Our feline friends offer lots to explore – furry companionship and so much more! Let’s get Curious about Cats!
The first time I heard the expression, “Cats have Nine Lives,” I was very young. The expression was used in relation to a television commercial for a brand of cat food that was common at the time. The concept of having more than one life to live fascinated me. We had no cats in our house, so the creatures held a certain amount of mystery for me already, anyway – but once I’d heard this expression, the life of cats took on a whole new dimension in my very active imagination! I was sure each cat I glimpsed was skittering off to have all sorts of adventures and drama to fill each and every one of those nine lives it had been given, each with a hero’s death to face at the end! I’m sure I would have loved the modern, “Warrior Cats” series, had it existed back then!
Of course, my childhood imaginings seem silly to me now, but the famous adage, “Cats have nine lives” does lead one to believe that little Whiskers can have a fatal encounter – perhaps with a honey badger, or some other ferocious creature – and then somehow dust himself off and come back for round two! Sadly, it doesn’t take more than a basic understanding of biology to realize this can not physically come back to life once dead. So, what then is the meaning behind this ridiculous expression?
It turns out the expression, “cats have nine lives” has little to do with resurrection and everything to do with a cat’s seemingly uncanny ability to avoid death in the first place – even when death would seem imminent to a specimen of a “lesser” species. Cat owners often tell quite harrowing tales of their precious feline getting herself into some trouble, yet making it through unscathed. The most dramatic examples of this phenomena include falls from trees or other high places. These “near death escapes” are so often noticed and remarked upon by people familiar with cats, that it became popular to attribute a cat’s longevity to it’s “nine lives,” counting each “narrow escape” from death as one of the cat’s “lives.”
An Important – and Instinctive – Skill
A cat’s reputation for many lives comes from its natural design. This includes the ability to twist in mid-air and land on its four paws – particularly helpful for surviving falls from a significant height. This awesome super power is called a “righting reflex.” Thanks to this fantastic instinct, little Whiskers can evade that scrape with the honey badger altogether, even if it means taking a long walk off a short cliff – and possibly live to tell about it!
Poetry In Motion
It is fascinating to search online for righting reflex images and videos. After only a few moments witnessing cats performing these aerial acrobatics, you will realize how useful such flexibility and power of motion must be to a predatory animal. It will then seem a bit less mysterious the next time you hear an old-timer say – of the same old barn cat still traipsing around after a significant fall – “Good old Whiskers! There goes one of his nine lives.”