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7 or 9 – How Many Lives does a Cat Really Have?

  • 16 min read

According to ancient legends, cats have seven lives, sometimes nine. What is it now? We air the cultural differences.

Table of Contents

Decoding the Mythical Lives of Cats

“A cat has seven lives” – that’s the saying. But when the fat, red tomcat from the film Garfield sits in prison and scratches his life into the wall with his claw, it becomes clear: the British cat has 9 lives. What is it now? The British have their 

answer to the question, “How many lives does a cat have?” But the absolute legend about the life of cats comes from ancient Egypt.

While science has learned a lot about dogs and other pets, cats remain a mystery. Even about cat purring, there are many different theories, but little knowledge so far. It is also about the exciting and legendary legend that cats have 7 or 9 lives. Whether a cat has 7 or even 9 lives depends on where it lives because there are cultural differences.

Cat and kitten with an ancient painting
Source: Pretty Litter

The Truth Behind the Myth

Cats Really have Seven Lives

Here in Germany and some Spanish-speaking countries, the superstition is that a cat has seven lives. Why precisely this number was chosen can only be guessed at. In the Christian Catholic faith, the number “7” has symbolic power. Clearly – the Bible was written in seven days; there are seven virtues and seven deadly sins.

If you delve even deeper into the matter, you will find out that the number “7” consists of the “4”, which could stand for the four elements fire, water, air, and earth, and the “3”, which represents the father, the son and represents the Holy Spirit. In a broader sense, the “7” could also mean the unity of body and mind. After all, cats are exquisite animals that always land on their paws.

Cats are Nine Lives legend

The British, North Americans, Scandinavians, and Arabians are more generous as their cats are born with nine lives. The number “9” also has a special meaning here. It should be symbolic of the whole universe. An English nursery rhyme is also supposed to explain why there are nine lives in English-speaking countries: “The three of them play, the three of them stray, and the three of them stay.”

An Ancient Legend: In Egypt, Cats were Revered

The cats made it big for the first time thanks to the ancient Egyptians, who downright idolized the animals. They saw them as god-like or god-sent beings. The number nine derives from the creation story from the time of the pharaohs, which speaks of nine deities involved in the creation of the earth: Seth, Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Nut, Geb, Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys. Because of this, the number 9 was associated with life and creation.

The nine were also found repeatedly in the everyday life of the Egyptians. A pharaoh’s meal always consisted of nine dishes, giving the ruler new life energy with every meal. By the last ninth dish, he had reached the maximum energy level. Through this nine-course diet, the king was supposed to gain even more lives – one from each of the nine gods of creation.

two cats statue
Source: Pretty Litter

Say Cats have 9 Lives: So it became only 7

In the beginning, cats had 9 lives in Europe, too . These also applied after the Roman Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity in 307 and even allowed himself to be baptized before his death. After that, however, the Catholic Church organized itself and became the state church of the Roman Empire in 380 AD.

With this reform, cats lost two lives, creating the number seven. Why? Because Jesus is said to have died on the cross in the 9th hour of the day, according to belief. In contrast to the Egyptians, the number nine was no longer a sign of creation and new life. The fact that cats should have 9 lives was now even considered blasphemy because that would put the cats above Jesus Christ.

What is blasphemy? This refers to hurtful, mocking, or similar statements about God, something holy or divine. There is also talk of blasphemy here.

How many Lives do Cats have?

Whether nine or 7 lives, why should a cat have so many lives and not just one like all other animals and humans? Her incredible skill, which enables her to master even hazardous situations unscathed, is said to be related to this. After all, a cat always lands on its paws. Cats are tough and adaptable, and while other animals would probably have died in one situation or another, the cat lives on for seven (or nine) lives.

Multiple Lives 

The Myth of 9 Lives: The notion that cats really have nine lives is more of a myth than a scientific fact. While it’s a charming idea and has deep-rooted cultural significance, our whiskered companions don’t possess multiple lives in the literal sense.

Origins of the Myth

The origins of the “nine lives” myth are shrouded in history and folklore. Some believe it stems from ancient Egyptian reverence for cats, where they were associated with the divine and thought to have mystical qualities. Others point to the resilience and agility of cats, which can make them seem almost invincible at times.

Cats and Their Resilience

While cats don’t possess a literal reset button on their lives, their uncanny ability to escape precarious situations has likely contributed to the myth. Cats are known for their agility, quick reflexes, and uncanny knack for landing on their feet (thanks to their flexible spine).

A Single Life of Infinite Value

Despite the myth, it’s important to remember that cats, like all living beings, have just one precious life. As cat lovers and travel enthusiasts, it’s our responsibility to ensure their safety and well-being, especially during adventures to new places.

Traveling Safely with Your Cat

Speaking of adventures, when hitting the road with your feline companion, it’s crucial to prioritize their safety. From securing them in a comfortable carrier to ensuring they have proper identification, taking these precautions ensures that your cat enjoys a long and happy life – all nine mythical lives included!

So, as you embark on new adventures with your cat, cherish their one life and make it a purr-fectly delightful journey!

