Christmas Cat LegendPublished December 23, 2008
(Excerpted with permission from COMPLETE KITTEN CARE, New American Library, © Amy D. Shojai). There was no snow that night in Bethlehem. Instead, the small cat watched a star-spangled sky from her perch in the window of a stable. She liked the stable, for it was a warm safe place to raise her furry babies, and the innkeeper sometimes left scraps out for her to nibble. Tabby wasn't particularly distinctive, and most humans didn't look at her twice. After all, her short gray/black fur was quite common. But Tabby's striped coat hid a heart bigger than cats twice her size. This night, though, Tabby was out of sorts, for she'd not been able to hunt and catch dinner. Travelers had poured into town for days, so noisy they disturbed decent cat-folks' rest. Why, they'd even invaded Tabby's quiet stable, a place she had before shared only with other furry creatures. Tabby hadn't minded the human couple--they were calmer than most. She'd left that morning for her usual rounds, but when she returned, the stable was packed with people. From her perch on the window, Tabby watched the last of the strangers leave. She slipped from the window, and padded silently inside--and froze! "Meewwww, meewww, meewww," cried a tiny voice. A kitten? Tabby's ears turn this way and that to find the sound of the kitten's voice. It came from the manger, the very place Tabby often made her own bed. A woman knelt beside the manger, intent on the small mewling that arose from within. Tabby was drawn by the kittenish sound, though she knew her own furry babies were grown to cat-hood. She tiptoed forward very slowly, and passed by a wooly burro, a warm cow, and all the other animals. The woman looked up, and saw the striped cat. "Oh, little cat," she murmured, "my baby cannot sleep, and nothing calms him this night." She sighed, and turned back to the manger. "How grateful would I be to anyone able to bring him sweet dreams." And, as Tabby watched, each stable animal stepped forward in turn and tried to soothe the woman's baby. But the kittenish sounds continued, and finally Tabby could contain herself no longer. Quickly, she washed herself--paws, face, behind the ears, to the very tip of her tail (so as not to offend the child's mother)--and then shyly stepped forward. She leaped gracefully to the manger, and stared into the face of the most beautiful baby (human or kitten!) she'd ever seen. He cooed and smiled, waving his tiny hands at Tabby, and she very carefully drew in her claws and settled beside him. Forgotten was her empty tummy; she could only hear her heart calling out to this sweet human-kitten. And Tabby began to purr. The wondrous cat-song filled the stable with overwhelming emotion. The animals listened with awe, and the child's mother smiled as her baby quietly went to sleep. The child's mother placed her hand gently on the purring Tabby's forehead. "Blessings upon you, Tabby-cat, for this sweet gift given to me and my child," she said. And where she'd touched Tabby's brow, there appeared an "M"--the sign of the Madonna's benediction. From that day forward, all proper tabby cats are honored with an "M" on their brow for the great service they performed that first Christmas night. And Christmas nights often find Tabby cats staring into the night, purring as they recall a very special child their ancestor once sang to sleep.
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