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How Many Lives Does A Cat Have? Unraveling The Myth’s Origin

How Many Lives Does A Cat Have? Unraveling The Myth’s Origin

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All of us, even as kids, have learned about the magical powers of cats that enable them to live more than one life! I learned that cats have nine lives, and I only realized recently that not all people believe the same.

How many lives does a cat have? Well, it depends on who you ask! For instance, Italians believe cats have seven lives, two less than the common belief that cats have nine lives!

We now know cats are credited with having so many lives due to their exceptional physical abilities (and a little luck) that allow them to survive the unsurvivable.

How Many Lives Does A Cat Have?

Many would say cats have nine lives, as this version of the myth is the most widespread.

The myth alludes to cats’ innate abilities and agility to flee potentially fatal circumstances. This belief is further fueled by the fact that cats who fall from great heights frequently manage to land on their feet by turning their bodies to land feet first.

Check out this short video about a cat jumping from a tall building and managing to land on its feet! Tip: video of a cat jumping is at 0:21!

However, they do risk being killed or seriously hurt if they fall from very high places. Our pet cats are not immortal and risk acquiring life-threatening injuries in their adventures.

The “Number Of Cats’ Lives” Is Not Universal

adorable cat walking in the snow

The idea of cats having multiple lives has spread all around the world, and different cultures believe in different versions of this myth.

Some cultures believe cats have six or seven lives! Although the myth about cats having nine lives seems universal, it’s not – it’s simply the most popular one!

In China, the number nine is significant in numerology, as it signifies good luck and longevity.

It is widely believed that cats have six lives in Arabic and Turkish culture.

On the other hand, cats are believed to have seven lives in:

• Italy

• Germany


• Brazil


Cats Of Spain Seem To Have Seven Lives

The myth states that cats have seven lives in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries! How come?

In Spanish culture, the number seven still carries a strong connotation; for example, if a mirror breaks, you will suffer bad luck for seven years; seven is also the number of musical notes, the number of deadly sins, and the number of archangels.

The number seven has a long history of being associated with magic and luck. And does any animal have the same luck as a cat has in escaping potentially fatal situations? No! And therefore, cats have the honor of having seven lives!

Who Was Atum-Ra In Egyptian Mythology?

Atum-Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. They gave life to air, water, earth, and sky.

Ra (Atum), the solar deity, was a part of a group of nine unified deities that also included the gods Shu, Tefnut, Nut, Geb, Isis, Osiris, Nephthys, and Seth the Ennead.

Ra assumed the shape of a cat and journeyed to the underworlds, where he bestowed upon himself nine lives, one for each deity.

The belief that cats had nine lives was formed as an obvious allusion to the deity Ra because cats were seen as holy animals in ancient Egypt and because of their incredible capacity to outlive their mortal bodies.

Cat-Sith As The Potential Origin Of The Myth

a black cat is standing in the garden

In Celtic mythology, the cat-sìth was a witch who could spontaneously change into a cat shape and back nine times.

If one of these witches chooses to return to their cat form for the ninth time, they will live out the remainder of their life as cats.

Some people believe that this is the origin of the idea that cats have nine lives!

William Shakespeare Knew About Cats Having Nine Lives

We all know about Romeo and Juliet, Italian lovers that had a miserable end to their lives. But did you know that cats and their nine lives are mentioned in the book?!

In his book, he states the following:

Tybalt: What wouldst thou have with me?

Mercutio: Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.’

How interesting is this! Who would’ve thought William Shakespeare would be contributing to the popularity of the myth about cats having more than one life?

Something Very Interesting Was Mentioned In A 1585 Book

the cat is walking in the meadow

A book Beware The Cat, written by an English author named William Baldwin, was published in 1585. In the book, the author says that witches are allowed to possess the body of their cat nine times:

For witches have gone often in that likeness – and thereof hath come to the proverb, as true as common, that a Cat hath nine lives, that is to say, a witch may take on her a Cat’s body nine times.

Some believe that the myth about cats having nine lives originated in this book! Although this is nothing more than a speculation, it’s a worthy mention.

Did the author already know about the myth, or did he seemingly randomly choose the number nine as the number of times the witches of this book can possess the body of their cats?! I guess it’ll remain a mystery!

There Is An Old English Proverb..

“A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays”

Though the proverb is not believed to be taken seriously, this may be the origin of the myth that cats have nine lives!

This proverb points out how resilient cats are and how they show the most affection when they are old and unable to chase mice (“for the last three he stays,” with the owner).

Cats’ Amazing Abilities That Keep Them Alive And Well

Cats have survived in situations such as falling from buildings during earthquakes, etc.

Cats also engage in wild behaviors like jumping off cliffs and rushing in front of moving vehicles; only a creature with a large number of lives could behave this irresponsibly, right?

The cat’s extraordinary agility, flexibility, and fast reflexes are to blame for everything.

Check out this video compilation of cats being silly and managing to get out of every spot of trouble without a scratch!

