We know that a cat is able to endure, continue, or survive despite a near encounter with death or disaster because cats have nine lives (according to a common myth).

Example: - Mr. Pickles has been missing for a few days, but I wouldn't worry about him. He is a cat with nine lives.

Does my bold self-made sentence work properly and idiomatically here?


If you are going to use the idiom, I think the following would make more sense:

Mr. Pickles has been missing for a few days, but I wouldn't worry about him. He is a cat who still has all nine lives.

After all, cats are said to be able to use up one or more of their lives. (It's equally common to hear that cat's used up all of its nine lives.)

In your sentence, what you're trying to express is the sentiment that Mr. Pickles still has many lives remaining—and so is able to cope with any number of things that might happen.

  • Thank you @Jason Bassford , but could you please tel me more about the reason behind the restructing the original sentence using "still" and "all"? – A-friend Apr 19 at 15:39
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    @A-friend It's more idiomatic. Per the idiom, all cats start with nine lives. So, saying he's a cat with nine lives could be taken as saying something redundant. (As no different than he is a cat.) By adding the qualifiers, you're drawing attention explicitly to how many are left. Had it been used in the context of, for example, she's a cat with four lives, that's a cat with 1 life, and he's a cat with nine lives, then still and all wouldn't be required (or even fit, stylistically), because you would have already established each cat having a certain number of lives. – Jason Bassford Apr 19 at 15:51

It is okay. It looks a bit "forced", as if you wanted to use the "nine lives" idea, and then fit the meaning around it. It looks you wanted to use "nine lives" and then tried to write a situation to fit the phrase.

That is allowed but feels artificial.

If I was just talking naturally, I'd say something like

I wouldn't worry about Mr Pickles. He sometimes goes missing for a few days but he always comes back when he gets hungry.

That gives me a bit more information and understanding than talking about nine lives.

It is more common to talk about a cat using up its "nine lives".

They say cats have nine lives - it's fair to say little Tilly Needham may have used one of these to overcome a huge setback at only nine weeks of age. (source)

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    I think it looks a bit forced because the point of the proverb is that all cats have nine lives, so it is redundant to say that Mr Pickles has that number. – Michael Harvey Apr 19 at 6:53
  • I cannot grasp the reason why it is "forced"?@James K – A-friend Apr 19 at 15:42
  • @Michael Harvey Could you possibly let me know a little more about the reason it sounds "forced" to you? – A-friend Apr 19 at 15:45
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    Michael's point is that "a cat with nine lives" is a reduntant way of saying "a cat" (if you believe the proverb. My point is that it seems like you are trying to use a proverb, rather than communicate. Native speakers (of any language) use proverb if it helps illustrate a point, not for the sake of the proverb. I've added an fluent example of the use of the proverb. – James K Apr 19 at 16:24

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