Maneki Neko- The Japanese Beckoning Cat

Group of Maneki Neko displayed in shop – lucky cat, common Japanese lucky charm, talisman which is often believed to bring good luck to the owner, What is the Maneki Neko Cat?Every time you stop by your favorite Chinese takeout place, you high-five the waving cat figurine on the counter. The Maneki Neko Cat is a common sight in Chinese and Japanese businesses and can take many forms. For those of us unfamiliar with this symbol, this may leave us wondering, what exactly is a Maneki Neko Cat? We have delved into this subject and have turned up everything that you want to know about this cute countertop companion!

A Maneki Neko cat is a figure of a cat, sitting back on its haunches with one or both paws raised in a wave. They can be several colors, depending on the desire of the owner, but they are usually a calico Japanese bobtail, which is thought to bring good luck to the business and its owner.

They are typically displayed on a counter or in the windows of shops, and restaurants, but are also thought to bring life successes when placed in a bedroom or study. It is usually believed to be Chinese in origin, but it is derived from a Japanese legend. 

There is much to know about the Maneki Neko cat, from its origins to the meaning behind the colors in which it can be found. Keep reading for all of the details!

What is a Maneki Neko Cat?

This adorable cat figure is a talisman that is thought to bring good fortune, success to a business, and even protect the home, depending on its color and stance. For example, if it has it’ right paw raised, it is thought to bring in wealth and luck in the home or business, while if it’s left paw is raised, it is believed to bring success to one’s business by waving customers. Some may even have both paws raised. Some may be found holding a gold coin called a koban, which symbolizing the building of wealth and good luck.

Maneki Neko cats are often referred to as ‘the beckoning cat,’ ‘Chinese lucky cat,’ and ‘the waving cat.’

The Colors of the Maneki Neko

The Maneki Neko cat can be found in a variety of colors. Each color represents a different attribute.

Calico – An all-white cat with orange, black, and brown spots, or Calico, is the most common and traditional form this cat takes. It represents luck and good fortune.

Gold – More frequently seen in businesses, gold cats stand for financial fortune.

White – A white cat represents happiness and purity, making it a perfect fixture for an entryway in one’s home.

Black – Opposite to American tradition, black cats are used to protect against evil spirits.

Blue and Green – Cats in these two colors might be found in a school, as they are thought to promote educational luck.

Pink – A pink cat stands for love and romance and would be a talisman for those seeking their significant other.

Origin of the Maneki Neko Cat

Japanese lucky cat (Maneki Neko) in closeup

There are many theories and folk tales of how the Maneki Neko cat came into being, all with a common theme of a cat that brought good fortune to its owner.

The most common legend originates from the 17th century, during the Edo period in Japan. In this legend, a poor monk took in a stray cat despite having very little himself. He lived in a small temple in Toyko, and one day, as the Lord Nagasota II was hunting nearby, a great storm blew up. As he huddled under a tree for shelter, in the distance, he saw a white cat beckon to him from the temple. As he moved towards the temple, a bolt of lightning struck and destroyed the tree that he had been huddled under.

He was so grateful that he became a patron of the temple, which was renamed Gotoku temple in 1697. The cat was buried in a special graveyard, and a statue erected in the temple in its honor.

Modern Versions of the Maneki Neko Cat

Easily the most visible example of a Manaki Neko cat is the character Meowth, from the Pokemon franchise. Meowth is a Calico Cat-type creature who’s power is shooting gold coins from its forehead.

Modern style Makeni Neko cats are available in a variety of forms. There are minimalist carvings, anime-style plastic collectibles, key chains, and jewelry, among many other incarnations.

What Does it Say on the Maneki Neko’s Coin?

A koban is an oval gold coin from the Japanese Edo period. The lettering on the coin is also from that time period, and it says, “sen man you,” which means “ten million gold coins.” Some Maneki Neko cats can be found with one or more coins showing any one or more of the following blessings: health, long-life, good luck, good fortune from now on, happiness, or wealth.

