Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: The Nine Lives of Cats

Arafel

Arafel, my first cat came from a litter of farm kittens. I always told her she looked like a little woodland creature from myth.

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.

McDoogal

McDoogal was a rescue cat who entered our lives a year after Arafel. I joke with my husband that McDoogal worshipped me. He was definitely MY cat.

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.

Onyx

Onyx, my last lovely boy. Everyone said he was so handsome with his silky black coat he should have been a show cat. I preferred spoiling him rotten.

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?

25 thoughts on “Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: The Nine Lives of Cats

  1. Hi Mae,

    There’s a variation on the saying (and no disrespect to dogs intended – I love all animals) which I think goes something like: Dogs want to be human. Cats want to be God. LOL!

    We’ve had snakes, tarantulas, and a bearded dragon but all along have been our cats who have come and gone over the years. They are as individual as humans are in their personalities, tastes and characters.

    One of my cats doesn’t play with fishing rod toys but rather the shadows they create on the floor. Each day she goes to my cell phone and cries, wanting me to turn on the flashlight and wave my hands in front of the wall so she can chase my fingers. I swear to God this cat giggles and laughs. She also sometimes suckles on my tummy. Our Colonial ancestors would have kittens (pardon the pun) if they saw a black cat suckling on a person. Me and my cat would disappear from the village some night under suspicious circumstances I’m sure!

    All four of my cats are special and dear in their own way. My life would not be as interesting or fun without cats to share it with.

    As always, a wonderful post. Thank you 🙂

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    • What great stories, Cadence! I had to chuckle over the shadow part because Onyx used to wait every day for me to come home from work in order to play “shadows.” He loved lying on the carpet in our formal living room which has a huge bow window. By the time I got home from the office, the sun was streaming through, creating the perfect playground for shadows. I’d find something to create shadows on the floor for him to chase after. At night, I’d turn on the light in my grandfather’s clock and it would have the same effect, creating a playground for shadows. It was his favorite pass-time.

      And you’re right about our early colonial ancestors. I don’t think either one of us would have done well with them given our fondness for cats!

      Thanks for checking out my post!

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  2. I’ve had several cats over my lifetime – three during my childhood, and seven since. There is one who was special, though – Orlando Furioso. I got him from a college professor right before I graduated. He watched me dress for my wedding. He was there when I brought home my babies. He lived in the first house I bought and took (unhappy) rides in my first new car. I’m infamous for not crying – even at funerals – but I bawled like a baby when we had to put him down. They may not be tame, but perhaps through the force of their individual personalities, they do become very real members of the family. Now we have three – a mother and her two sons, who were found under a friend’s car and dropped off at my house. Taking in rescues is a wonderful thing because not only do you get the joy of a cat-companion, but you also have the knowledge that you helped save a life. Spay and neuter!!!

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    • Hi, Elizabeth! I’m so happy to hear you gave a home to that family of kitties in need. How wonderful! McDoogal and Onyx were both rescues and Arafel would have ended up as one had my husband and I not taken her. I’m all for providing a loving home for a rescue animals, poor things.

      Orlando Furioso (what a great name!) sounds like he was a doll. I cried for days with each of mine. It’s so hard letting go. Thanks for sharing such wonderful stories. I love hearing how much others have been touched by their pets. It’s like getting a Hallmark card on my blog 🙂

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  3. McDoogal – love the name and what a cutie he was.
    I like cats but so many people don’t. I find myself actually having to defend the fact I like cats to people.

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    • Hmmmm….to those people, I would make them defend the fact that they like kids. I don’t like them, personally, but to each his own and I would take great offense if someone else did not show me the same courtesy. You should not have to explain yourself or justify anything to anyone.

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    • That’s horrible. Like Cadence said, you shouldn’t have to defend yourself. I think everyone loves dogs…they’re so friendly and lovable it’s impossible not to swept up by them. When it comes to cats, people tend to be divided and passionate about which side of the fence they fall on.

      Thanks for the compliments about McDoogal. He was definitely special! 🙂

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  4. I’m a dog person, but I’ve had the honor of knowing some pretty amazing cats over the years. There was always this playful, orange fuzzball hanging around my childhood: Chester, a truly wonderful feline. Okay, maybe I have a bit of a sweet spot for cats too;-)

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  5. I’ve only had 1 cat in my lifetime. I was raised with dogs aplenty. We even bred them growing up. When I moved out into the world on my own, my apartment building didn’t allow pets. I was devastated not to have anything so I resorted to a cat because they were quiet. Me and Samadhi were fast friends and I think he thought himself more of a dog at times. Unfortunately, he didn’t get along with my hubby once he started coming around. Turf wars began and I had to make a choice. But I gave him to a great home where he became fast friends with more kitties just like him. It was a wonderful experience with him.

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    • Love the name, Samadhi. Male cats definitely tend to act like dogs (McDoogal and Onyx both did). Sounds like he was the jealous type too, and didn’t want give up his lady. 🙂 It’s great you found him a new home where he could be happy with other frisky felines. I’m sure your hubby felt better about it too, LOL.

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  6. Interesting,I never knew all of that. I loved the names. We had the coolest black cat when I was growing up. He just came with the house. We spent our summers at a resort out of state and had a house sitter while we were gone. He said Blackie ( ya, real imaginative) would leave right after we did and return a day or two before we returned. We always wondered where he went on his vacation. Great post!

