Have you ever noticed a small ceramic cat waving at you from a window or near a cash register on a visit to an Asian market or restaurant? It looks like you’ve spotted a Maneki Neko, better known as a lucky cat. Considered a charm of good fortune in Japanese culture, this cheeky cat is a popular piece of decor attracting good luck and fortune to businesses and homes alike.

Translating to “beckoning cat,” Maneki Neko first appeared during the Edo period in Japan, spanning from the 17th century to mid-19th century. Considered a symbol of wealth, cats were a favored pet among those in high society during this period. It was common to see cats dressed up or out for a walk on a leash with their owners in an attempt to gain admiration from others.

Depicted with either a left paw, right paw, or both paws raised, there is a Maneki Neko for every flavor of prosperity. Traditionally, a left paw raised is meant to attract customers and profit, commonly seen in a storefront or restaurant near the cash register. A right paw invites good fortune and prosperity of all sorts, which makes it an ideal home decoration. If you are looking to cover all your bases, two paws up represent both good fortune and business success.

Just as the Maneki Neko has significant body language, it also comes in a variety of colors, each with their own meaning. Here’s a breakdown of the common colors to help when choosing your own lucky cat:

Calico: Luck, wealth, and prosperity.
White: Happiness, purity, and positive things to come.
Gold: Wealth and prosperity.
Black: Wards off evil spirits.
Red: Protects against evil and illness.
Pink: Love, relationships, and romance.
Green: Good health and academic success.

As cats were commonly dressed in the Edo period with a bib, collar, and bell, these adornments are now part of the traditional Maneki Neko. Additional charms may be present on the feline statue for an extra dose of prosperity and fortune. Often seen holding a Japanese coin or a small hammer, these objects represent wealth. Alternatively, cats holding fish or gemstones are interpreted as symbols of good luck and wisdom.

While there are a few famous legends behind the history of the cat, no one is quite sure how Maneki Neko came to be. In one beloved telling of the story, a wealthy man took shelter from a rainstorm under a tree next to a temple. He noticed a cat that seemed to be beckoning him from the temple steps. He followed the cat inside the temple, and shortly after lightening struck the tree he had been standing under. Feeling as though the cat had saved his life, the man became a benefactor of the temple and provided a great deal of financial support. When the man passed away, a statue of the cat was built in his honor at the temple.

You can’t go wrong with a Maneki Neko by your side in the home or at the office. With a variety of colors and designs, there is a symbolic cat for every personal wish. While a Maneki Neko can add a bit of pizzazz, we know how much love and good fortune a real furry friend adds to your life as well! Share photos of your real life lucky cat with us using #drelseys for a chance to be featured on our social channels!