We all love our cats. They might be grumpy creatures that would knock things over around the house, nestle and curl up on our laps when we’re down, and sometimes even when we’re busy!
We like to think they would always be there for us since they have nine lives, right? But, sadly, this is not the case.
As much as we want our feline companions’ nine lives to be true, it is a myth. Truly heartbreaking, we know.
This begs the question, where did this myth start? Let’s break it down, and maybe we can find solace in the facts.
The legend of the cat’s nine lives.
No one knows who started the myth of the nine lives of cats, and there are no actual historical recordings of when and where it was first created either.
Such is the trouble with oral history.
What is known, though, is that the first mention of the cat’s nine lives is in an English proverb that states: “A cat has nine lives. For three, he plays; for three, he strays; for the last three, he stays.”
The proverb’s origins might remain a mystery, but we have an estimated timeline at the very least.
In one of William Shakespeare‘s most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet, he wrote: “Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.”
The bard wrote the tragedy in the 16th century, making the myth of a cat’s nine lives predate the 1500s.
Why do cats have nine lives?
Our feline friends are known to be very agile animals; they’re fiercely independent and intelligent creatures.
They can fall from high elevations and still land on their feet. There’s even a documented case in New York where a cat fell from a 32-story building and survived, suffering only minor injuries.
Feats like this are possibly where the idea of cats having nine lives came from. This is all thanks to the cat’s fantastic anatomy, of course.
Like most feline species, cats evolved from living in trees.
The years of evolution before they became domesticated ensured that they adapted to the height from where their species started living.
Cats have a “righting reflex” where they can twist their bodies as they fall, ensuring that they securely land on their feet.
Their large body surface area reduces the force of the fall.
At the same time, the impressive flexibility of their ligaments and bones helps them sustain as minimal injury from the impact as possible.
So, you can say that a cat’s nine lives come from millions of years of evolution.
Why is it specifically nine lives?
We always asked why and how cats have nine lives but have you ever thought why an odd number like nine exactly? Let’s find out.
Numerology states that the number nine is very significant because of its composition of three groups of three.
In religious cultures like Islam, Greek, and Roman Catholic, the number nine is symbolic and has mystical properties.
For example, in Islam, the significance of the number nine is much like in the Indian thought of Sanatana Dharma, which states, “nine openings for man as also the nine months of gestation period of birth.”
In Greece, the number nine has been referred to as the trinity of trinities, similar to numerology’s composition.
What’s more fascinating, though, is in different cultures, the myth of the cat’s nine lives has different variations, specifically with their number of lives.
Some regions around Spain believe that cats only have seven lives, while in other Arabic and Turkish legends, cats have six lives.
All this fascination with cats goes way back about 12,000 years ago.
The ancient Egyptians believed these animals were sacred and divine beings with supernatural powers.
People would often dedicate mummified cats at the sanctuary of the cat goddess Bastet as offerings.
To sum it all up, no, cats don’t have nine lives, no matter how much we would want them to.
Our feline compatriots tend to cheat death though that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be taking extra care of them, no matter how snobbish they can sometimes be.
They might also be godlike creatures worshipped throughout history, and that’s why they like lording themselves around our house like they own the place!