Everyone is aware of the saying that “cats have nine lives.” Probably, the curious kid in you is asking how this came about. Do cats really have nine lives? Why the number nine? Well, let us try to break it down until we come up with the most acceptable and reasonable explanation.
First, let us try to answer the easy question whether cats really have nine lives. In that context, we all know that this is 100% unrealistic. You would never see a dead cat on the road get back up and do its thing like nothing happened. This just would not happen in this lifetime and not ever. So, to answer the question whether cats have nine lives, the realistic answer is no. So where did that saying come from? This stemmed from the fact that cats are able to survive great falls. One fun fact is that cats have better chance of surviving a fall from a greater height. Science explains that cats have what you call an aerial righting reflex. This means that cats have the ability to know which side of their bodies they are falling on, and if they detect that they are not falling with their feet first, they are able to twist their bodies mid air to correct their position. The higher the fall, the more time they have to correct their position. Cats also have high body surface area and low weight. If you put these two together, it means that the terminal velocity (the pull of gravity in relation to the wind resistance) of a falling cat is much slower compared to an average-sized man. Cats have long muscular legs which they spread whenever they fall to increase their surface area, thus reducing their descent. Their long legs also serve them well whenever they fall. It serves as their shock absorbers. What gives them the ability to jump way more than their height is also responsible for decelerating the energy when they hit the ground, greatly reducing the chances of serious injury or broken legs. Also, way before domesticated pet cats existed, cats are known to be arboreal animals which means they live in trees. Therefore, cats are really bound to fall from trees especially when they hunt for food. It simply means that cats are built to survive falls from high places.
If it is proven that cats have higher chances of surviving great falls, then where did the number nine come from? There is no direct and clear explanation behind the “nine lives”. It really depends on where you are from. According to Indian culture, there are nine universal elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Ether, Time, Space, Soul, and Mind. There are also nine doors to the human body. Chinese culture believes that the number nine is a good number because it sounds the same as the word “long-lasting” in Chinese. It is also a symbol of magic and power. There are numerous reasons why the number nine was associated with cats. Another probable reason is because it is the highest single digit number. Whatever the case maybe, it simply means many lives and by many lives, we mean higher chances of survival.