I love all animals, but cats are my favorite. As a kid I grew up with cats, dogs, goldfish, hamsters, gerbils, a parakeet, tropical fish and even a chinchilla. As an adult, I bonded with cats and never looked back. These animals have alternately been revered and feared throughout time. From the ancient Egyptians who worshipped them as demi-gods, to the people of Medieval England who believed them to be the accomplices of witches, felines have known extreme highs and lows. Perhaps this is the reason they are said to have nine lives.
More likely, the cat’s agility and its uncanny self-righting mechanism allowing it to survive falls from great heights, is where the myth originated. Felines are extremely graceful, swift, and able to squeeze into small spaces–traits that add to its undeniable mystique. Of all domesticated animals, the cat is the least tame. Like its wild kin, it is most active during early morning hours and at night, the best times for hunting prey. The nocturnal aspect of the cat and its ability to see in the dark also support the nine lives belief. Blessed with enhanced senses and fluid agility, this clever and crafty animal could easily live nine lifetimes.
When superstition was rampant, many believed a witch could take the form of her cat familiar nine times, thus giving the cat nine lives. Another tale related to the myth involves a cat entering a home where nine hungry children resided. Nine fish had been set out for the children to eat, but the cat devoured them all. The poor children died of starvation while the cat met an untimely end from gluttony. When the feline arrived in Heaven, God was so angered by its selfishness he made it fall to the earth for nine days. The nine lives of the children reside in the cat’s belly, which is why it must die nine times before finally being able to rest.
Sometimes those nine lives came in handy. Seafarers knew cats were able to predict storms, which is why they considered a cat onboard ship good luck. It wasn’t simply a matter of running roughshod over vermin.
That was something Noah knew about. When the ark set sail, there were no cats onboard. Rats and mice multiplied and soon overran the boat. In desperation, Noah asked the lion for help. The great beast sneezed and two cats were born, the only animal not originally created by God.
Whatever you believe, there’s no denying these frisky and entertaining animals have found a place in our hearts, whether for a single lifetime or nine. Disney gave us The Three Lives of Thomasina while Stephen King terrified us with Pet Sematary.
I prefer my cats cuddly and affectionate over Mr. King’s variety which is why I’m dedicating this post to the lovely felines who graced my life with companionship–Arafel, McDoogal and Onyx. All are gone now. It would have been nice had they hung around for eight more lifetimes!
To close, I leave you with one of my favorite cat quotes. Nothing against dogs, (I love them too), but I think this quote speaks volumes about the mind of a cat:
A dog looks at you and says, “You take care of me. You must be a god.” A cat looks at you and says, “You give me food and shelter. I must be a god.”
Wish I could credit it, but I don’t remember who said it.
What’s your take on cats (or dogs)? Do you have a favorite pet story or a strange superstition to share?