Wednesday, 5 May 2010

History of Cats - Maneki Neko

2. The Japanese Bobtail


The Maneki Neko, or Beckoning Cat, can be found in many homes and businesses and Japan. The left arm raised supposedly attracts customers whereas the right arm attracts money. This makes it the logical choice of ornament for shop owners. They are often made of ceramic and are sometimes used by children much the same as piggy banks are used in Europe.


The Maneki Neko are actually depictions of the Japanese Bobtail, a medium sized, friendly cat which arrived in Japan from China over 1000 years ago. They have a very unusual tail, about 4 inches long, that is tightly curled into a bob. They usually have 3 or 4 kittens and compared to other breeds, these are bigger, healthier, and walk earlier with fewer diseases. They are talkative cats and are capable of nearly the whole scale of tones. They are known for almost always speaking when spoken to. (I soooo want one!!). They are very human and family oriented and are very easy to teach tricks.

There are several stories as to the origins of the Maneki Neko ornament, my favourite being the following: - A very poor monk lived in a poverty stricken temple and shared what little food he had with his beloved bobtail cat. One day a wealthy lord was caught in the rain near the temple and sheltered under a tree. He spotted a cat in the entrance to the temple beckoning to him. As he approached the cat the tree he had been sheltering under was struck by lightening and fell.

Grateful to the cat and its owner, the wealthy lord became patron of the temple which soon became prosperous. When the cat eventually died, the image of the Maneki Neko was made in its honour and quickly became the symbol of good fortune.

The temple still stands and its walls are adorned with many pictures of cats, and owners of lost or sick cats often visit the temple with prayer boards to this day.

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