Do Cats Have 9 Lives? And Why Do People Say Cats Have Multiple Lives?
If cats really have nine lives, then, all pet parents out there would be shouting out for joy. Because who would not want to spend as much time with their feline friends? But is it true? Do cats have 9 lives?
Sad to say, while felines have a Houdini-like prowess in escaping dangerous situations unscathed, we all know that cats don’t have multiple lives; they don’t have a gift of immortality.
The idea that cats have nine lives is nothing but an old wives’ tale. It’s a popular myth that has been around for hundreds of years.
On the brighter side, even if our dearest feline companions aren’t gifted with more than one life, the fact remains, that with our love and care, they can still live a long, and happy life. So, cheer up and cuddle your cat.
Nonetheless, for a cat lover, it would still be good to know more about the origin of this nine lives myth. And besides, is there even the slightest chance that this nine lives thing could be true? If not, then, why is it easy to believe that cats have multiple lives?
History of the Nine Lives Myth
No one exactly knows where this myth came from, and when it started. However, historians have ideas about where it originated.
We can also trace its origin to an old English proverb, as well as a popular play written by the greatest English writer and dramatist of all time.
The Godlike Nature of Cats in Ancient Egypt
Cats have a mythical image with supernatural powers in ancient Egypt – they are considered sacred, and are treated as such.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped gods that look like a lioness or lion-headed women. We can also connect this to a cat’s protective, and motherlike nature.
Hence, such belief that cats are sacred with divine powers fits perfectly with the possibility of them having multiple lives, or of being immortal.
And this belief that a cat has nine lives and a mystical nature seems to have traveled throughout the world following the migration of domestic cats from the Middle East through Greece, China, Europe, and eventually touching base to every corner of the globe.
Cats in English Literature
While it may not be as strong as the belief of the Ancient Egyptians about cats, still, some people believe that William Shakespeare is to blame for the nine lives myth.
The English poet talks about a cat’s multiple lives in his play Romeo and Juliet. He mentioned in Act 3, Scene 1: where Mercutio says to Tybalt, “Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.”
As mentioned earlier, there’s also an old English proverb that states: “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.”
Why Nine Lives?
The number 9 has a mystical significance in different cultures and traditions worldwide. Nine is an auspicious number in Chinese culture because it is pronounced as “jiu,” which also means long-lasting and eternity.
Hence, the number 9 has also become a representation of longevity. Additionally, it is also the highest single digit, which represents the maximum level of mortal happiness, good luck, and longevity.
Moreover, in Greek mythology, there are also nine muses. In early Christianity, the number nine is also considered lucky because it represents a trinity (three times three).
The myth that cats have multiple lives exists in many cultures across the world, but it is not always nine lives.
In Turkish and Arabic legends, cats have six lives, while in some Spanish speaking regions, as well as in Brazil, Italy, and Greece, people believe that cats have seven lives.
The fact that there is no universal consensus regarding the number just strengthens that cats don’t have nine lives.
Beyond the inconsistencies surrounding the myth, the science is plain: cats, just like the other animals on the planet, only have one life that can also end like other living beings.
Do Cats Have 9 Lives?
Although the nine lives thing is purely a myth, cat lovers and owners can tell you that felines are extremely capable of surviving.
So, their ability to somewhat survive extraneous circumstances can also be attributed to such belief. It just seems that there is no situation that cats can't get out from.
They are amazingly capable of jumping from high places and they can land safely. They are somehow gifted with the intellect to know if something bad will happen, so they will avoid potential dangers before things get worse. But again, keep in mind that cats are not invincible. Sadly, they can still get sick or injured.
Why Is It Easy to Believe That Cats Have Seven Lives (or Six or Nine)?
A cat’s ability to survive falls that would surely be fatal for humans is just one of the reasons why it’s easy to believe this nine lives myth.
However, just as science debunks this myth, it also has an explanation for this phenomenon as to how cats can survive dangerous situations.
First, cats have a lightning-fast air-righting reflex. When they fall, cats have the ability to turn their body around and land on their feet even if they dropped from high places. Additionally, their ability to land on all fours helps distribute and dissipate the impact from the fall.
Also, cats have an elastic spine with 53 vertebrae (humans have 33). This allows them to be extremely flexible and enables them to rotate their bodies at angles of as much as 180 degrees.
With these anatomical features, cats are endowed with extreme balance and quick reflexes, which then, help them survive high falls and difficult situations.
Cats are also very fast. They can lengthen their spine, which allows them to have extra-long strides and therefore run at a speed of as much as 30 mph for short bursts.
Cats are also springy. Their muscular legs, combined with their air-righting reflex help them absorb the shock of their landing.
Cats also have impressive jumping skills which can be attributed to the muscle mass and length of their hind legs. They can jump nine times their height from a standing position because of the strength and anatomy of their legs.
Additionally, cats have tiny collarbones which allow them to squeeze their bodies into impossibly tight and enclosed spaces. So, yes, they can pass as an “alternate” to some of Houdini’s death-defying escape magics.
Finally, cats are highly intelligent, and their brainpower can also play a role to their extremely high survival skills and instincts.
Can Cats Cheat Death?
As mentioned above, due to a cat’s anatomical gifts, incredible intelligence, and intuitiveness, they are able to survive situations that could have been fatal for us, humans.
However, that’s all there is – and there are scientific explanations for their ability to somewhat cheat death. But just like dogs and other animals, they only have one life, and they can also get sick and injured. So, we should not take their safety lightly.
More Myths About Cats
Black Cats Are Unlucky
This myth can prove extremely dangerous. Black cats are hard to rehome today because of their negative associations. Since the earliest days, black cats were incorporated into folk and legend.
