Years ago I purchased him in a Chinese shop in Leiden. My lucky cat. At the time I wasn’t aware of the story behind it, but I was always fascinated by the kitschy gold statues with their beckoning paws on the counters of Asian shops and restaurants. The only thing I knew was that the cat brought good luck to the owner.

Al that time my cat spent sitting on top of my kitchen cabinets, staring out of the window. When I recently created my new work space at home, I thought it would be nice to have him on my desk. Apart from enjoying his company I could definitely use some good luck myself now I just started my own business!


What’s the story behind these lucky cats? I really needed to find out, and luckily there is a wealth of information to be found! It turns out that the cat originally is Japanese, not Chinese. It’s name is ‘Maneki-Neko” which translates as Beckoning Cat. The first descriptions of the cat date back to 1852(!). The cat is also visible on a painting of a temple in Tokyo from the same year.

The story goes that this symbol of good luck originates from the 17th century. A poor monk lived in a small temple in Tokyo. Although he is very poor, he shares the little food he has with his cat Tama. One day, a storm suddenly appears. A lord, traveling through the area, seeks refuge under a tree near the temple. Then he sees Tama, who seems to beckon him with his little paw. The lord becomes curious and walks towards Tama to see the strange cat up close. At that moment, lightning hits the tree under which the lord had been standing only moments before. The lord is so grateful that the cat saved his life, that he becomes the patron of the temple. He pays for repairs and renames the temple Gotoku. When Tama dies, a statue for the cat is erected in the temple.


Presently Maneki-Neko is know around the world, and you can find the cats in many shapes and sizes. In black (protects against evil) or red (bad health), green (helps with studying), pink (luck in love), white (purity) or gold (wealth). Some cats hold an ancient coin (Koban, symbolises wealth), a fish (talent), turtle (peace) or gem (wealth).

Some of the statues have paws that can’t move, others have beckoning paws, either left, right or both. That also has significance: if the cat has two beckoning paws they protect your house and business. If the right paw beckons it brings good luck and if the left paw beckons it will bring in many customers. Bringing in many customers is what I want to achieve for my customers, so it can’t be a coincidence that my own Maneki-Neko beckons with its left paw!