Sheba's Christmas Writer, Beatrix Potter loved animals, and cats feature in many of her books. My Christmas favourite is The Tailor of Gloucester, the story of a poor tailor and his black cat, Simkin, who ‘keeps house’ while his owner works until he drops from fatigue.

On Christmas Eve, Simkin hears the Cathedral clock strike twelve and wanders out into the snow. True to the legend that dumb animals can speak for an hour between Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the bewildered and hungry Simkin hears a multitude of birds talking. Then, peeping in the tailor’s window, he sees that a group of little mice are finishing the elaborate waistcoat that the weary man could no longer see to do…until they run out of twist.

Rereading the story made me ponder the conversation I might have with my cat Sheba at that magical hour. To be honest, it wouldn’t be a tremendous leap as, over the years we have ‘kept house’ together, she has evolved a language of sounds and facial expressions. An urgent ‘meow’ announces that the bathroom door is closed, and she must be admitted AT ONCE in order to be combed. Loud discordant meows tell me that, having made a sudden mad dash through the cat flap, she has been spooked by something (what?) in the garden. Baby cries are employed when I take more than a second to decant a pouch onto a bowl. Then I am treated to the big pupil stare when she spots I have sat down on the sofa and is planning how to take up her rightful position on my lap.

However, I still wonder how our Christmas Eve conversation might go.

ME:  When I call you in from the garden, sometimes you respond and sometimes not. Do you really know your name is Sheba?

SHEBA: Of course I do, But we’re not dogs, they’ve been domesticated much longer than us. We don’t feel we have to respect humans or respond to them all the time, only when we feel so inclined.

ME: I bought you a comfy cat bed and you slept in it for a few months. Then you decided to sleep on my bed. This year, you’ve spent several weeks taking over my office chair but now you’re downstairs sleeping on a chair near me. 

SHEBA: It goes back to when we lived in the wild. The worst thing you can do is stay in the same place, so enemies learn where you are. If you were me, wouldn’t you keep changing your sleeping place?

ME: Hadn’t thought of that. Now, sometimes you just sit and stare at me, why?

SHEBA: That’s an easy one. I like you and I’m trying to show you the bond between us, that I feel relaxed and safe. All you human faces look much the same to me but I can tell by your expression if you are happy or sad,

ME: Let’s turn to your Christmas. Have you any special wishes?

SHEBA: Oh yes! There’s the question of Dennis.

ME: Dennis?

DennisSHEBA: You know that great brute of a black and white cat.  Lives at number twenty-three. He’s a bully and a greedy so and so. If you forget to shut the cat flap he’s inside and scoffing all my food. I know it’s him because he licks the plate clean, which I DON’T do. I’m not that keen on seagulls but Dennis steals their food too. I wish someone would do something about Dennis.

ME: Hmm, well.

SHEBA: Then there’s Pearl, the little tabby. Don’t know where she lives because she’s always out in the road.  I just wish her human would give her a bit of love this Christmas.

ME:  I try. I stroke her every time I see her

SHEBA: OK but watch your step, stroking other cats. I haven’t forgotten last Christmas when you let that fluffy grey cat into the house and she stayed here all night long, until her human called you from Yorkshire and said she was a wanderer. That was going a bit too far, in my opinion.

ME:  Oh jealous, Sheba?

SHEBA: I don’t want anyone living here except me, understand?

ME:   You made that very clear with Bruno, remember? You were so territorial, he pee-d over the sofa and we had to find him another home. Oh, just one more thing, what would you love to find on the tree?

SHEBA You know the answer to that: Dreamies and more Dreamies,

ME:  As if I hadn’t guessed!

For a lovely Christmas read and if you haven’t come across it before, I recommend The Tailor of Gloucester to all at the Daily Mews.

Jennifer Pulling runs Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. She is the author of The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue (John Blake)  

She has also written a beautiful book called Monet’s Angels, which I can highly recommend.

Jennifer has a website on writing:







In the Middle of a World...

"In the middle of a world that has always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence."

Roseanne Anderson

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