Friday, December 19, 2008

What's the point of Christmas - cats in the Holy Family?

Dear George,
As you can see, I celebrated Christmas with the family - own plate, own cracker, and (more importantly my own portion of turkey). But it still puzzles me. What is the point of it? And why Christmas not New Year or winter solstice? I find human celebra
tions confusing.

Dear Figgi,
My research in the art history world suggests that it is something to do with a family that loved cats. There's a painting in Venice of the Annunciation by Lorenzo Lotto showing a human called Mary who had her own (rather startled) tabby. The Lotto painting shows a tabby cat scampering across the floor just as an angel is telling Mary of the birth of a baby. Tabbies were popular with this particular family.
There's a charming ginger and white cat painted by Frederico Ba
rocci about 1575 sort of begging in the nativity scene showing Mary, Joseph, the child and the infant John the Baptist. Perhaps the ginger and white lived with Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist and cousin of the family. And Leonardo da Vinci sketched a nativity scene with a cat twice - can't be sure of the colour except that it is not black.
The Lotto tabby may be an ancestor of the tabby that appears Jan Vermeyen’s picture of the Holy Family at home later on after returning from Egypt. The cat is lying at the feet of the Virgin Mary on what looks like its own little bed. That makes me think that the family loved cats.
There was also a
tabby at the birth of St John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus, according to a sixteenth century Book of Hours. And there was one even earlier at the birth of the Virgin herself, according to an alterpiece in Romania, c. 1480-1500. You can just see it in the background of the painting at the bottom left hand side. I think it is yet another tabby.
Tabbies were
there in the home before and after the birth of Jesus. But what about the stable? A black cat, like me, may have been there in the stable. We black cats are less prized than tabbies so it's more likely that we were just pushed out to live as pest controllers out of doors in Bethlehem. The stable would have been a warm place in winter, with the ox and the ass, so we cats would have been there at night sharing the space with that young travelling couple tired from coming all the way from Nazareth. I like to think that the heavily pregnant girl would have smiled to see a cat there purring her a better welcome than she had got at the inn.
I can't find any paintings of black cats with this family. But I really hope that one of my ancestors was part of this great event, perhaps somehow living on the margins of domestication, catching mice in the stable and sneaking the odd meal from the waste food of the inn. They say He came for those who were outcast, poor, and marginalised. Please may we cats be remembered too when He comes into his kingdom - as that human once said.
And any humans reading this spare a thought for
the cats still out in the cold - give money to no-kill rescue shelters. In the financial meltdown they will need it.
e, Cats Protection rescue cat.
PS For more cat paintings take a look at


  1. George, I think you are right, there must have been a cat in that stable at the birth of Jesus. I suppose that makes us special. Can you imagine being there on that holy night? Seeing all the people that came to worship Him. Wow! On that note, I want to wish you and everyone a very Merry Christmas. After all Jesus is the reason for the season.

  2. Beautiful post George!
    Wow! We can listen to your magic stories to no end :-)
    We wish you, your crew (your secretary included)and all the cats in the world a Meowy, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
    May all your dream come true and may all cats have a cozy and warm home with plenty of food & love.
    Fluffy & Cayenne

  3. A very Happy Christmas to George and his Secretary.

    ...and all cats everywhere!

    Whicky Wuudler

  4. Dear George,I knew there was a white rbbit in the stable because my family told me the story which is on my blog. My Christmas Box it's called.
    Happy New Year,


Help for cats whose humans show behaviour problems.

This blog is devoted to the study of human behaviour. We cats, who live with this sometimes unpredictable and always feeble minded species, can benefit from seeing their behaviour in its proper scientific context. The study of feline dilemmas, training problems, and difficulties with humans, can only benefit all of us. All of us train our humans - to buy the right food, for instance, but many of us do not have knowledge of how to improve our training methods. The human species is obviously not as intelligent as the cat, but nevertheless can learn quite a lot - if properly managed. Topics of interest include the use of claw and order, purring as a human reward, rubbing your human up the right way, when to bite, spraying as a method of making our wishes known, ignoring the human, human harassment, human inattention and sheer human stupidity. I welcome your questions. Photos can be sent via my secretary's website, This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online