wrong tree when she predicted that this would be the "Year of the Cat" in the local Pet Idol contest.
Voters named the East Toledo woman's 5-year-old cat Willow, a keen, spirited, and affectionate kitty, as the "purr-fect" 2008 Pet Idol.
More than 1 million total votes were cast in the contest as people pared the initial pool of 350 pets, including plenty of pooches, to a field of 10 finalists. Willow won after about a half-million votes were counted in the final round.
"She's doing great," Ms. Murphy said last evening about the newly named celebrity. "She's playing on her cat tree."
Willow was a wisp of a kitten when found by Ms. Murphy in July, 2003. The stray had a puncture wound in its abdomen, but after being treated by a veterinarian, the feline recovered just fine.
As the 2008 Pet Idol winner, Willow won a basket of organic cat food and treats, a new collar, a grooming comb, and cat toys. Ms. Murphy was awarded gift certificates from area restaurants and she will receive an pet portrait painting by local artist Lily Spang.
"I was surprised and excited about her winning," Ms. Murphy said. "And I was happy that a cat won this year, because a dog won last year."
Diesel, a Siberian husky, was the 2007 Pet Idol winner.
Voters in the contest had the option of making a donation to support Planned Pethood, Inc. and The Blade's Newspaper in Education program, which encourages literacy and good citizenship to area students through free educational materials, services, and classroom newspapers.
The contest raised more than $19,000, compared to $9,000 in 2007.
It was sponsored by The Blade; WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and the Toledo Area Metroparks' MetroBarks membership program. Planned Pethood was a partner.