As long as we can remember, most of us have heard the claim that cats have nine lives. This may have simply been concluded from the many times cats would resurface after seeming to be lost, or hurt in a catastrophe. Cats have inspired both fear and worship into humans for centuries, so it is no wonder that that a nine-lives legend would exist for felines. Take a look at what may have inspired this myth, and how humans have engaged with this concept.
Where the Myth of 9 Lives Comes From
Nobody know the exact origin of this concept, nor why nine is the specific number of choice. However, most people speculate that it is derived from the general observation of cats, and their ability to move with admirable dexterity. This combined with the world’s apparent awe of felines, may lend itself to a belief in their multiple lifetimes.
Natural ability: Cats can leap and jump great distances. Because of their flexible spines, and their “righting reflex” cats are able to contort their bodies mid-air so as to land on their feet. Though how cats land on their feet is less of a mystery to us now (thanks to slow-motion image capturing), the fact that felines incomprehensibly escape from devastating natural disasters, still perplexes the human mind. Whether it is falling from skyscrapers, or managing to stay alive with trapped in small spaces for months, cats are attributed for having 9 lives, simply due to their resilience and miraculous survival stories.
Cat worship: Numerous cultures around the world have highlighted felines as a divinity or a character in their mythology. The Greeks, Romans, Norwegians, and Hindu and Japanese people included some element of cat worship or devote reverence of the creatures in their culture. The Egyptians most famously worshipped cats in the form of the goddess Bastet. It was believed that the god Atum-Ra morphed into the form of a cat during a visit to the underworld. There he gave birth to 8 other gods, possibly introducing the concept that a total of 9 lives came from him.
Society and the 9-lives theory
Society has run with the concept of cats having 9 lives. Many artists have referenced this in songs, stories, novels, album titles, films and TV shows. Musicians like Aerosmith, and Def Leppard have written songs called “Nine Lives,” and Hollywood giant Steven Spielberg produced a miniseries called “Nine Lives’ which has yet to be released. Both pet food companies and battery manufacturers have named their products “Nine Lives” to promote their long-lasting health value.
Even Shakespeare himself helped immortalize the concept in his timeless tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Before a fateful fight, the characters taunt each other by saying:
(Tybalt): What wouldst thou have with me?
(Mercutio): Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives!
Another famous adage warns of the inconstancy of cats: A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.