I never had a cat growing up, which was a shame. But I didn’t really need one, I had Mog. Judith Kerr’s beloved tabby cat is that rare thing in children’s literature, an animal that doesn’t talk or embody all sorts of human characteristics. Instead she looks and behaves like a real animal.
In Mog’s Christmas she spends her time saucer eyed with terror as the house is transformed by paperchains and and angel chimes, not to mention erratic aunts on tippie toe and walking Christmas trees.
These reactions are the flip side of the usual childlike ‘wonder of Christmas’ stuff, highlighting just how odd some of our traditions must seem to an outsider. ‘Mog thought, “Trees don’t walk. Trees should stay in one place. Once trees start walking about anything might happen.”’
What does happen, is that Mog freaks out, flees to the roof and dreams she’s on a fluffy white cloud surrounded by falling pink mice, before crashing down through the chimney pot and landing in the living room in a shower of soot and Christmas cards.
In the end she’s showered with gifts by the delighted Debbie and Nicky and even has her own Christmas dinner of turkey and three hard boiled eggs. Mog gets through a lot of boiled eggs in the course of her adventures, something that always puzzled me. Perhaps someone who had an actual cat back then could tell me whether this was the recommended diet for felines of the Seventies?
And how do I know that this is how cats behave? Well I have two of my own now, one of them a tabby called Moomin, who is really rather Mog-like. The final image in particular, where Debbie holds round eyed Mog upside down is pure Moomin – and pure Christmas.