Maneki Neko Tattoo

Maneki Neko Tattoos Explained: Origins, Meanings & Symbols

Is this lucky cat beckoning to you?

Maneki Neko Tattoo

Maneki Neko

Are you a cat person? How about a lucky cat person?

If you’ve ever stepped inside a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, market or gift shop, you may have seen what people in the west often refer to as the “lucky cat.”

This lucky cat has a name, and a few cool stories behind it.

It’s no wonder Maneki Neko tattoos have become popular.

Maneki Neko is a fun choice of ink for Chinese and Japanese people, or those with strong ties to the culture who want to bring this historical kitty’s lucky paws to their life.

Who is Maneki Neko, and how would a tattoo of this cat enrich your life?

Let’s talk about the lucky cat and what makes it so lucky.

Who is Maneki Neko?

You will recognize Maneki Neko as a (usually) white cat with calico markings and one paw raised in the air.

Some lucky cat statues even have the paw on a little turning mechanism, causing the cat to beckon at you.

Maneki Neko translates to “beckoning cat.”

The gender of Maneki Neko is unknown, and has been reported as both male and female.

Maneki Neko Origin Story

As with many legendary figures, there are many people who want to claim Maneki Neko as their own.

Some people say it is a Chinese figure, others say Japanese.

Ultimately, the lucky cat is of Japanese origin but does incorporate imagery from Chinese folklore.

Maneki Neko

There are a couple of contrasting origin stories for Maneki Neko.

The two most popular stories go like this:

In the first more gruesome tale, our beloved lucky cat loses its head!

The story goes that a Geisha had a cat who she adored, but one day it would not stop clawing at her kimono.

The owner of the Okiya (a Geisha’s home, essentially) thought the cat was possessed.

Acting quickly, the owner cut off the cat’s head.

It was then that the cat’s head went flying up to a ceiling fan and dug its teeth into a snake- which had been laying in wait to attack the Geisha!

She was sad to lose her pet, and was gifted a cat statue to console her.

This is one theory for the cat’s paw being up, because it was scratching at the Geisha’s kimono to warn her about the snake.

The other story is a little more palatable.

A man was taking shelter from a storm under a tree.

He saw a cat beckoning to him from outside a nearby temple, and followed the cat inside.

Moments later, lightning struck the tree where the man stood.

The man was so grateful that he became a benefactor for the temple, which was very beneficial to them.

When the cat passed away (of natural causes this time!)

They erected a statue in its honor.

So ultimately, does Maneki Neko bring you good luck, or protect you from bad luck?

Either way, it’s a helpful little creature to have around.

What does a Maneki Neko Tattoo Symbolize?

A Maneki Neko tattoo is very customizable, because there are so many things this little cat can symbolize.

You can have fun with your artist creating something that suits you and where you are at in life.

What areas do you think you could use some luck in?

Paw Placement

If Maneki Neko has its right paw up, it will attract good fortune and money.

The left paw attracts customers.

In some cases, someone will want to attract both- so both of the cat’s paws are raised up for good measure.

Both paws raised can also be a symbol of protection.

So if you want your Maneki Neko tattoo to cover all the bases, have it raising both paws!

Eyes

If Maneki Neko’s eyes are closed, the cat will bring you good luck in the near future, so this is best for the things you need right now.

A lucky cat with open eyes suggests luck with some more longevity, but it may take longer to arrive!

Color

Though many businesses opt for a calico Maneki Neko, this cuddly creature can come in all kinds of colors, each having its own meaning.

This can be a fun way to design your Maneki Neko tattoo- though it’s difficult to choose which area of life is the most important to be lucky in!

Calico: traditional coloring, this is considered the safest and luckiest bet for your lucky cat.

Gold: wealth and prosperity.

Yellow: protects your karma, helps your wishes come true.

Red: protective of your health.

Pink: encourages healthy romantic relationships.

Purple: represents beauty, and a long life.

Green: luck in academic achievements.

White: represents pure happiness, and invites positive future happenings.

Black: this black cat is good luck, it protects you from evil spirits.

Common Themes in Maneki Neko Tattoos

In lucky cat tattoos, statues, key-chains, etc. you may see a lucky cat adorned with or surrounded by certain treasures.

Each of those pieces have their own meaning, so choose wisely!

This could be a good way to have your Maneki Neko represent more than one area where your life could use a little luck.

Maneki Neko may have a mallet, which symbolizes wealth.

This is also the case for a marble or coin.

A fish represents good fortune, while a bib with a bell on it represents protection.

What Tattoo Style Suits Maneki Neko?

Because this is not a religious figure, you don’t need to use as much reverence with the design.

Some folks like to have a Maneki Neko tattoo that looks like a traditional lucky cat statue, others make the lines smoother so it appears more like a regular house cat.

This tattoo would look great in a traditional Japanese tattoo style, but also may pop in a Neo-traditional design, because of its cute and cartoon-ish elements.

Maneki Neko Tattoo Ideas

With so many options and fun legends behind this figure, it’s understandable that Maneki Neko tattoos are so popular.

Not sure if this design is beckoning to you?

Check out our lucky cat tattoo gallery for some feline inspiration!

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