Cats have seven lives: where does the expression come from?

Cats have seven lives, as the saying goes, but how did this legend come about? There are various theories: Among other things, it is assumed that the cat's skill, for example in the event of a fall, earned it the reputation of being almost indestructible. In English-speaking countries, cats even have nine lives. "How many lives should I have? Seven or nine?" Wondered this cat - Shutterstock / Sergey Zaykov

Cats are true acrobats and survivors, but do they actually have seven lives? Unfortunately, no, even the most skilful velvet paws only live once - all the longer if they have a loving home with species-appropriate care, good care and healthy nutrition. How did the myth about the seven or nine lives of the fur noses come about?

Cats have seven lives: superstition and facts

Unfortunately, there are no scientific sources on why cats should have seven lives. However, most theories assume that the ability of the velvet paws to turn and land on its feet after falling from a greater height has contributed to the formation of the legend. This ability is called a rotating reflex or a positioning reflex. In addition, cats are very flexible so that they can absorb the impact - they often survive falls, but this does not mean that they are not injured.

Especially in the Middle Ages, superstition was widespread among people that cats are witches or associated with the devil. The Christian church had spread this rumor back then, presumably because the cat was also a symbol for pagan deities. For fear, people resorted to the cruellest methods of eliminating the supposed demons: for example, they threw cats down from church towers - and the animals often survived the fall. It was therefore assumed that they should have several lives.

Why it should be seven lives of all places, at least in the German-speaking area and also in many Spanish-speaking countries, is difficult to say. The "7" has a high symbolic power in the Christian Catholic tradition; there are seven deadly sins, seven sacraments, seven virtues, and according to the Bible, the world was created in seven days. The "7" also appears frequently in fairy tales, for example the bad wolf meets seven little goats and Snow White behind the seven mountains meets seven dwarfs. The sum "7" consists of the "3" and the "4"; the "3" according to Christian numerical symbols stands for the Trinity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It therefore stands for the soul and everything spiritual. The "4", however, probably stands for the four elements of antiquity: fire, water, air and earth. Together, material things emerge from the four elements in the ancient worldview. The "7" could therefore also stand for the unity of material body and mind; it is also considered a lucky number.

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In England cats have nine lives

In English-speaking countries, a cat has not only seven, but even nine lives. The reason why the velvet paws should have more than one life is probably the same as in the German-speaking culture. The "9" is also a symbolic number. For example, it contains the "3" three times, in Christian mythology the number of the Trinity and hell consists of nine circles. But even with the Celts, the "3" was considered a divine number and the "9" symbolized the entire universe.

The number also occurs in Nordic mythology: the main god Odin, in search of wisdom and knowledge, committed a self-sacrifice that lasted nine days and nine nights. The Celts come mainly from the area of ​​what is now Britain, and Nordic mythology also had a significant influence there. It is quite possible that the number "9" is even more important in English-speaking countries than the "7".

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