Myth Buster: Why do Cats have Nine Lives?


There are almost 60 million pet cats in the United States, with one in four households having a feline companion.

The saying that cats have nine lives has resonated throughout history and across civilizations because of their incredible agility and apparent capacity to avoid certain death on a semi-regular basis.

Where did it originate, though?

And why do cats have nine lives?

Cats began cohabiting with humans in the Near East some 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic period.

It is thought that shifting from a hunter-gatherer way of life to one based on farming was beneficial to these ancient cats.

As people farmed and stored food, they attracted common prey for cats, such as mice and rats.

In Ancient Egypt, domestication was accelerated. The civilization was known to adore cats, with several gods being depicted as having cat-shaped heads. Mummified pets were buried.

A 2,500-year-old specimen scanned by French scientists in 2019 was discovered to be multiple different cats, with a textile ball in the place of the head.

What is the average lifespan of a cat?

The average life span of a cat is 14 years old, which equates to 70 in human years. Cats age rapidly beginning at a young age, but it slows down as they get older.

Cats are in their physical best between the ages of four and seven, however, this is also when they are at their most playful and have a tendency to get themselves into situations they may not be able to get out of.

Dr. Lucinda Alderton-Sell, Cat Protection’s Field Veterinary Officer

When they reach old age, they require more rest and live at a slower pace of life. If a cat lives well into its second year and beyond, it is likely to die of cancer or kidney failure.

What is the average number of lives a cat can have?


It is believed that the notion of cats having nine lives dates back to Ancient Egypt. The sun god Atum-Ra was said to assume the shape of a cat in order to journey to Hell.

Atum-Ra was credited with creating eight other deities, according to legend. As a result, some people have linked the saying that cats have nine lives to this legend.

In the modern day, cats have been associated with extraordinary physical prowess and agility in the face of danger.

In 2019, a video went viral on social media showing a cat avoiding being run over by a car at least seven times after it walked onto a road in India.

“The saying is popular, but no one knows where it originated,” remarked Anita Kelsey, a U.K. feline behaviorist and author of Let’s Talk About Cats.

“We just have stories from ancient Egyptian times. The idea of the saying originating there does seem reasonable.”

The Egyptians’ fondness for cats is credited with helping the species travel across the world, with feline traders traveling along trade routes into Europe and beyond.

And as they spread throughout the world, so did the tale of several existences. The number of lives a cat is said to have varies in other countries and cultures.

Cats are said to have six or seven lives in the Arab world. Cats are said to have seven lives in Spain and other Spanish-speaking nations.

This is thought to be connected with the number 7 being regarded as a lucky number. Assigning cats a species with seven lives seems appropriate, given that they are some of the luckiest animals when it comes to avoiding death.

So, all the saying about the cat having nine lives is actually a myth that has resonated throughout history and across civilizations.

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