Why Do We Say a Cat Has Nine Lives?

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The idiomatic expression that cats have nine lives comes not from a literal reality in which cats have an arbitrarily limited immunity but rather from a myth that is likely related to the domestic cat's impressive agility. However, as a figurative way of describing feline dexterity, the nine lives myth conjures up vivid imagery, which may be why William Shakespeare referenced it in his famous tale of star-crossed lovers, "Romeo and Juliet." Overall, it is difficult to pin down an exact origin for this myth, including an explanation for the specific number nine, though it may have origins in Egyptian or Chinese belief systems that ascribe special significance to the number nine.

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