How and when did someone ever come up with the notion
that "a cat has nine lives"?
Among my dozens of cat T-shirts is one that has a golden
puss on a pedestal with a message that starts: "The
Ancient Egyptians Worshipped Cats as Gods."
thinking of every catís supposed finickiness, it adds
snidely, "Cats Have Never Forgotten This."
say some historians, lies the answer to your question.
They say the Egyptians revered the number nine because
they associated it with their sun god, Atum-Ra.
According to one version, Ra gave birth to eight other
gods. Since Ra often took the form of a cat, people
began associating the nine lives (Ra plus eight) with
feline longevity, and it has persisted ever since.
you believe this theory is up to you, but other cultures
have credited cats with having multiple lives, too. In
China, for example, itís also nine, supposedly because
the number is so well divided ó the trinity of
trinities ó that itís considered lucky. Others,
however, are less generous. Italy, Germany, Greece,
Brazil, and some Spanish-speaking regions apparently
grant them seven while according to Turkish and Arabic
traditions, itís reportedly six.
English lore, though, it has been nine for centuries. In
fact, if you know your Shakespeare, you may remember
when Mercutio becomes irked just after the opening of
Act 3 in "Romeo and Juliet," which was written
you rat-catcher, will you go fight me?" he
do you want from me?" Tybalt inquires.
King of Cats," Mercutio responds, "I want to
take one of your nine lives, and, depending on how you
treat me after that, I might beat the other eight out of
gods aside, thereís a more universal and down-to-earth
logic behind how the multiple-lives idea came to be. If
you know anything about cats, youíve probably heard
that when they fall, they usually land on their feet. In
scientific terms, they have what is called a
"righting reflex" ó the ability to twist
around quickly in mid-air if they fall or are dropped
from a high place.
undoubtedly noticed that they survived situations that
would have killed or severely injured other animals.
Because of this uncanny ability to walk away from
disaster, the English came up with the proverb "A
cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he
strays and for the last three he stays." In other
words, its hardy nature allows it to survive to a ripe
old age lying in the sun after its early years of
chasing mice and roaming.