Front cover of the first edition of The Tale of Tom Kitten.

The Tale of Tom Kitten is a picture book for young children by the English author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. It was first published in September 1907. It has since been reprinted many times and also been translated into several languages.

In the story, a mother cat dresses her playful kittens in fine clothes in preparation for a tea party. Left by themselves afterward, the kittens quickly manage to not only soil their clothes but lose them altogether.

Beatrix Potter had borrowed a kitten from a workman to model for her previous tale, The Story of Miss Moppet (1906). The illustrations for Tom Kitten combine the drawings she created during that time with the interior and exterior sketches of the Hill Top farmhouse, her beloved country residence.

The Tale of Tom Kitten was adapted with The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908) as the third episode of the BBC television series The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends. The episode first aired in the United Kingdom on July 22, 1992.

Tom Kitten and his family also appear in the 1908 book The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding.


Tale of tom kitten

Mrs. Twitchit takes her kittens indoors to dress them for the tea party. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

A mother cat named Tabitha Twitchit[1] brings her three playful kittens indoors to get them ready for visitors. Mrs. Twitchit washes and brushes them all then dresses her two girls Moppet and Mittens in pinafores[2] and tuckers.[3] She then puts her son Tom Kitten in a jacket and trousers. Afterwards, Mrs. Twitchit unwisely lets the kittens out into the garden while she is busy making toast for the tea party. She tells them to keep their clothes clean and stay away from Sally Henny Penny[4] and the Puddle-Ducks.

Kittens are not used to wearing clothes and walking on hind legs. Moppet and Mittens trip and fall down on their noses, staining their pinafores. They decide to turn the pinafores back to front and climb up on top of the garden wall to sit down. Tom Kitten cannot jump in his trousers so he has to walk up to the top instead. He gets his buttons caught in the ferns on the way and arrives at the top of the wall in pieces.

Tom Kitten ducks

The kittens with the Puddle-Ducks. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

The three Puddle-Ducks come along and see the kittens on the wall. Rebeccah and Jemima[5] Puddle-Duck pick up the hat and tucker the kittens dropped and try them on. Mittens laughs so hard at the sight that she falls off the wall, and Moppet and Tom follow her down. All three kittens lose the rest of their clothes in the process. Moppet asks Mr. Drake Puddle-Duck to help dress Tom. Mr. Puddle-Duck instead puts Tom's clothes on himself. The Puddle-Ducks, all dressed in the kittens' clothes, go waddling down the road.

Mrs. Twitchit is very upset to find her kittens with no clothes on. She scolds them and sends them upstairs to bed. When her friends arrive, she tells them that the kittens are in bed with the measles. Unfortunately, her tea party is disturbed by the extraordinary noises overhead. The kittens make a terrible mess of the bedroom.

Meanwhile, the Puddle-Ducks go into a pond. All the clothes, which had not been fastened, slip off and are lost. The Puddle-Ducks are still looking for them.


  1. Tabitha Twitchit was named after a resident cat at Hill Top. The character was introduced in The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905). In addition to appearing in Tom Kitten and The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding (1908), she is also mentioned in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909) and The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots (written in 1914 but not published until 2016).
  2. A pinafore is an apron-like sleeveless, backless dress usually worn over a dress and tied in the back. It was commonly worn by young girls in Victorian and Edwardian England. Most famously, Alice is shown wearing a pinafore in illustrations by John Tenniel for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
  3. A tucker is a detachable piece of decorative lace worn around the neck.
  4. Sally Henny Penny was introduced in the 1905 book The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. Her name is spelled "Sally Henny-penny" in the story. The character also appears in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909).
  5. Jemima stars in her own tale which followed Tom Kitten in 1908. Her last name is spelled "Puddle-duck" with a lowercase d in the story.

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