Cat Myth: Why Is It Said They Have Nine Lives?

cat myth

So…. what’s up with the cat myth that they have nine lives? I mean, really…what does it mean? What makes cats so special? Why don’t dogs, elephants, monkeys or hippos have nine lives?

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Where Did This Cat Myth Originate?

The “cats have nine lives” expression comes from the notion that because of their many physical attributes and qualities, they are far more likely to dodge the bullet, and cheat death on numerous occasions before their number is actually up!

Consider just how sturdy and agile cats are. That, coupled with their ability to react quickly, employ a great sense of balance, and fall from great heights emerging relatively unscratched adds up to a potential disaster averted over and over again.

Built To Land Safely

Like their ancestors before them, cats prefer high places in order to stalk prey while simultaneously avoiding larger predators. As a result, they have developed appreciable evolutionary physical capabilities because they had to learn to become adept at falling safely. By surviving falls, they could produce offspring who also inherited those unique physical attributes.

While cats don’t always land on their feet when they fall, most of the time, they do, and this greatly helps them to survive. This, coupled with flexible joints that mimic springs, minimize the damage done when they do fall from any height.

Cats are relatively small, and easily prepare for a soft landing upon falling, due to slower terminal velocity.  This is a physics term to explain why cats survive things that other animals might not. Hence, the reason for the figurative phrase “cats have nine lives,” as they always seem to defy the odds, narrowly escaping the last call!

Why Is The Cat Myth Nine Lives?

But why nine lives? Why not eight or 10? To be honest, no one really knows why this cat myth refers to nine lives. According to, many theories exist, but none rooted in factual basis.

Throughout the ages, the number nine has been associated with good luck.  Nine was considered a lucky number in ancient China, where cats were treated like royalty.

It seems that no one really knows why the reference is to nine lives. Some Spanish and German cultures in Europe regarded it as seven, while some Arabic and Turkish cultures put cats’ lives at six.  The world may never know.

I, personally, like the thought of cats having nine lives.  That means they’ll be with us longer!

Are you a fan of cat stories and trivia? These two books: Cat-a-Logue by Deborah Robertson, and Amazing Cat Facts and Trivia by Tammy Gagne are great resources.

What is your theory on the nine lives cat myth?  Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you!



Written by Ann Butenas

Ann Butenas

An internationally-recognized author and writer, Ann began her professional writing career at age 12 and began speaking while in college. She has been published thousands of times over the past three decades in all media forms, was former editor and publisher of KC Metro Woman magazine, and has also hosted three talk radio shows in the Kansas City area.