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What Do Japanese Lucky Cats Mean?

Typical Meanings of the Japanese Lucky Cat

Giving a special friend or family member a Japanese lucky cat (maneki neko) is a great way to wish them luck and show them how much you care. With different cats to symbolise the different kinds of luck that you might wish to bestow, they make truly thoughtful, personal gifts. But what do Japanese lucky cats mean? And how do you know which one to choose? This 5 minute guide will explain the meanings of the Japanese lucky cat and help you decide on the right one.

maneki neko

What Do Japanese Lucky Cats Mean?

Each lucky cat has a different meaning, and these do vary slightly from region to region. However, this summary covers all the most commonly accepted meanings of the Japanese lucky cat.

What a Japanese lucky cat means can partly be ascertained by its pose. If the recipient has just started up a new business or wishes to expand, you could choose one with a raised left paw, which is said to bring custom, or a raised left paw, to invite prosperity. If both paws are raised this is believed to protect a home or business, while a coin held in one hand symbolises wealth and abundance. Finally, a bib and bell around the neck tend to denote protection and/or wealth.

lucky cat fortuneOther meanings of the Japanese lucky cat can be derived from its colour:

  • White brings happiness
  • Black protects against evil
  • Green brings educational success
  • Red protects against evil and illness
  • Gold brings wealth and prosperity
  • Pink brings love and romance

Additionally, lucky cats tend to be inscribed with kanji characters (those derived from Chinese), lending further weight to their various meanings. For example, the characters on these white lucky cats (pictured right) mean ‘to bring happiness’, while these black ones bear characters meaning ‘to bring good health’.

If your recipient isn’t a cat person, you could choose a different kind of lucky animal such as an owl (fukuro – to minimise trouble) or a frog (kaeru – literally to return; i.e. ‘to return money to you’). In addition, Daruma dolls are said to encourage perseverance and bring good luck, while Buddha dolls, as you might expect, attract love and happiness.

what do Japanese lucky cats meanSo whatever sentiment you wish to pass on, there’s a Japanese lucky cat or doll that expresses it perfectly. And while this post has briefly answered the question, ‘what do Japanese lucky cats mean?’, there are other resources you could try if you’re interested in their origins, history, regional variations and so on. For example, our latest blog post answers what’s so lucky about lucky cats? while this blog contains a whole bank of posts about lucky cats in popular culture.

You can also head over to our website, where the meanings of each Japanese lucky cat are given within the product descriptions. They’re available to order for delivery, and we offer a FREE gift wrapping service so all you need to do is present your gift and watch your friend’s face light up.

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