Cat on a tree
Source: Tractive

Survival Skills: Landing on Their Feet and Beyond

Cats and the Art of Falling

The saying that cats always land on their feet is more than just a phrase – it’s a testament to their remarkable agility. Cats have an extraordinary ability to survive falls that would leave other creatures injured or worse. The flexibility of their spine, combined with an innate sense of balance, allows them to cheat death in seemingly impossible situations.

Supernatural Cats?

In ancient Egyptian depictions, cats were often portrayed with extra lives, emphasizing their supernatural prowess. While we know cats don’t possess mystical abilities, their survival skill, quick reflexes, and innate instincts contribute to the perception that they have multiple lives.

In the Middle Ages, cats were even attributed supernatural properties and magical powers, so they were considered allies of evil spirits and witches. This belief has been reinforced since ancient times by the extraordinary resistance that adult cats showed even after hazardous events. Over time, their reflexes (including the ability to repeatedly fall to their feet) have made them a symbol of agility and limitless cat survival. It is actually often depicted and seems almost surreal that in situations where we would expect the worst, cats shake themselves, and everything is fine, even after a very high jump or a sudden fall. For this reason, in Anglo-Saxon countries, it is believed that cats have up to 9 lives available. The number nine is considered resilience and the ability to withstand great physical stress. In Buddhist culture, this number refers to indestructibility and rebirth.

Cat and Budha Story

A legend tells that Buddha left some cats to guard the Surah tree. These cats, drinking the miraculous liquid that came from the branches, fell into a cathartic state and then magically woke up again and able to survive falls. Truth or legend? Who knows? For us, these are, of course, just excellent stories, but what is certain is that cats are mysterious creatures, curious and full of surprises. It doesn’t matter if a cat has 7 or 9 lives; what matters is making the cat we live with happy!

Cat with a budha statue
Source: Dhamma Wheel

Average Cat Lives – According to Countries 

The myth about the cat exists not only here but worldwide. In many cultural beliefs, cats have more than a single life. But while the expression “A cat has seven lives” is known among cat lovers in German-speaking countries, but also in Italy and some Spanish-speaking countries, in England, Canada and China it even has nine lives at its disposal. According to Turkish and Arabic traditions, she has to be content with only 6 lives in the Middle East and only one in Africa and parts of Asia. According to a saying in Russia, she jumps away from death nine times and is given ten beautiful lives.

Cheat death

The idea that cats “cheat death” or have multiple lives is a myth rooted in observations of their remarkable survival skills and behaviors. Here’s a breakdown of how cats seem to “cheat death” in the context of the mystery of their supposed nine lives:

Landing on Their Feet:

  • Mythical Aspect: Cats are known for their uncanny ability to land on their feet after falls, contributing to their perception of having multiple lives.
  • Reality: Cats have a flexible spine and a unique skeletal structure that allows them to twist their bodies mid-air, adjusting their position for a feet-first landing. While this skill is impressive, it doesn’t mean they are invincible.
Cat hanging on branch of a tree
Source: Country Life

Agility and Reflexes:

  • Mythical Aspect: The quick reflexes and agility of cats, especially during dangerous situations, contribute to the belief that they can escape seemingly fatal incidents.
  • Reality: Cats’ reflexes are extraordinary, allowing them to evade potential threats and navigate precarious situations. However, their ability to escape danger doesn’t grant them multiple lives.

Survival Instincts:

  • Mythical Aspect: Cats’ survival instincts, such as finding shelter during storms or avoiding larger predators, add to the perception of their ability to cheat death.
  • Reality: Cats are natural hunters and have evolved to be aware of their surroundings. Their survival instincts, honed over centuries, help them avoid dangers and thrive in various environments.

Self-Grooming and Health Maintenance:

  • Mythical Aspect: Cats’ meticulous grooming habits and apparent self-sufficiency contribute to the perception that they can overcome health challenges easily.
  • Reality: While grooming is essential for their well-being, cats are not immune to illnesses or accidents. Regular veterinary care is crucial to address health issues and ensure a longer, healthier life.

Curiosity and Caution:

  • Mythical Aspect: Cats’ curious nature and cautious approach to new situations may be interpreted as wisdom, helping them avoid life-threatening scenarios.
  • Reality: Cats are curious creatures, but their cautious behavior is more about assessing their environment for safety than possessing mystical knowledge.

While cats possess remarkable qualities that contribute to their survival, they don’t cheat death or have multiple lives. The myth of nine lives likely originated from a combination of their physical abilities, cultural symbolism, and the admiration humans have had for these mysterious and resilient animals throughout history. Understanding the reality behind these behaviors adds to the appreciation of our feline companions’ unique and fascinating nature.

The Truth Behind the Myth – Scientifically Speaking

Counting the Lives: Scientifically Speaking

Scientifically, cats, much like any other living creature, have only a single life. The myth of multiple lives stems from observations of cats’ uncanny ability to escape danger and recover from mishaps. In reality, a cat’s resilience and survival instincts testify to their well-honed skills rather than a magical reset button.