In Japan, people believe that it is a sign of good luck when a black cat crosses your path. However, in the US and many parts of Europe, it is widely believed that cats are symbols that indicate bad fortune.
In Italy, people believe that when a black cat jumps on the bed next to a sick person, that signals imminent death. And in China, people believe that black cat sightings may signal imminent poverty.
In contrast, in Scotland, they believe that wealth is coming your way when a black cat appears on your doorstep.
In Germany, one's luck depends on which direction a black cat goes in front of you. If he walks from left to right, good times are ahead of you, while if he goes from right to left, the opposite can happen.
Also, because of this myth, a lot of people even up to these days would pick a white cat than a black cat in a heartbeat.
Sadly, some are even violent towards black cats. With what they experience in society because of this ancient superstitious belief, we can say that black cats are the unlucky ones.
Cats Land on Their Feet All the Time
It is true that cats land on their feet, but it doesn’t happen all the time. As mentioned earlier, cats’ ability to land on their feet from a high drop is primarily due to their air-righting reflex, which allows their body to turn around while in the air. This innate ability is also made possible because of their elastic spine.
However, cats don’t always land safely on their feet. Every year, animal hospitals treat cats that have fallen from high places, such as the windows of a multiple-story building.
While some cats survive the impact of their fall, a lot of cats don’t. And even those cats who seem not to succumb from their fall also experience life-changing damage that can be expensive to treat.
So, for your cat’s safety, it’s best to keep them indoors and to always close your windows, especially if you live in a mid or high-rise property. You should also check the mesh of your windows and balconies during summer to prevent accidents.
Cats Prefer Being Alone
Cats are indeed solitary creatures by nature. Compared with dogs that descended from wolves that live in a pack, cats descended from wild cats that live alone.
However, it’s different with our domesticated cats these days. Outdoor cats, strays, and ferals may be independent, but that doesn’t mean that they are not used to living with other cats in the community.
And domesticated indoor and outdoor cats can develop strong connections with their human family, as well as form friendships with dogs, other cats, and animals.
Indoor cats that have been relying on their human since birth depend on them for companionship, as well as for resources.
And to some extent, they can also develop separation anxiety should the owner leave them for a long time, or abandon them.
Cats Can See in Complete Darkness
Cats are better adapted to see in low levels of light, but they can’t see in total darkness. Their eyes need even just the slightest light for them to see things.
Also, a cat’s eyes can let in more light than our human eyes can, which enables them to see better even under low light.
Cats Are Nocturnal
Since most people believe that cats can see in complete darkness, it’s logical to think that cats are nocturnal creatures.
However, in reality, they are not; cats are crepuscular, which means that they are more active at dawn and dusk. In the wild, this is considered as the hunting time and there is also enough light for them to see well.
Domesticated cats also have this genetic predisposition, which is why kittens tend to be more playful during dusk and dawn. However, as they grow, they are also able to adapt to your routine.
If you want to reverse your cat’s crepuscular tendencies sooner, you can give him a warm bed, play with him during the day, and entice his senses with toys in the evening just before he goes to bed.
Cats Hate Water
Most cats are not fond of water, but if you see some videos online, you’ll know that there are also a lot of cats that love water or at least don’t hate or resist when taking a bath.
According to scientists, the reason why most cats hate water is that their coat doesn’t dry up very quickly, which leads them to feel uncomfortable and cold for a long time.
Additionally, water adds weight to their coat, which then makes it harder for them to escape whenever they sense impending danger.
Another possible reason is that cats’ original ancestors lived in desert areas, where the land is dry, and there was hardly any rain if any at all.
Cats Only Purr When Happy
Cat lovers believe that a cat’s purr is a language of love. It’s a cat’s way of saying that they are comfortable, happy, and secure.
And the sound and vibration are also comforting both for them and for us, humans. However, cats purr not only when they are happy. Many other reasons can trigger such a response.
Cats also purr when they are frightened, and when they are in pain, or unwell. And they do it to comfort themselves. Adult cats also purr to comfort their kittens.
Rubbing Butter on a Cat’s Paws Will Help Him Find His Way Home
Unfortunately, we still believe in this myth. We are often told to apply butter on kittens' paws when we move into a new home, or before they go outside for the first time. This cannot be true, and it can even be uncomfortable for your cat.
The theory says that butter helps mask the odor of the cat's old home and assists them in settling in and acclimatizing to the new house as they lick off the butter from their paws.
However, doing this can just cause more discomfort to your cat, not to mention that it can also leave greasy prints all over your new home.
Cow’s Milk is Great for Cats
Cats don’t really need milk, more so, if it’s from a cow. They can live and thrive a long and happy life as long as you give them a complete and balanced diet where they can get the essential nutrients.
Cow’s milk can upset a cat’s stomach, especially if they are not used to it. This is because, once they are weaned, cats become intolerant to lactose, which is a primary component of cow’s milk.
However, if your cat has had cow’s milk all his life, his body has pretty much adjusted. So, he can digest the milk in most cases.
If you want to give your cat milk as treats or as part of his daily meals, it’s best to buy a lactose-free equivalent.
However, you should still pay attention that what your cat drinks or eats would all total to his recommended daily caloric intake.
And given that milk is high in calories, your cat can easily put on weight if you are not particular with the amount of milk, he drinks each meal.
As for kittens, it’s obvious that they need milk to survive, but only their mother’s or specially-tailored formula milk meant for kittens that can be purchased from your local veterinary clinic.
Having said all these things, it’s clear that cats are not immortal, and they are not invincible either.
Anatomically, they may have features that help them survive difficult and dangerous situations, but at their core, they are still gentle, graceful, and vulnerable living creatures.
So, even if we know that our feline companions have these special skills, we should still treat them with the utmost care, and protect them from any harm.