On a quiet street of a Brooklyn neighborhood sits a homemade nativity scene where Mary, Joseph, three Wise Men and a herd of plastic livestock are keeping watch not over baby Jesus, but a colony of feral cats.
A gray tabby named "Bandit" likes to nap on the hay bale reserved for the infant savior. Cats named "Bandit’s Sister" and "Blue Eyes" often join him, as do four other unnamed felines.
The cats have made a home in Red Hook, where they live in the small stable even when it's not set up as a nativity scene.
Annette Amendola, a Catholic who’s been installing the nativity scene in the lot by her home for five years, lets the cats live in the shelter year-round.
Red Hook residents say the cats keep rats away, and the feral felines have grown fat over the years from their frequent feedings. Amendola and her neighbors feed them five times a day.
The "cativity" scene is drawing quite the crowd these days, thanks to recent media attention, and prompting some people to note that Bandit could be bringing a kitty folktale to life.
According to a legend about the origin of the M on tabby cats' foreheads, baby Jesus was cold and fussing so Mary asked the stable animals to warm him.
A small tabby cat then crawled into the manger with the infant, and Mary was so grateful that she bestowed her initial upon him.
Unfortunately, Bandit and the rest of his colony don't seem quite so kind. According to Amendola, the cats continually shove the plastic baby onto the stable floor so they can cuddle atop the hay bale.