Is this pet kitty in Japan a real-life nekomata mythical cat monster?

Japan has a number of interesting folklore traditions, but the “nekomata,” a two-tailed monster cat that hates humans, is one of the more sinister. They are said to be born from ordinary house cats who grow old and wise, and when they transform they attain supernatural powers and the ability to walk on their hind legs and talk. But it’s not all fun and games; they also, according to legend, are known to call down fireballs of doom and destruction, and even have necromantic powers.

In this drawing by Meiji-era artist Kyosai Kawanabe, a nekomata (the white, two-tailed cat on the right hand side) is dancing with a tanuki (Japan’s raccoon-like creature) and a fox, as if in a show of power. Its creepy, expressive cat-eyes leave us in no doubt that it is a demon cat.

Thankfully, nekomata don’t exist in real life…or do they? This Twitter picture, uploaded by Muddy Cat (@muddycat_atami), a bar in the coastal hot spring town of Atami, seems to indicate that there may be nekomata among us, waiting to enslave their human masters and make them do their bidding.

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In the photo, the cat, whose name is Baito, poses almost exactly like Kawanabe’s nekomata, with its body contorted as it stands on its hind legs. Its arms seem ready to reach out, and its eyes…one can’t deny there’s a sort of menace in them. Could it be in the process of a summoning dance to bring down a fireball and destroy its laser pointer-wielding human?

But no….this cat has only one tail, and it’s a short one at that. Legend says that cats with really long tails are more likely to become nekomata, but still…Baito does look like it fits in well with the sketch!

The likeness is so uncanny that Muddy Cat’s post quickly went viral, with almost 40,000 retweets and more than 100,000 likes. Japanese netizen responses, however, were unperturbed by the sinister likeness, and instead were unanimous in their appreciation for the feline’s exquisite form:

“The facial markings alone are really strange!”
“It looks like it’s posing like in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.”
“What a miracle shot!”
“Such wonderful form.”
“Drunken fist martial arts?!”
“Didn’t this cat appear in the Broadway version of the musical Cats?”

It seems like Japanese netizens, overall, weren’t really concerned about Baito’s likeness to a nekomata, so it appears that we’re in the clear for now. After all, there are plenty of cats on the Internet showing off their dancing and kung-fu skills, so maybe it was just that Baito’s owner took a well-timed photo of the kitty trying to catch a feathered cat toy?

One can only hope.

Source: Twitter/muddycat_atami via Japaaaan
Featured Imaged: Twitter/muddycat_atami
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