This name literally means “beckoning cat” in Japanese, and is believed to bring good luck to the owner. These lucky charms are also called Fortune cats, lucky cats, money cats or welcoming cats. All have a characteristic raised paw, literally waving good fortune to you. There are a couple of origin stories for the Lucky Cat. The first tells of a wealthy man who took shelter from a rainstorm under a tree next to a temple. He noticed a cat that seemed to be beckoning to him, so he followed it inside the temple. Shortly after, lightning struck the tree he had been standing under. Because the cat had saved his life, the man was so grateful that he became a benefactor of the temple and brought it much prosperity. When he passed away, a statue of the cat was made in its honor.
Another legend tells of a geisha who had a pet cat. One day, it was tugging at her kimono and the owner of the brothel thought the cat was possessed. He sliced off its head with a sword. The flying cat head landed on a snake that was about to strike, killing the snake and saving the woman. The geisha was so upset by the loss of her cat that one of her customers made a statue of it to cheer her up. Fortune cats come in many colors, but the calico is the most traditional combination and is considered the luckiest.