Why Do We Say That a Cat Has Nine Lives?
The expression that a cat has nine lives originated in ancient Egypt. There, cats were worshiped as gods and often embalmed and richly buried when they died. Because the major gods of Egypt formed a trinity, three was a sacred number. Since the multiplication of three by three is nine, crediting the cat with nine lives was the highest honor the Egyptians could bestow on the animal. Because the cat’s swiftness and agility help it to escape with its life from many situations, the saying that cats have nine lives has endured.
An old English proverb states “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays”. This could be where the myth that cats have nine lives came from- though the proverb is not thought to be meant in seriousness. It’s a statement about the hardy nature of cats and the fact that they give the most love when they are old- too old to chase mice and run away!
Nine is also a magic number- and this could be partly why cats are attributed with having nine lives, because they have been both worshiped and feared throughout the ages for being magical. The ancient Greeks said that the number nine referred to the trinity of all trinities- and is a mystic number which invokes tradition and religion.
The myth that cats have multiple lives exists in many cultures around the world. It’s not always nine lives, though. Some Spanish-speaking regions believe cats have seven lives, while Turkish and Arabic legends claim cats have six lives. So there are a few different sources which the nine lives myth could have come from- at any rate, humans throughout the ages have been astonished at the hardiness of the feline.