Cats do not have nine lives, that is something we can all agree on. But we’ve all heard the claim that they do. So where does this myth come from?

The saying has been referenced for a long time. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has the character Mercutio referencing the nine lives of cats. An old English proverb states that “a cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.” This is probably in reference to the different faces a cat goes through. As a kitten they playful, as an adult cat they hunt and when they grow elderly they are content to be doted upon and fed by their humans.

No one knows the exact origin of the saying but many people believe that it stems from the natural grace and agility of felines. Their ability to land on all fours is world renowned. Now of course cats can be injured and worse by large falls so please make sure that your cats are safe and secure when heights are involved. Their survivability may have led to people saying cats have nine lives as a commentary on their ability to make it out of near-death experiences without a scratch. There may also be a slightly religious reasoning behind the saying. In Ancient Egypt cats were considered sacred and the concept that they had multiple lives may be due to this. There has not been any confirmation this is the case however.

You may be wondering why nine lives? Interestingly enough it’s not always nine. In Greek, Italy and a handful of other countries believe that cats have seven lives and six is the number claimed by some Turkish and Arabic legends.

So ultimately we don’t know why or where this common idiom exists but we know that it’s been around for a very long time and probably stems from a mix of superstition and feline agility.

If you want a breakdown of a similar myth let us know in the comments below.