The Evolution of a Myth

The one knows the exact origin of the Nine Lives myth remains elusive. Still, it’s clear that the idea of cats repeatedly having extra lives has permeated through various cultures and generations, becoming a famous saying and contributing to the enduring charm of our feline companions.

Cat in ancient times

Cats in History and Culture

Cat Worship in Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egyptian mythology, cats held a special place, often considered sacred and associated with protection. Cats, particularly the goddess Bastet, were believed to have multiple lives, reflecting the Egyptians’ deep admiration and reverence for these graceful creatures.

Number Nine and Beyond

The number nine is associated with mystery and significance. In many cultures, it symbolizes completeness or fulfillment. With their agility and survival skills, cats became the embodiment of this symbolism, creating a lasting myth that continues to enchant cat owners worldwide.


In conclusion, while the myth of cats having 9 lives adds an enchanting layer to our perception of these furry companions, the truth is that they have one precious life. Understanding the myth’s origins, symbolism, and scientific explanations enriches our appreciation for these remarkable creatures. So, the next time your cat gracefully lands on its feet or navigates a precarious situation, marvel at its incredible survival skills within the context of its one irreplaceable life.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cats don’t have nine lives; it’s a myth rooted in cultural beliefs.
  • The number nine has significance in various cultures, contributing to the myth.
  • Cats’ survival skills and agility often inspire the perception of multiple lives.
  • The myth enhances the mystical allure of cats, making them even more fascinating.


Q: How many lives does a cat have?

A: The idea that cats have 9 lives is a popular myth that has been perpetuated for centuries. In reality, cats only have one life.

Q: Why are cats said to have nine lives?

A: The notion that cats have 9 lives is rooted in an old English proverb that suggests the cat’s ability to survive difficult situations gives the illusion of multiple lives.

Q: Do all cats have nine lives?

A: The idea of cats having 9 lives is a common saying, but it’s not valid for all cats. The belief is more of a myth than a reality for the average cat.

Q: Is it true that cats have six lives instead of nine?

A: The saying that cats have six lives is also a misconception. Cats do not have multiple lives; they can survive in various situations.

Q: What is the origin of the belief that cats have 9 lives?

A: The concept of cats having 9 lives dates back to an old English proverb, and it has been popularized in various cultures and literature, including works by William Shakespeare.

Q: What does the saying that cats have 9 lives mean?

A: The saying that cats have 9 lives is a metaphorical expression that highlights the cat’s ability to survive and endure tough circumstances, similar to the notion of being granted multiple chances in life.

Q: Is there any truth to the idea that cats have many lives?

A: The notion that cats have multiple lives is a myth and is not based on scientific evidence. Cats only have one life, like any other animal.

Q: Does the belief in a cat’s nine lives apply to all cats?

A: The myth that cats have 9 lives is not specific to any particular type of cat. It is a general belief that has been associated with cats across different breeds and ages.

Q: Can a cat cheat death by having multiple lives?

A: The idea of a cat cheating death by having multiple lives is purely a myth. Cats, like any other living being, have a finite number of lives and do not possess the ability to evade death through multiple chances miraculously.

Q: What does the concept of cats having 9 lives mean to humans?

A: The concept of cats having 9 lives is a figurative expression that symbolizes resilience and survival. It reflects humans’ admiration for the cat’s ability to endure challenges and bounce back from adversity.

Have you ever wondered about the mythical nine lives of cats?

This article delves into the origins, cultural significance, and scientific explanations behind the age-old belief that our feline friends possess multiple lives. Join us on this captivating journey as we explore the truth behind the myth and unravel the mysteries that make cats genuinely remarkable.

Do cats possess extraordinary survival skills?

Cats are often hailed for their uncanny ability to cheat death and land on their feet, fostering the myth of multiple lives. We’ll delve into the scientific explanations behind cats’ remarkable agility and survival instincts that have given rise to the belief in their mythical resilience.

How has the belief in nine lives influenced cultures worldwide?

The number nine holds significance in various cultures, and this section explores how the mystical association of cats with this number has influenced folklore, proverbs, and artistic representations. Discover how the idea of cats having multiple lives has left an indelible mark on human perception.

How many lives do cats have from a scientific standpoint?

Contrary to the myth, cats don’t possess multiple lives. In this section, we’ll discuss the scientific explanations behind their remarkable survival skills, emphasizing that while they are extraordinary creatures, they have just one precious life.

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Hamna Nasir is a dedicated cat lover, avid traveler, and accomplished author. Born and raised in the bustling city of San Francisco, Hamna's education journey led her to Boston where her interests expanded and intersected in unexpected ways. Hamna's ontent explores a multitude of topics, from preparing your cat for its first trip and choosing pet-friendly accommodations to understanding feline behavior in different environments. Her first-hand experiences, love for storytelling, and unwavering commitment to enhancing the bond between cats and their owners have earned her a devoted following. Her insights have been celebrated by pet lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and travel bloggers alike.