Paws for thought

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 July, 2008, 12:00am

You may have noticed a porcelain cat with one raised paw at the cash register of local shops and restaurants. These cats are considered symbols of good fortune and are called choy mao ('wealth cat') in Cantonese. They originated in Japan, where they are known as maneki neko ('beckoning cat'), and some examples, dating back to the 18th century, are displayed in museums. However, their precise origins are unknown.

If the left paw of the cat is raised, it is believed to beckon guests or customers. When the right paw is lifted, the cat is said to bring financial prosperity. Thus, business owners may prefer to have a cat with its right paw raised while restaurants will opt for a statue with its left paw beckoning. Alternatively, you may display a pair of cats with different paws raised or one with both held aloft.

Traditionally, a lucky cat is plain white or white spotted with black and orange. However, many colours are available and each has a different function: red ones prevent illness; black wards off evil; blue cats represent academic success; pink ones stimulate romance and enhance business partnerships. Lucky cats are usually found on counters, at chest level. They should not be placed below the waist or on the floor and they should face the main entrance or a doorway.