There’s a new “Messiah” in Ilkeston, England, and she’s been known to jump on top of coffins, bravely tiptoe across church organ pipes and occasionally yowl during weddings and baptisms.
Pips the cat, as she’s known to parishioners at All Saints Church, has also taken a recent liking to mangers, particularly the cozy straw one at the center of the Nativity scene set up inside the chapel this year for local children.
The grey-and-black striped tabby kicked the baby Jesus out of the manger last week and settled in for an afternoon nap. A Dec. 14 snapshot shared by Rev. Kate Bottley, vicar of three churches in rural North Nottinghamshire, of the indecent incident, went viral on Twitter with help from Bottley’s comment, “Our baby Jesus is currently in the fruit bowl … waiting.”
With the post now retweeted more than 11,000 times, “Pips has become notorious,” All Saints’ Rev. Christine French tells PEOPLE. “She loves coming to church and is a regular in the pulpit. Since a reformation painting above our pulpit says, ‘Preach the Gospel to Every Creature,’ no one can object to a cat in church.”
Pips showed up as a stray at All Saints two years ago, French says, and was soon rubbing up against parishioners with another church cat, Florence.
“She frightened me one day when I saw her walking on top of the organ pipes,” says French, 48. “What do you do if your cat falls down a pipe? She’s explored every inch of the church, often coming out covered in cobwebs. But since jumping onto a coffin one day, she’s been banned from funerals.”
Last week, after young parishioners arrived to rehearse their annual Nativity play, French walked past the manger and noticed Pips taking a snooze in the straw instead of the baby Jesus.
“When an excited group of 3- and 4-year-olds arrived and saw her there, she got a rude awakening,” French tells PEOPLE. “She was put out in the cold as the show must go on, but we let her back in so the children could fuss over her during refreshments.”
Pips knows a good thing when she sees it, says French, which is probably why she gave the infant Messiah the boot.
“If Pips were to have a Christmas message,” she says, “I believe it would be along the lines of, ‘As there was no room in the inn for baby Jesus, then sadly at the moment, there is no room in the vast majority of cat and dog rescue homes either,” she says.
“Lots of cats and dogs will be homeless this Christmas, so please give them a home. You just might be looking after another little angel.”