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Relationships with Animals: Cats
Related Resources
Relationships with Animals: Dogs
The Year of the Snake
The Year of the Horse

From Other Guides
Lucky Cats in Japan

Elsewhere on the Web

In Japan, neko (cats) are regarded as both auspicious and fearful. The way cats wash their faces look as if they are inviting good luck, so cats with that gesture are represented in an auspicious ornament as maneki-neko (a beckoning cat). In restaurants and other business in which customer turnover is important, it is customary to display a figure of a maneki-neko (招き猫).

On the other hand, there was a time when cats were thought to transform into monsters; among the many Japanese monsters is bake-neko (a goblin cat). There is the saying, "Kill a cat and you will be cursed for seven generations". Click here to learn more about Japanese ghosts.

In the West, animosity between cats and dogs is assumed, but in Japan, this animosity is thought to exist between dogs and monkey. Two people, who cannot get along are said have a dog-and-monkey relationship (ken'en no naka, 犬猿の仲). In Japan a cat's favorite dish is katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) rather than cream or milk, and the expression "Neko ni katsuobushi, (猫に鰹節)" is a warning not to put temptation in people's way. A cat's meow in Japanese is nyan-nyan(ニャンニャン) or nyaa-nyaa (ニャーニャー).

More Expressions Including Cats

Karite kita neko
(borrowed cat)
To describe someone behaving in an unusually quiet or well-behaved way opposed to his/her original nature, like a cat in unfamiliar territory.
(a cat's tongue)
A person who can't eat or drink very hot foods.
Neko kawaigari
(to indulge a cat)
For doting on someone in the way some people dote on their cats.
Neko mo shakushi mo
(cats and ladles too)
Everybody, "Every Tom, Dick and Harry."
Neko ni koban
(to give gold coins to a cat)

Don't offer things to people who are incapable of appreciating them, "Pearls before swine."

Neko no hitai
(a cat's forehead)
To describe a tiny space.
Neko no ko ippiki inai
(not even a kitten around)
Some place showing no sign of life at all.
Neko no me no you ni kawaru
(to change like a cat's eye)
Something that changes rapidly.
Neko no te mo karitai
(to want to borrow a cat's paw)
Very busy and shorthanded (therefore you want to get help, even from cats.)
Neko o kaburu
(to put on the cat):
To play the hypocrite, "To be a wolf in sheep's clothing."
(a cat's back)
For someone with a stoop or a round shoulder.

Click here to check out the Language Poll: "Which of these common Japanese cat's name do you like?"

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