What Does the Cat Symbolize in Chinese Culture?

Cats have lived in Chinese homes as pets for thousands of years. Their free spirit and independent nature make them attractive. According to Chinese legend, cats also bring good luck. When you visit China, you will notice a figurine of a beckoning cat at the entrance of every store. Today, the Chinese have unique restaurants for cats too. But why are cats so important to the Chinese? What does the beckoning cat figurine symbolize? Read on to learn this and more!

What Is A Chinese Cat?

cat in chinese culture
cat in chinese culture

The Chinese cat is a small figurine of a beckoning cat. It is also known as Maneki Neko, lucky cat, money cat, or welcoming cat. When you enter a Chinese business, you will notice it carefully placed near the entrance or at the cashier.

At first glance, you will think it is just a cute decoration. But for the Chinese, it symbolizes good luck and prosperity. They believe that the cat will beckon customers into their businesses.

Types of Cats in China

cat chinese painting

The cat is the most domesticated pet in China. Below are some of their favorites;

· The Lion Cat

It is also known as Shandong. The cat is white, with long hair along its neck and back. When the cat stands, it almost looks like a lion. One interesting fact about this breed is that their eyes do not match the color. One eye is blue, and the other is yellow. The cats are well adapted to cold weather. They also have strong, robust bodies. When it comes to hunting rats, they do an excellent job.

· The Clouded Cat

These cats are adorned with beautiful fur coats. They are brown, with blackheads. Their limbs and tail are often a mix of brown and black. Besides, they have stripes on their coats, which form in the shape of a cloud.

Clouded cats are also known as coconut cats because they love coconut and palm liquor. Because of their beauty, they are kept for visual appeal.

· The Leopard Cat

They are also known as tabby cats. Their coats are gray, covered in stripes. They have long hair along their neck and abdomen. Although cats lack strong immunity, they are great hunters.

· The SichuanJianzhou Cat

These are large cats whose agility makes them excellent hunters. You will find this type in most rural homes, where they are kept to keep the rats away.

Why Do Chinese Like Cats

cat pet

The Chinese and cats have maintained a mutual relationship for thousands of years. In China, most farmers grow rice. Rice is a valued staple food in Chinese culture. As you would expect, rats like to invade their vast rice storage units. And for many years, the cats have always helped keep the rats away.

For this reason, the Chinese have always loved cats. In China, cats are treated well by their owners. They ensure they are well-fed and taken care of. It is common to find high-end restaurants and advanced treatment centers for cats.

What Does the Chinese Cat Mean?

The Chinese cat is also known as the lucky cat. In Chinese culture, it means luck. The lucky cat talisman is used as a good luck or fortune charm. You will find it openly displayed in most Chinese businesses.

The cat has one paw raised, which implies beckoning. The cat may give different meanings depending on a variety of factors. If the lucky cat raises its left paw, it will attract customers and good networks. If the cat raises its right paw, it is to attract fortune and significant profits. But what if the cat has both paws up? It means the owner seeks protection.

The lucky cat may also come in a few different colors, each with a different meaning. A lucky white cat symbolizes happiness and purity. A lucky gold cat will attract prosperity and wealth. If you spot a black cay figurine, it is to keep off evil spirits. A lucky red cat brings good luck in love and friendship. A green cat will attract good health.

The meaning also changes depending on what the cat is holding. A Maneki Neko holding a magic money mallet is designed to attract wealth. If it is holding a small fish, it is to attract abundance and good luck.

Cat in Chinese Mythology

The Chinese have a legend that explains the origin of the lucky cat. An older woman once kept a cat as her pet. However, she became very poor and could no longer afford to feed her cat. The night after she gave away her cat, it appeared in her dreams.

The cat requested the woman to make its model in clay and sell it at the temple. The cats promised the woman if she did that, she would make a lot of money and become rich. True to the cat’s word, the woman sold many models and became wealthy. Since then, the cat has always been a symbol of good luck and wealth among the Chinese.

Why Is The Cat Lucky in China?

Chinese lucky cat

In China, people believe that cat has brought them good luck and fortune. Businesses that have the lucky cat figurine owe their success to the cat. For this reason, the cat remains the luckiest pet in China. The Chinese take great care of cats, give them food and offer them shelter.

Why the Cat Not In the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese have a popular legend that explains why the cat did not make it to the zodiac. The cat was fond of sleep. The cat requested the rat wake him up on the day the animals were to race for a place in the zodiac. However, the rat had a selfish plan. That morning, the rat did not wake the cat.

The cat woke up late to find himself alone. Although the rat got into first place by his treacherous means, he made enemies with the cat.


Although the cat is not part of the Chinese zodiac, it is their favorite pet. A lot of families keep cats. Besides, the lucky cat figurine is standard in Chinese stores, restaurants, and businesses. They believe these cats bring them good luck in all aspects of life, including health, wealth, and love.

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