Why do Cats have Nine Lives?

In the Old Farmer’s Almanac Cat Night begins on August 17th each year, which takes us back to a rather ambiguous Irish legend concerning witches.  This bit of folklore is where the theory began that cats have nine lives.

The phrase Cat Nights refers to witches that could turn themselves into a cat eight times, however, the ninth time (which happened on August 17th) she was unable to return to her human form, and remained a cat forever.  During the month of August is when most cats take to yowling, which also prompted the speculation that witches were on the prowl.  

The Poem of Cat Nights by V. Neuman

Cat Nights
By old Irish lore
on the 17th of August
more cats are among us
than ever before.

It is said that witches
can turn into a cat.
But no more than eight switches
as a matter of fact.

On the ninth switch
they cannot regain
their life as a witch.
A cat they must remain.

So if in mid August
you should hear the cats yowl
amongst sounds of the locust
when cats are on the prowl

Then you will know
as lore was told over time
that cats will show
lives as many as nine.

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