Why Do Cats Have 9 Lives? Understanding the Myth


Have you ever heard the saying that a cat has nine lives? It is a popular myth that has persisted for generations, and it begs the question: why do people believe that cats have multiple lives? In this article, we will delve into history, science, and superstitions to understand the origins and explanations behind the nine lives myth surrounding cats.

Historical Perspective

The myth of nine lives has been around for thousands of years, and it has been associated with different animals in different cultures. However, the myth became primarily associated with cats in the Middle Ages. The idea of cats having nine lives is believed to stem from an ancient Egyptian myth about the sun god Ra. According to the myth, the sun god transformed himself into a cat, and over time the cat gained eight extra lives.

Biological Explanation

Cats are known for their incredible agility and reflexes, which explains why they are often able to survive falls and escape potentially dangerous situations. They have a unique anatomy; their flexible bodies and powerful legs allow them to twist and turn in mid-air to land on their feet, even from high falls. This ability is known as the “righting reflex” and is one of the main reasons why people believe that cats have nine lives.

Superstition and Folklore

The myth of cats having multiple lives is heavily rooted in superstition and folklore. Many cultures, including British and Irish, consider cats lucky. In some cultures, cats are thought to be spiritual creatures that protect humans from evil and harm. This belief has led some people to believe that cats have supernatural powers, including the ability to cheat death multiple times, perpetuating the myth of cats having nine lives.

Behavioral Observation

Observing cats’ behavior contributes to the myth of cats having nine lives. Cats have a propensity for landing on their feet, and their agility makes it seem as though they have an instinctual ability to avoid harm. Their grace and speed contribute to this belief and support the idea that cats have an exceptional talent to elude danger, even if they have never actually cheated death.


Despite popular beliefs, cats only have one life, and their survival instinct and flexibility are not infallible. In reality, cats can and do get injured, and they are also subject to physical limitations just like any other animal species. The myth of cats having nine lives, even though entertaining and intriguing, is nothing more than a myth.

Literary and Artistic Influence

The myth of cats having nine lives has intrigued humans for centuries and has been depicted in literature and art through time. William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” are two famous works that showcase the myth of cats’ multiple lives. The art world also has its fair share of cat art that plays on the myth of their great survival abilities.

Comparative Analysis

The myth of cats having nine lives is not unique; many cultures have their version of animals surviving death. For example, in Japanese mythology, the fox has nine tails, while in Arab mythology, the phoenix is believed to be reborn from its ashes. Such beliefs surrounding animals and life after death are some of the oldest and most enduring cultural beliefs.


The myth of cats having nine lives has fascinated humans for thousands of years and has made a significant impact on our literature, art, and cultural beliefs. While there is no scientific evidence to support the myth, it remains a popular cultural phenomenon. However, the belief in cats’ supernaturally surviving abilities is not reason enough to deem them less valuable or worth caring for, just like any other animal species.

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