Cats — those mysterious creatures who seem like they’ll live forever. From their purrs to their remarkable agility, felines have certainly left an impression on humans for thousands of years. So why do cats always seem to land on their feet (virtually unscathed), and why does the phrase “cats have nine lives” exist? In this post, we’ll explore the origin of this phrase and dive into some incredible facts about how cats survive!
Where did the saying come from? Was it an old English Proverb?
The origin of the nine lives myth is unclear, with many sources citing an old English proverb:
“A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.”
This proverb mirrors what could be seen as the three stages of life: playing, straying, and staying. No matter how far cats wander in their lives, they would always come back home.
Or did it come from Shakespeare?
William Shakespeare is also said to have helped popularize the phrase “cats have nine lives” in his play Romeo and Juliet. In Act 3 Scene 1, Tybalt asks, “What wouldst thou have with me?” and Mercutio replies, “Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.”
This line was a popular joke amongst the audience, as cats were known to always land on their feet when they fell from great heights. So in this scene, Mercutio is saying Tybalt had used up one of his nine lives!
What about Ancient Egypt?
The phrase itself may have originated from ancient Egyptian mythology. It’s no secret that cats were worshipped in Ancient Egypt, and it is believed that cats were seen as immortal due to the goddess Bastet, who was said to have nine lives. And, in Egyptian mythology, the sun god Ra transformed himself into a “Great Tomcat” or Mau whenever he visited the underworld. And get this, he apparently went on to father 8 other gods, embodying all nine lives in one feline form. Talk about a legendary cat Dad!
It’s not always nine lives, though.
While the number nine holds divine significance in some cultures, our furry friends are said to have fewer lives in other parts of the world. Spanish-speaking regions believe cats have seven lives, while in Turkish and Arabic legends they have six.
No matter the number, we can all agree that our feline companions are lucky to have more than one life to spend with us.
How Long Do Cats Really Live?
While cats may seem like they live forever, on average, a cat can live anywhere from 12-20 years depending on various factors such as lifestyle and breed. Of course, many cats live beyond this age with some even reaching the ripe old age of 25 and beyond!
It’s also important to note that indoor-only cats typically have a longer lifespan than outdoor cats — who are more exposed to potential illnesses, parasites, or predators.
Cats have been part of human culture for thousands of years. The phrase “cats have nine lives” has been around since ancient times and is still used today.
No matter how many lives cats have, one thing is certain: they are part of our lives and we’re so lucky to have them. It’s our job to make the most of the life they do have!