Do Cats Really Have Nine Lives? What Does The Myth Mean And Is There Any Truth To It?

Have you ever wondered why people say that cats have nine lives? Or how about where this popular myth comes from and if there’s any actual truth to it?

You’re not alone.

Similarly to all those black cat superstitions, the nine lives myth has been raising questions and eyebrows for centuries.

So why do we say that kitties have nine lives?

Throughout the ages, this popular expression has become somewhat of a given. Most people don’t even think about it.

But what it means is quite simple. It’s merely a metaphorical expression regarding the fact that cats tend to slip through the cracks in otherwise deadly situations.

When it comes to life-threatening situations, such as landing from a severely high jump, kitties have this awesome agility that helps them avoid fatal injuries.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that they’re invincible or that they won’t get a potentially fatal wound. But the fact that they find ways to twist and turn and still land graciously.

This has made people joke about how cats can evade the certainty of a deadly outcome in seemingly impossible situations. Hence the saying they have nine lives.

Where does the myth come from?

For centuries, people have worshipped, feared, and loathed feline creatures. There are tons of superstitions from ancient times. These beliefs attribute different supernatural abilities to all cats.

The nine lives myth is just one of many beliefs about cats and nobody knows where it originates from.

What’s interesting, though, is that the number of a cat’s supposed lives changes depending on countries and folklore.

For example, in some countries, cats allegedly have six or seven lives.

The number nine has long been believed to bear magical significance for various cultures. The same goes for the numbers six and seven, which is why the nine lives myth varies in different areas.

One of the most famous uses of the popular saying is in William Shakespeare’s notorious tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

And there’s even an ancient English proverb about the nine lives, which states: “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays”.

So does the myth come from the proverb, from Shakespeare’s works or from somewhere else? Nobody knows for sure.

But is there any truth to the myth that cats have nine lives?

While cats have only one life, there is indeed truth to the fact that they can evade death. Territorial behavior, curiosity, playfulness and the need to find a mate put kitties in deadly situations every single day. And yet somehow our majestically agile feline friends manage to survive. How?

The facts behind the myth

Here’s the real truth behind all those mythical and superhuman powers. It all comes back to anatomy.

  • Heightened senses. By default, cats have enviably heightened olfaction, hearing, eyesight, and sense of touch. This aids them tremendously in tricky situations.

Your cat can sense the danger long before it approaches. As such, it has extra time to react to a potential death threat.

With each new day, kitties learn how to react faster. In return, this helps them cheat the gallows on more than nine occasions throughout their lifetime.

  • Excellent hunting skills. All kittens have inborn hunting instincts. As they grow older their skills evolve.

Exercising the art of stalking, lurking and attacking the prey at the right moment also improves their survival skills, even if they’re only practicing through play sessions.

And when the time for running away, wriggling out of something or landing softly from a high fall comes, they have already developed the necessary skill set to do so.

  • Agile bodies. Cats are outstanding athletes and no one can deny it. Some breeds are more active and athletic than others, but most felines are extremely agile.

Compared to most humans cats can twist and turn in ways we can only dream of. Their flexibility, as well as their inborn “righting reflex”, is a crucial aspect of their longevity.

To sum it up, your feline furball has only one life. Cherish it to the fullest and your fluffy pal will be forever grateful to you.

Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!