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Maneki Neko, The Lucky Cat

The Japanese Maneki Neko cat is believed to bring fortune, good luck and prosperity.
Maya Pillai Jun 13, 2019
Maneki Neko dates back to the 17th Century, i.e. the later part of Edo period in Japan. When translated, Maneki Neko simply means 'Beckoning Cat'.

Common Monikers

Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat is also called as waving cat, lucky cat, money cat and welcoming cat.


Maneki Neko is a standing cat with one of its fore-paws raised. It looks as if it is waving at you or beckoning you.

Significance of Gestures

Depending on which paw Maneki Neko raises, the interpretation is said to be different.

A raised right paw symbolizes monetary gains and fortune, while the left paw symbolizes beckoning new and prospective customers.

Colors of Figurines

Usually, the figurines of this lucky cat are white in color. Lucky cats in shades of red, gold and black are also popular. Each color holds significance.

Significance of Colors

The red lucky cat wards off diseases such as measles and smallpox, and the black one has the ability to shoo away bad luck.

A golden Maneki-Neko is usually kept in business centers to bring monetary benefits.

Significance of What the Lucky Cat Figurines Hold

A cat holding hammer/mallet attracts wealth. If it has a fish in its paws, it signifies good fortune. Lucky cat with gemstone ushers in wealth. If its holding the Ryo, it will bring back the lost fortune.
The other objects that represent good luck and wealth are prayer tablets, ingots, diakon radishes and gourds.

Where to Place the Maneki Neko

Since it is considered as a solution or a catalyst to overcome a financial crisis, placing it in the southeast corner of your home or office - the area regarded as money/wealth corner according to Feng Shui - may bring in the expected results.

From Harbinger of Luck to Pop Culture

Maneki Neko, the talisman cat is considered as a lucky charm, and has fans across the globe. Billie Moffitt, an aficionado of Maneki Neko exhibited his selected cat figurines from his 155 cats at an exhibition held at Bellevue Arts Museum. This was organized by Mingei International Museum.
The cat figurines were either made of clay, wood, papier mache, ceramic and metal.
First major work about the Maneki Neko in any language was written by Alan Scott Pate, an Asian art expert.
Today, Maneki neko figures are a familiar sight in Japanese and Chinese restaurants across the globe.

Some Interesting Folktales

The Geisha and The Snake

A geisha once had a pet cat. One day geisha's house owner saw this cat tugging at her kimono fervently. He thought the cat was possessed, and cut the cat's head with his sword.
The head landed on a venomous snake, which was about to bite the geisha, instantly got killed and thus the geisha was saved. To pacify the distraught geisha who had lost her pet cat, one of her regular clients presented her with a statue of a cat.

A Nobleman and The Lightning

There was once a nobleman who took shelter under a tree next to temple on a stormy night. As he stood under the tree, he saw a cat inside the temple who was beckoning him. He followed the cat inside the temple.
As soon as he entered the temple, lightning struck the tree under which he had taken a shelter. He believed that the cat saved his life. To show his gratitude, he became a benefactor of the temple. It is said that when he passed away, a cat's statue was made in his honor.