The True Reason Cats Have 9 Lives

A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays. 3 min

cats and 9 lives


Every so often we get to hear that cats have 9 lives. Which literally means they die 9 times and are reborn 9 times. Question is, how is this even possible? No animal dies and gets to see another day. Not even cats.

Of course, it is not all true, but there is a reason behind all the claims.

According to an old English proverb, the steady agility and flexibility displayed by cats is fascinating. This alone predisposes them to numerous trials and tribulations, where they come out unscathed, and only sometimes, with minor injuries. Thus they escape many near-death experiences. 

This English proverb probably explains it better:

Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back!

English proverb

Cats are nosy little fellows, but extremely cautious. They learn a lot from the same source that raises their curiosity. They will stare death in the face, but somehow get their wits back, and usually want to avoid the near-death experience.

The Popular Myths Why Cats Have 9 Lives

Cute cat with a story to tell
Cute cat with a story to tell

A couple of ancient traditions have used the 9 lives teaser for one reason or another. They associate the belief to traditional and supernatural myths that claim cats can reinvent themselves under strenuous and complex situations.

1. Atuma-Ra

Ancient Egypt believed cats were endowed with supernatural powers, which made them resurrect even in the event of death. It was believed the Egyptian god Atum-Ra evolved into a cat whenever he visited the underworld.

While there, he gave birth to 8 other gods. Plus him, this added up his own to make it 9 lives.

2. Shakespeare and the 9 lives

William Shakespeare alludes to cats having 9 lives in his famous play, Romeo and Juliet written in 1995. One scene features Mercutio ranting madly at Tybalt. Mercutio labels him as a rat-catcher and challenges him to a fight. He says,

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 you, too.

(Romeo & Juliet) William Shakespeare 

3. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays

An old proverb also reads,

A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays. 

English Proverb

The 3 stages of a cat are explained from its forms of existence. It starts with three lives of vigorous activity, followed by three lives of straying. That involves taking lots chances and risks but still survive. The last three lives happen during old. The period is marked by calmness. It is a time to lay back and savor the adventurous years gone by.

The Real Meaning of  Cats’ 9 Lives

cat on tree at night
A cat will withstand a fall from far up

Multiplicity in cat life is majorly attributed to its uncanny ability to land on its feet, even in the event of calamitous falls. However deadly the fall, and distance, even from far up in skyscrapers, somehow a cat will land on its feet and live to see another day.

Physical therapist Sally Morgan too, has a say:

 believe that the ability to right themselves during a fall is the main origin of the nine lives idea

A clumsy fall that would lead to the death of man or other animal, does no harm to the agile cats.

They are born with extremely flexible backbones and ligaments. They are also blessed with excellent righting reflexes which allow them to tweak and twist their bodies for balanced landing.

Finally, the bodyweight of a cat is light compared to its surface area. This helps reduce the landing force that may prove calamitous to heavier animals.

Other Good Reads:

Why You Should Put All Your Eggs in One Basket!

How to Gate Crash a Party Like A Pro!

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