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do cats have nine lives

Do Cats Really Have Nine Lives? Uncovering the Myth

Written by Ryan Gliozzo


Uncover the origins of the age-old question 'do cats have 9 lives?', delve into cat behaviour and anatomy, and separate fact from fiction in the quest to understand just how many lives our beloved feline friends truly possess. Join us on a journey of curiosity and discovery in the realm of cats and their purported nine lives.
a cat sitting on a countertop

Do cats really have nine lives? Let's find out...

The Nine Lives legend: is it true?

The belief that cats have nine lives is a tale as old as time, weaving its way through various cultures and histories. This fascinating proverb suggests that our feline friends possess an extraordinary ability to survive situations that would ordinarily be perilous. In this comprehensive exploration, we'll unravel the mystery behind this proverb and its implications on how we perceive cats.

As we delve into this topic, remember that like all other animals, cats have but one life, making the care we provide crucial for their wellbeing. So let's dive into more informational and intriguing content from Waggel.

Have other questions? As cat owners ourselves, we know the hilarious situations our fluffy friends get themselves into, including their unique sleeping positions. You can read up more on this in our post all about understanding
cat sleeping positions.

Ancient roots of the Nine Lives myth

5 cats jumping through the air

Ancient Egypt: the tale of Atum-Ra

Our journey begins in ancient Egypt, a civilisation renowned for its adoration of cats. Here, the myth of Atum-Ra, an ancient Egyptian deity, who could transform into a cat, plays a significant role in the Nine Lives legend.

This belief is intertwined with the view of cats as divine creatures, often mummified and buried with their owners. The ancient Egyptians not only celebrated cats for their supernatural powers but also associated them with protection and good fortune.

Global cat worship

This reverence was not exclusive to ancient Egypt. In other parts of the world, like in Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, cats were equally esteemed, and often associated with gods and goddesses. This global adoration of cats further cemented their status as extraordinary beings, capable of feats beyond the ordinary, contributing to the Nine Lives lore.

Observational basis for the myth

cat running through grass

Observationally, the myth gains traction from the cat's impressive physical abilities. Cats are known for their incredible reflexes and agility, particularly their righting reflex, which allows them to land on their feet after falling.

This remarkable trait, coupled with their ability to often survive falls from high places, has led many to marvel at their seemingly multiple lives. Understanding these physical capabilities can also help pet parents keep their senior cat or adult cat happy and healthy.

If you want to keep your cat healthy and happy, it's always best to keep them protected. Learn more in our article on
How Much Is Pet Insurance? Average Costs & Coverage.

Gloucester and the Nine Lives myth

In a heartwarming tale of feline resilience, a cat named "Gloucester" or "G" managed to defy the odds and survive a harrowing 20-story fall from an apartment building in New York's Upper West Side.

The incident occurred on the Fourth of July, turning this miraculous cat into a symbol of independence and survival. G's owner, Barry Myers, was understandably astounded by his pet's survival, referring to him as a "miracle."

G's journey began 16 years ago when Barry Myers found him in an abandoned building. However, it wasn't until that fateful day when the family mistakenly left a window cracked open during a weekend getaway that G's adventure took a terrifying turn.

Although G had never shown any interest in the window before, he apparently spotted something intriguing and leaned out, leading to his incredible fall. Fortunately, a kind-hearted woman walking her dog discovered him, provided water, and called for assistance.

Despite the fall, G displayed remarkable resilience. According to a vet, cats falling from higher floors have a better chance of survival, as they can adjust their posture and prepare for the landing. Although G suffered bruises and minor injuries, he had no broken bones. No wonder people believe a cat has 9 lives!

Cultural variations of the myth

cat jumping from tree

The belief in cats having multiple lives shows fascinating variations across cultures. While the common Western belief is that cats possess nine lives, in many Spanish-speaking and Arabic cultures, it is widely held that cats have seven lives.

This difference in numbers is not just a trivial change but reflects deep cultural and symbolic meanings. For instance, in Turkish folklore, the number seven is often associated with luck and mysticism, similar to the magical number nine in Western traditions.

Such cultural narratives enrich the global tapestry of feline mythology, demonstrating the special significance cats hold in the human imagination.

The English proverb and its influence

cat flying through the air

The English proverb about cats' nine lives – "A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, three he strays, and for the last three, he stays" – is more than a whimsical saying; it encapsulates centuries of human observation and folklore.

This old English proverb has become synonymous with the feline's reputed resilience and ability to cheat death. It also subtly reflects on the various stages of a cat's life, from playful youth through wandering adulthood to a settled senior phase.

This proverb has not only popularised the notion of cats really having nine lives but has also contributed to the aura of mystique surrounding these beloved pets.


cat jumping across window ledge

In conclusion, the myth of a cat's nine lives is a rich tapestry of ancient beliefs, cultural narratives, and observational marvels at the cat’s natural abilities. While we now understand that this is a myth, it highlights our enduring fascination with cats and their unique place in human history and culture.

As cat owners, it’s essential to ensure our feline friends live their one life to the fullest, whether it’s dealing with
Cat Food Allergies: Symptoms or understanding why your cat snores. Each aspect of their care contributes to a fuller, richer life – their only life.

Interested in more cat-related insights? Check out our article
‘Do Cats Have Belly Buttons?’ to explore more fascinating feline facts.


Why do people say cats have nine lives?

This saying, a staple in feline lore, stems from the cat's extraordinary ability to escape perilous situations. The phrase is more a testament to their agility, reflexes, and survival instincts than a literal claim. Over time, observations of cats surviving incidents that would harm other animals led to this metaphorical expression of their resilience.

Are there any scientific reasons behind this myth?

Scientifically, the myth of cats having nine lives is linked to their innate survival skills, particularly the righting reflex. This reflex allows them to twist their bodies mid-air and land on their feet during a fall. While these abilities are remarkable, they don't confer additional lives but rather demonstrate a cat's ability to survive challenging situations.

How do different cultures view the number of lives a cat has?

Cultural interpretations of the cat's lives vary, with some cultures attributing seven lives and others ascribing nine. These numbers often carry cultural and mystical significance, reflecting the deep-rooted place cats hold in various societies' folklore and mythology.

What does the ancient Egyptian myth of Atum-Ra say about cats?

In the ancient Egyptian myth, Atum-Ra, the sun god, is believed to transform into a cat when visiting the underworld. This myth underscores the ancient Egyptians' reverence for cats, viewing them as divine and magical beings capable of moving between life and death, thereby symbolising the idea of multiple lives.

Can a cat's agility and survival skills be mistaken for having multiple lives?

Indeed, a cat's impressive agility and knack for surviving potentially fatal scenarios can give the illusion of them having multiple lives. Their ability to always land on their feet and emerge unscathed from high-risk situations has contributed to the myth's persistence over time.

By exploring these cultural stories and scientific facts, we gain a deeper appreciation for our feline friends and the myths that surround them. While cats may not have literal multiple lives, their remarkable abilities continue to inspire awe and affection in us.

Waggel Pet Insurance

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