The facts behind a cat's nine lives
A common myth that we’ve all heard is that cats have nine lives. But where does this fiction of feline immortality actually come from? And why is it the number nine?
Petplan unravels the myth of a cat’s nine lives, exploring how the phrase came about and giving you the real facts behind it!
Do cats actually have nine lives?
No! Cats have one life just like any other living creature.
However, a cat is probably the most independent pet out there. They can withstand falls and other serious accidents without being fatally wounded, which is perhaps where the saying ‘a cat has nine lives’ actually comes from.
This is all thanks to a cat’s anatomy:
- They have a large surface area compared to their weight – reducing the force of landing
- Cats have evolved to live in trees and therefore have adapted to conquer falls
- Their ‘righting reflex’ enables them to twist their bodies and land safely on their feet
- Cats have flexibility in their bones and ligaments, which help them to sustain minimal injury from many different accidents
Why nine lives?
The myth that cats have multiple lives exists across the world, however it’s not always nine lives, and the number varies from different cultures.
In certain regions of Spain it is believed that cats have seven lives, while Turkish and Arabic legends say cats have six lives.
No one exactly knows where the expression came from, but it has been around for centuries, even William Shakespeare used the expression in Romeo and Juliet:
"Tybalt: What wouldst thou have with me?
Mercutio: Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives."
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". This may be where the myth that cats have nine lives came from, but the proverb is not meant in seriousness.
Nine is also considered a magic number, which could also be part of the reason cats are attributed with nine lives. Cats have been both worshipped and feared throughout the ages and seen as magical creatures.
In ancient Greece the number nine referred to the trinity of all trinities and a supernatural number that invokes tradition and religion.
Can cats cheat death?
Cats are incredibly intelligent and intuitive. They have lightning-fast reflexes, quick decision making skills and remarkable dexterity.
However, there is no scientific evidence that suggests cats have nine lives. As far as we can tell, our feline friends have one life on this earth, just like everyone else.
Therefore the myth of cat’s having nine lives is no truer than the myth of black cat superstitions.
As a responsible pet owner, you need to be just as careful with cats as you would with any other pet.
Do you have any other suggestions why cats are thought to have nine lives? Let us know in the comments.