Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities: The Nine Lives of Cats #felinefolkore #catlegends

Art concept. Vintage still life with old books stacked near lighted old-fashioned candle, carnivale mask in background

Hello and Happy Tuesday! Today I’m discussing one of my favorite subjects—cats!

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, 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 worshiped them as demi-gods, to the people of Medieval England who believed they were the accomplices of witches, felines have known extreme highs and lows. Maybe the reason they’re said to have nine lives.

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

Hmm.

McDoogal was a rescue who entered our lives a year after Arafel. If his name sounds familiar, you may be thinking of my novella, In Search of McDoogal. I always joke with my husband that McDoogal worshiped me because he was so attached.

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 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.

Onyx, my last lovely boy. Everyone said he was so handsome with his silky black coat he could have been a show cat.

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.

Raven, my current lovely girl. I fell in love with black felines after owning Onyx, and even wrote a novella called Food for Poe that addresses the issues they sometimes have getting adopted. As the “child of my later years” she is spoiled beyond belief!

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, Onyx, and Raven. I wish the first three would have been able to hang around for eight more lifetimes!

To close, I leave you with my favorite cat quote. 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.”