The humans make the most of artificial light so that they are able to see what is in their world. Smudger, as is common with all cats, needed no such aid. One day when the nights were at their longest and the days were at their shortest, the humans seemed very excited at such a dreary time of year. Big brown cardboard boxes were bought into the house and opened, contents spilt onto the carpet.

“Hmmm,” thought Smudger, “something to investigate.” But as his head popped into the first box, Lucy, one of the small human children who lived with him, started her allergic sneezing routine so Smudger was quickly dispatched to the garden. Still, being full of curiosity, he jumped onto the windowsill of the lounge and peered in through the curtains. The first thing that seemed odd to him was that there was now a 6 foot evergreen tree standing in the corner of the room between the lounge door and the television.

Lucy and her brother Jim were very excited, clapping their hands and dancing round, as one by one, the sparkly decorations were hung from the limbs of the tree. Then the crowning glory was put on top of the tree; a star, which began flashing with different coloured lights which was wasted on Smudger, as, being a cat, he didn’t see colours very well.

Glittering tinsel was then draped around all the household ornaments. Smudger couldn’t wait to get back into his house to see what all the fuss was about. It was not until later that evening that he managed to creep back inside the house when the kitchen door was opened in order for the man of the house to bring in more logs for the fire. Smudger darted straight behind the back of the sofa so he wouldn’t be discovered.

When the family were settled down for the evening, watching television, Smudger peeped from behind the sofa where he was hiding. The whole room was aglow with twinkling lights, fragrant candles and baubles on the tree glinting. There was also a nest of brightly coloured presents wrapped with ribbons and bows under the tree.

“Hmmmm,” thought Smudger, “I know what this room needs. It needs a small present from their hero, me!”

Smudger drifted off into a deep sleep. The following morning he was again dispatched to the garden to stop poor Lucy sneezing. He set about his promised task of a present for his humans. His first option was to hide behind the shed and wait for the mice to trot between the shed and the bird feeders in search of seeds that the sparrows had dropped. A few lunges later and Smudger was still empty pawed.

“Option number two,” he thought, “a blackbird it is.”

The humans liked to feed the birds at this time of the year and robins were their favourite. The birds' favourite treat was a handful of raisins which were thrown out daily onto the patio. The birds came right up to the patio window so Smudger hid nearby under the Leylandii bushes. This time Smudger was successful as he grabbed a male robin who clucked wildly and squeaked its panicked calls. The moment could not have better for Smudger. The kitchen door was flung open and a basket of damp washing taken out to hang out to dry. Smudger rushed in unnoticed, carrying his present. He went into the lounge and hid in his favourite spot behind the sofa.

He let the robin go for only the briefest of seconds so that he could see what he’d got as he liked to lick feathers with his rough tongue. But the bird wasn’t as traumatised as Smudger had hoped. In a flash the bird had got under the sofa which was a bit too low for him to follow under. But he could see it. He pushed an exploratory paw in as far as he could reach and flailed away, claws extended, trying to hook the bird, but to no avail. The bird was lost to him.

The biggest attraction of all now caught Smudger’s attention. It was the sound of the can opener slicing open a tin of his favourite food. Soon the bird was forgotten.

Next day, Christmas morning, everyone in the house, especially the children, were very excited. Once breakfast was finished the children were made to sit down quietly in the lounge and the pile of presents under the tree was then handed out. Smudger’s presents were the last to be opened. As his gifts were being slid from under the tree, the robin came flapping and squawking from its new hideaway behind the tree. Everyone gasped, including Smudger, as the bird crashed its way onto the mantelpiece, sending Christmas cards flying. Then it batted against the patio window in a bid to escape.

The children were in a mixture of excitement and panic. Their mum squealed and the husband was ordered to catch it and let it go. Smudger was trying to take control. He made an athletic pounce and launched himself at the panicking bird, but missed. The bird was one move ahead and disappeared into the Christmas tree. The husband had the bright idea of opening the patio window and sending Smudger to flush the bird out.

“Go on Smudger! He encouraged.

Smudger’s eyes were a black as coal. His whiskers were twitching, starting to bend forward. He slithered behind the back of the Christmas tree and started to climb the lower limbs. What happened next can only be described as a bizarre festive explosion as ornaments, baubles, bird and cat shot off in all directions. The bird flew straight out of the open window with Smudger hot on his tail feathers.

When he came back a few minutes later, the husband laughed “If that was your Christmas bird Smudger, looks like you’ll have to make do with turkey scraps instead!”

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)