Where Should You Place the Maneki Neko Statue in Your Home?

Lucky Cat in blurred background.

In the practice of Feng Shui, it is believed that the Maneki Neko cat should be placed in the wealth area, which is the southeast corner of the home.

Which Way Should the Lucky Cat Face?

The Lucky Cat should be placed facing southeast, and as close to the southeast corner of the home as possible.

Find the Perfect Maneki Neko Cat For You Home

Maneki Neko Cats are very popular items and can be found in a variety of forms. Check out the following to get inspiration to bring your own “Lucky Cat” into your life!

Maneki Neko (Lucky Cat) Statues

1. Golden Beckoning Cat Figurine

This gold cat is has a battery-powered arm to ‘beckon’ good fortune and wealth to you! The waving arm is believed to bring even more wealth to its owner than ones with fixed arms. It is very lightweight and sits about four and a half inches tall so that it can sit almost anywhere!

2. Happy chubby Maneki Neko figurine

A proper porcelain Maneki Neko bank is the perfect place to put your pennies! At four inches tall, this cute kitty will bring help to grow your fortune. It is crafted from white ceramic and rests on a bright red pillow. You can choose from four different versions, or purchase the entire set.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

3. The black version

Ward away evil spirits and bad luck with a quirky black Maneki Neko cat. It is made of black resin, with red and gold accents. It stands about four inches tall.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

4. Adorable classic Maneki Neko – anime style

Looking for something that would be right at home in your favorite anime? This classic calico bobtail “Lucky Cat,” stands four inches tall and is made of durable resin.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

5. The entire collection

Not satisfied with just one Maneki Neko cat? How about six? This collection of miniature cats in a variety of colors will cover all your good fortune needs. Each one stands only 1 and 1/2 inches tall.

Click here to see these on Amazon.

Maneki Neko Shirts

1. Cool black beckoning cat shirt

This ringspun cotton-poly blend t-shirt has a sleeker fit than traditional boxy t-shirts. It is unisex and is super soft.

Click here to see on Amazon.

2. Stylish monochromatic design

Show off your lucky kitty superpowers with this amazing Japenese style t-shirt. It is available in five different colors, and all solid color shirts are made from 100% cotton.

Click here to see on Amazon.

3. Fun lucky kitty shirt

Add a little luck to your life with this 100% cotton raglan sleeve Tshirt featuring an adorable Lucky Cat. This shirt is available in seven different color sleeves, and two versions have heather gray torsos.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

Other Maneki Neko Items

1. Unique Maneki Neko earrings

Take your luck with you with these tiny Maneki Neko earrings. Happy smiling kitties made from handpainted ceramic dangle from gold hook earrings.

2. Your lucky notebook

Draft a manga, scribble down your dreams, or just use this charming journal for everyday notes. A lucky inspiration might be all that you need to make all your desire to come to fruition! This hardcover notebook is covered in moleskin for a luxurious look and feel!

3. Enjoy a hot beverage

There is nothing like a nice cup of tea to bring warmth to a cold day, and what would better to drink it out of than a delightful Maneki Neko cat cup? This authentic cup is made in Japan and is slightly smaller than traditional coffee mugs.
Group of Maneki Neko displayed in shop – lucky cat, common Japanese lucky charm, talisman which is often believed to bring good luck to the owner, What is the Maneki Neko Cat?

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5 comments on “Maneki Neko- The Japanese Beckoning Cat

Jcatbird January 9, 2020
I was just given a Maneki Neko and it opened up a short discussion about them. Thank you for posting more of the history!
kntrygrl256 January 30, 2015
I have always enjoyed the story about Maneki Neko. I want one for my  home. Thanks for the article.
lesliecat March 2, 2013
Good article. Enjoyed it. Was very informative. I just hope the Japanese don't eata cats like the Chinese do.
mepsenhart January 14, 2012
This was very informative, thanks. I've seen this statue many times and never knew the name or origin of this statue (till now.)
Anne January 6, 2012
Thank you for your comment! I'm glad you liked the article!

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