Now this is the role cats played in the birth of Jesus. (The story I tell my cats every Christmas after we finish the Rosary and before we venerate the Infant Jesus.)
On the first Christmas eve - that is, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of the holy Virgin Mary - and before anyone else knew about it, even the shepherds, the stray cats of Bethlehem gathered around the stable. They were hiding in the hay and behind the sleepy ox, one kitty slept on the back of donkey because it was warm, a couple of others rubbed up against St. Joseph who seemed to be asleep - although he was really in ecstasy.
The holy Virgin was kneeling upon a fleece mat laid over the straw in a corner of the stable, protected from view by the large sleeping ox and a low wall. The Blessed Virgin was in ecstasy as well, when suddenly a great light shone, and upon the fleece was a lovely newborn Infant, glistening as if bathed in star dust. No sooner had He appeared than the Blessed Mother swiftly wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger nearby. As if from nowhere, the tiniest angels appeared, about the size of bees, encircling the newborn in the manger, while strains of heavenly music could be heard, along with the gentle singing of heavenly choirs.
Joseph walked very slowly into the enclosure, his head bowed, tears streaming down a face made radiant by the light emanating from the Holy Child and his Blessed Mother. He knelt next to his wife, adoring the Holy Infant. The ox noticed and rose partially, although just enough to kneel, facing the Holy Family. The donkey did likewise. The cats, naturally shy and accustomed to being shooed away, kept their distance until they noticed all the other little animals; mice, chipmunks, rabbits, gathering in awe at the foot of the manger, completely unselfconscious of any danger.
Now, as you know, stray cats are always hungry and always looking for prey - which is why many people who dislike cats, tolerated them in the first place, since they kept their homes free of vermin. As the cats watched all the critters assembling, it seemed to them it was a living banquet being laid out before their eyes. However, the grandpa cat whispered that this was not the moment or place for feasting. He proceeded to explain to the other cats that they had all just witnessed a miracle, that God Himself, our Creator, had come down that night to live amongst men. Grandpa cat pointed to all the little animals, particularly the mice, and reminded the other cats of the scriptures which referred to the Christ when it foretold, "In that day the kitty cat will lie down with the mouse." (Grandpa cat knew the scriptures because he sneaked into Temple every Sabbath. He quickly related how the Virgin would be found with Child, that her Child is the Redeemer and Saviour, who brings peace to all the world, renewing nature itself, and so on.)
With renewed confidence all the cats crept out of their hiding places, their attention rapt upon the Divine Child. The kitties were neither distracted by the mice and other animals, nor were they a bit perturbed when the shepherd's dogs arrived... the atmosphere being so permeated with peace and joy that silent night. A few of the older cats cuddled near the Madonna and the feet of St. Joseph to warm them. As it was a very cold night that first Christmas, Our Lady picked up a very fat cat and another beautiful Siamese cat, placing them gently near the Child Jesus, to keep Him warm too. [This is when I ask my cats, "And do you know who these kitties were, so privileged to keep watch over the Holy Infant? They were your great, great, great, great, (almost too many greats to count!), great grandmothers!"]
So this is the Christmas story I tell my cats every year, and when I'm finished, they roll around for a long time afterwards, purring and stretching, as if they had nibbled upon catnip, and I always seem to be able to see a twinkle in their eyes, with a smile upon their little mouths. After some time, they then go over and adore the Bambino Jesu, sitting alongside Him into the wee hours of the morning.