Have you ever heard the saying that "cats have nine lives" and wondered where this came from? In this article, we're going to dive into the history behind this phrase and whether it derives from some sort of truth or is a popular myth.

Where Does This Phrase Come From?

No one knows for sure where the "nine lives" came from, but many historians recognize that this saying has been around for hundreds of years. Ancient Egypt is one place where this can be traced back to. Many of the gods that the ancient Egyptians worshipped resembled felines or were creatures that were half-cat and half-human. They even mummified their pet cats and placed them in tombs when they died. Cats were held in high regard and seen as important animals, and it may have been a belief that they had multiple lives.

an Egyptian Tomb with cat statues

Other old texts specifically reference a cat having nine lives. For example, an old English proverb says: "A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays." There is also a reference to cats having nine lives in William Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet. Even though we don't know exactly where this stems from, it's clear that cats have played important roles in people's lives and popular culture for a long time.

Why the Number 9?

In Egypt, Greece, and Chine, nine was considered to be a magical number. However, other cultures have ascribed a different number of lives to cats. For example, in some Spanish-speaking countries, they say that cats have seven lives whereas some middle eastern cultures have myths about cats having six lives.

Truth or Myth?

Obviously, the saying that cats have nine lives is a myth. Cats, like all other animals, have only one life. It's possible that this myth may have persisted due to the fact that cats seem to be able to escape death and accidents easily, coming away unharmed and unshaken. This is because cats have what is called an "air-righting" reflex. This means that while they are in the air, they are able to twist and maneuver their body around helping them land safely on their feet. You've maybe also heard the saying that "cats always land on their feet." While this is not always the case, cats do indeed land on their feet more often than not. This is not to say that they come away from every fall uninjured, but they have a better chance of surviving falls than other animals might.

Helping Your Cat Make the Best of It's Life

a young woman holding a black cat in her arms

Because your cat only has one life, you should help them make the most of it! Taking proper care of your kitty is the first step toward ensuring that she stays happy and healthy. Even though every cat is different, and there is not necessarily a "one-size-fits-all" solution for every cat, here are a few tips and simple reminders of ways that you can care for your cat:

  • Regular Vet Check-Ups: Stay on top of taking your cat to the vet, even if it's just for a simple check-up. Make sure you're also staying up-to-date on all of your cat's vaccinations.
  • Don't Overfeed: Cats can easily become overweight if you are not watching their diet. Check with your vet to get recommendations for the appropriate diet your specific cat should be on. While treats are fun every once in a while, be sure you don't overdo it.
  • Provide Clean Water: Ensure that your feline friend stays hydrated and that you are always cleaning out their bowl and giving her fresh water. Some cats might not seem interested in their water bowl initially, which is why a water fountain can be a good idea for them!
  • Groom Daily: Brushing your cat regularly is not only good for keeping her coat clean and free of tangles, but it will also prevent hairballs! Be sure you're using the proper grooming tools to get the most out of your grooming sessions!
  • Keep the Litter Box Clean: This is good to do not only to prevent it from smelling up the house but by cleaning your kitty's litter box on a regular basis, you'll be able to see if there's anything concerning about their stool.
  • Play Time: Last but certainly not least, playtime is great for kitties both physically and mentally! Be sure to provide them with plenty of toys and things to play with so that they can have some fun and exercise!

The Reality of "Boring Life Syndrome" in Cats

When talking about the lives of cats (and how to make them as great as possible), we can't ignore the experience of those that remain in the wild.

It's clear that there is a drastic difference between domestic and wild cats, as those that live in the outdoors usually spend their days hunting for food, marking their territory, grooming, resting, avoiding predators, and fighting with other wild cats or animals. As such, their reflexes must remain sharp, as one wrong move could mean the difference between life and death – another factor that has allowed the "nine lives" myth to stick around for so long.

Of course, this reality couldn't be any more different from that of a domesticated cat.

To us humans, this difference might sound like a blessing. After all, who would want to spend their day running from predators and wondering where their next meal will come from?

Unfortunately, the benefit does not come without sacrifice, as some indoor cats can eventually find themselves suffering from "Boring Life Syndrome" and exhibit symptoms like:

  • Excessive grooming
  • Overeating
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Lack of curiosity
  • Irritability and/or fighting with other animals
  • moping

How to Prevent "Boring Life Syndrome"

Of course, while this isn't exactly a "real" medical condition, its impacts can be found in house cats worldwide.

Since virtually every aspect of their life is already taken care of, they're missing out on a large supply of mental and physical stimulation. As a result, owners must keep this in mind and ensure they're providing their cats with all the enrichment they need to remain satisfied and happy.

Fortunately, enrichment strategies can be quite simple and fun for both owner and cat. Try some of the following tips:

  • Feed your cat using a puzzle feeder: These helpful devices encourage physical and mental stimulation for your cat, as they activate the "hunt and search" part of their brain. Furthermore, it keeps them from eating too quickly and splits up larger meals into multiple smaller meals.
  • Don't use the same toys forever: We already know that playtime is a crucial component of daily life for house cats, but it still requires some creativity to ensure your cat makes the most of it. So, be sure to pay attention to which toys your cat seems to enjoy the most and swap them out occasionally.
  • Provide them with scratching posts: Though it may seem odd, cats need the ability to scratch for a healthy life. Not only does it allow them to stretch their muscles, but it also keeps them occupied and replicates the experience of "marking their territory" – much like they would in the wild.
  • Elevate their perches: Cats love a good sense of perspective! Place elevated perches around your house to allow them to see it from a higher viewpoint. It might also become one of their favorite napping spots!

Sources:

  1. https://metro.co.uk/2017/08/31/why-do-cats-have-nine-lives-what-we-know-behind-the-myth-6890326/
  2. https://www.diamondpet.com/blog/culture/myths/truth-about-cats-and-nine-lives/
  3. https://pawp.com/do-cats-really-have-9-lives-what-you-should-know-about-your-cats-ability-to/
  4. https://www.petplan.co.uk/pet-information/blog/the-facts-behind-a-cats-nine-lives/
  5. https://www.care.com/c/cat-life-expectancy-12-tips-to-help-your-pet
  6. https://www.petmd.com/cat/slideshows/11-ways-help-your-cat-live-longer#slide-1

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