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    • What a great story and it reflects how intelligent cats are. Blackie timed his stays around yours. Guess he took a vacation at the same time you did. Smart boy 😀
      I love how he ‘came with the house.’

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  7. Love the mythology behind the nine lives, Mae. I didn’t know about a couple of those stories. We always had pets growing up and I like cats, but I prefer dogs. Oddly enough, all my children have turned to out be cat people.

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    • Wow, that is weird. When I was a kid we had dogs and cats…mostly dogs. When my husband and I first got a cat, it was because we lived in an apartment and couldn’t have a dog. Once Arafel settled into our lives, we were hooked and there was no going back. He’d only grown up with dogs too, mostly sporting dogs, so cats were a strange new animal for him. Even he bonded with them.

      Thanks for sharing, Stanalei!

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  8. I’ve heard that quote before, and I think it is soooo accurate.

    Personally, I’m a dog person, especially dogs that are medium to large sized. My dad was allergic to cats, so I never owned one. I did own some great dogs though, including one Border Collie so obsessed with fetch that he would run into walls because he went after a ball so fast, and once, as a puppy, he literally did a back flip with a rough landing trying to catch the stuffed cow he’d stollen from me and ripped out all the stuffing from.

    My husband was the one who grew up with cats. He frequently tells stories about Stewart, a cat his family adopted because his dad started feeding it. Stewart lived until the age of 23 and probably would have gone on year after year except that my husband’s dad had him put down out of mercy. Poor Stewart was missing an eye from a fight with another cat, had terrible arthritis, and a whole host of other ailments. When people talk about cats with nine lives, we always think of Stewart.

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    • Border Collies are beautiful! I didn’t know about the fetch obsession though (or maybe it was just that particular pet). He sounds like he would have been a lot of fun to play with–as long as he was looking where he was going 🙂

      Great story about Stewart. And 23 is remarkable!! My mom’s cat, Charlie, lived until he was 20. Your dad definitely gave Stewart a long, happy life. I can see why you’d think of nine lives when you think of him!

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  9. Fascinating stuff about the cat eating all the food meant for the nine hungry children. (I could so see that happening. LOL) I’m not really a cat person, but I’ve always found it humorous how they have to single me out whenever they come into a room — you’d think they would go to the people holding their hands out or trying to pet them. But they always jump on my lap instead. LOL

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    • Okay, I’ll just think of you like Shelby in your book, I DO…OR DIE, LOL. I liked how she and Ryan’s cat didn’t hit it off at first but then tolerated one another and became buds. I loved what you did with the cat in that story and now I see where it came from 😀

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  10. I love cats! We have two. I always think of the one as a familiar – she belonged to my hubby before we got together and she’s never really approved of me (or my cat). LOL. But she is still a sweetie. I’d never heard of the Noah story – it made me smile.

    And, you are right – they are still a bit wild, aren’t they? I think the cat’s nine lives also has to do with how resourceful they are.

    Fun post, Mae! 🙂

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    • HI, Lorraine! Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing you’ve got two cats. I had a good chuckle hearing about your hubby’s cat. I noticed it’s a ‘she’ which explains a lot. She’s definitely a jealous female, LOL!

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  11. We had farm cats … Calico (yes, she was) kept getting pregnant by Tommy (big yellow cat) – who wasn’t ours – so we had several batches of ‘tabby” kittens growing up.

    We had a big fat one that was named Bombur .. because my sister was in “The Hobbit” (a play) that year – she played a Mirkwood Elf! 🙂 The poor guy playing Gollum wore a wetsuit!

    And all I got out of it was a cat!

    Diane

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    • Hi, Diane! It sounds like you had a crew of cats. I’ve got a good visual image of Bombur. Cute that your sister chose that name. And you KNOW how I am about cats, LOL. Thanks to you I get my weekly fixes through email 🙂

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  12. Wow– you had some great names for your cats, Mae! And your last lovely boy Onyx was one gorgeous cat. Hmm, I never lived with a cat, and in the past, hanging around one too long could get me wheezing and cause my eyes to swell & itch. The few I’ve know personally were quite the examples of some of the grand mystique you’ve touched upon in this fascinating post, Mae. My sis had a cat in college who no matter how deliberately she barred him from her bedroom when she slept at night- she’d find him right in there with her come morning time. Creepy, but I do also believe he also saved her from something quite grievous– woke her up during a gas leak maybe? I also had friends back in the day who had a cat that would pounce out of the nowhere and attack their guests. We could easily chart back the attack to some misdeed they’d done to her the last time they’d been around–like getting her put away into the bathroom– usually because she wouldn’t stop taking swipes or bites at them. Can’t tell you how many stockings of mine she destroyed. All of her behavior was I’m sure about wanting her owners all to herself! Fascinating creatures!

    Another wonderful and interesting post, Mae!

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    • I have a couple friends who are allegric to cats, Venice. I can’t imagine! Wow, your sister’s cat from college sounds very cool. Felines will definitely find a way to get what they want no matter the obstacles, and it sounds like that one knew all the tricks. I love the story about how it saved her from the gas leak. It’s amazing the times animals have rescued their owners from dire straits. Glad you liked my post!

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