“A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.” – Old English proverb
Cats are one of the most independent pets we have. They survive falls and other serious accidents without fatal wounds. This may be where the saying, a cat has nine lives, came from.
The age-old adage has passed from generation to generation and has become a permanent fixture in pop culture. Does anyone know where this phrase came from? Is there truth behind it? Cats can fall from a tall ledge and go on like nothing happened, but does this make them more able to survive than other animals?
The cat’s anatomy makes them nearly invincible.
They have a large surface area compared to their weight. This reduces the force of landing. Cat’s evolved to live in trees and have adapted to survive falls that might kill a human or another animal. The righting reflex allows them to twist their bodies to land on their feet. Their bones, ligaments, and spine are all flexible. That helps them keep from sustaining life-threatening injuries.
Why Do Cats Have Nine Lives?
There are tons of superstitions, which attribute different supernatural abilities to all cats.
The myth that cats have multiple lives is known all over the world. However, those multiple lives aren’t always nine. The number varies from culture to culture.
In certain regions of Spain, it’s believed that cats have seven lives. Turkish and Arabic legends say cats have six lives. Italy, Germany, Greece, Brazil and some Spanish-speaking regions grant them seven.
No one knows where the expression came from, but it has been around for centuries, even William Shakespeare used the expression in Romeo and Juliet:
What wouldst thou have with me?
Mercutio: Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.”
There’s an old English proverb that says: “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays”. This may be where the myth came from, but this proverb is not meant in seriousness.
Nine is considered a magic number, which might be part of the reason cats are attributed with nine lives. Cats have been worshipped and feared throughout the ages and seen as magical creatures. Again, they are known as witches’ familiars.
In ancient Greece, the number nine referred to the trinity of all trinities. A supernatural number that invokes tradition and religion.
The number nine has been a mystical number for centuries. Greek mythology refers to The Nine Muses, who were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne from a love affair between the two that lasted nine months.
Also, the number nine is revered as lucky by the Chinese. It is associated with strength and masculinity. In the Forbidden City, for instance, there are nine rows of nine knobs on many of the doors to convey the impression of power.
Others say that nine lives date back to Egyptian times. Egyptians revered cats and believed they held magical properties.
Can Cats Cheat Death?
There is no scientific evidence that can say cats have nine lives.
So, if cats don’t really have nine lives, can they escape, or cheat, death? They are intelligent and intuitive. Their reflexes are lightning-fast, they are quick decision-makers, and they have remarkable dexterity. These skills and abilities may just well allow cats to escape death better than other animals or even humans.
It appears that the myth of cats having nine lives is no truer than the myth of black cats crossing your path. If you have a cat or cats, you should be just as careful with them as with any other pet.
Cats can survive a fall of more than two stories from a tall building because ninety percent of these cats reached terminal velocity or maximum falling speed, which means they had plenty of time to right themselves into a position to land with the least impact on their bodies. This gives a little more credence to the nine lives thing.
The whole nine lives thing can be a detriment to cats because people like to try to see if a cat does have nine lives by injuring or dropping them from tall buildings just to see if the cat will survive.
No. They only have one. However, they are adept at escaping death. That’s not to say that they can’t get injured, sometimes fatally, but most of the scrapes they get into seem to be a breeze for cats to escape. The saying, a cat has nine lives, comes from centuries of cats just being cats. Their natural flexibility has made them seem invincible.
So, now you know. Cats aren’t invincible, they don’t have nine lives, but if you care for your cat you can have a long and happy relationship with them.