Our kitties seem to have a unique ability to cheat death! But how come? How do they manage to do so?

They Have Righting Reflex

Righting reflex is a reflex that helps with the proper orientation of the body. Cats possess this reflex, enabling them to twist mid-air and always land on their feed. This ability has saved many cats’ lives! Perhaps cats are daring about jumping from great heights because they know they have this reflex!

They Are Very Flexible

Domestic cats are also extra flexible! The vertebrae in cats’ backs are extremely flexibly attached, and the disks that serve as cushions between them are particularly elastic.

Perhaps cats’ ability to have a long lifespan despite their brave endeavors is precisely due to them being extra flexible!

They Are Lightweight

Cats are relatively lightweight, and in addition to that, they have a large surface area. That means they have the unique ability to land safely, as the force of the landing is lower.

To put things into perspective, imagine a 10-pound cat versus a 30-pound cat landing from a few meters of height. Surely, a 30-pound cat would get hurt due to the high force of landing. Cats usually weigh around 10 pounds and don’t get hurt when landing from great heights.

Combine all these traits, and you get one amazing animal that can withstand almost anything!

Cats Seem To Always Land On Their Feet, Don’t They?

a cat on a woman's legs

The fact that cats always land on their feet has been known for a very long time, and people have always been fascinated by it! Let’s take a brief step back in history, and see how exactly people showed interest in this strange feline characteristic then and now.

Fun Fact No1

A French scientist named Etienne-Jules Marey was the mastermind behind the experiment that tested whether or not a cat always lands on its feet. He documented his experiment using its own chronophotographic gun, which took 12 consecutive frames a second.

He held a cat above ground by its legs and then dropped it. His instrument recorded the cat’s mid-air flight and how a cat twists in order to land on its feed. The resulting picture and the experiment itself become somewhat popular.

Marley did not stop at cats; his so-called “animated zoo” contained pictures that recorded the movement of other animals, such as horses, birds, dogs, sheep, and many others. It’s interesting to mention that he also repeated the same experiment on a chicken and a dog and obtained almost the same results!

Fun Fact No2

Since 1955, the second Sunday in May has seen the annual Kattenstoet march in Ypres, Belgium. Toy cats are tossed from the 70-meter Cloth Hall tower as part of a parade that honors the history of cats.

There are many different origin stories for the flinging of cats. One theory holds that cats were associated with witchcraft, and tossing the cats represented slaying bad spirits.

Until 1817, live cats were thrown from the tower. However, it was recorded that many cats survived the fall! There is a record of a town keep saying,in spite of the height of the fall, the animal ran off quickly so that it might never be caught again in a similar ceremony.”

How interesting! Some cats really do have nine lives. One thing is clear – I’m happy that some felines have managed to escape death in such a cruel way!

Fun Fact No3

In 1987, researchers in New York City conducted a study that revealed 90% of cats that had fallen from towering buildings had miraculously survived.

In the research, more than 130 cats that had been injured after falling from a great height were treated in an emergency veterinary facility.

Consequently, 90% of the cats lived, although 37% required immediate medical attention to survive. One of them merely chipped a tooth and had a lung collapse as it plunged 32 stories to the earth. The fortunate kitty was home in less than 48 hours.


an adorable cat is sitting on the roof

Why Do Cats Have 9 Lives?

It’s said that cats have nine lives due to their unique ability to escape accidents and survive the toughest of falls. They have incredible reflexes (and a lot of luck) that keep them alive in the most dangerous of circumstances.
The origins of the myth that cats have nine lives is not clear, as there are only speculations about the true origins of this myth. However, we can conclude why the myth arose in the first place – cats seem to survive the unsurvivable!

Why Do They Say Cats Have 7 Lives?

People of Spain, Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Greece believe in the version of the “cats’ lives myth” that says cats have seven lives. In other parts of the world, cats have a different number of lives; for example, in Arabic countries, cats have six lives.
The number of cats’ lives seems to depend on which number that country finds special!

Do Cats Have 1 Life?

In real life, yes. Like every living being, our feline friends have no supernatural powers and have only one life. Because of this, we need to spend as much quality time as possible with our pets (and loved ones!)

Final Thoughts

We’ve all witnessed it a million times – cats have the amazing ability to survive what we believe it’s unsurvivable!

Cats survive falls from great heights and frequently land on their feet due to their ability to correct themselves in flight, use their tail as a rotor, and land gracefully on all four legs.

People seem to have observed this a long time ago, and started a saying about cats having multiple lives. The saying seems to have caught on, and gradually became a myth! Some countries believe cats have nine lives, some seven, and some six!

How many lives does a cat have? Unfortunately, the honest answer is only one. This means that we cat owners must cherish our time with our dear kitties!

Other Myth-Busting Articles:

Do Cats With Down Syndrome Exist? A Popular Misconception

Do Cats Bleed When In Heat? A Common Misconception Explained!

Can Cats Have Autism? This Is What You Need To Know

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