Learn How to Say Cat in Japanese – the Ultimate Guide

cat in japanese

Cat in Japanese culture has a very special place, and as an animal lover, it’s essential to know how to say cat in Japanese. The basic word for cat in Japanese is neko (猫 / ねこ), but there are many other ways to describe cats depending on their type and features. In this guide, we’ll explore the different words for cats in Japanese, including the sounds they make, and the cultural significance of cats in Japan.

How to Say Cat in Japanese

The most common Japanese word for cat is “neko” which is spelled in kanji as and hiragana as ねこ. However, this kanji can be combined with a few others to create different words for different types of cats. In this section, we’ll explore the various ways to say cat in Japanese, including different types of cats such as black cats, white cats, and tuxedo cats.

cat in japanese

Understanding the Sounds of Cat in Japanese

Cats are known for their distinctive meows, but did you know that in Japan, cats have their own unique sounds? In Japanese, the sound a cat makes is “nya” (にゃー / ニャー) or “nyan” (にゃん / ニャン). This sound is often used in anime and manga to represent a cat’s speech or actions. Additionally, when cats purr, it is described as “gorogoro” (ゴロゴロ). However, if a cat is angry or upset, it will make a hissing sound, “shaa” (シャア).

Different Ways to Say All Kinds of Cat in Japanese

Just like in English, Japanese also has words for different types of cats based on their features and colors. One example is the black cat, known as “kuro neko” (黒猫 / くろねこ) in Japan. Unlike in Western cultures, black cats are considered to bring good luck in Japan. Another example is the “shiro neko” (白猫 / しろねこ), or white cat, which is often associated with the popular lucky cat figurine, “maneki neko.” The tuxedo cat, known as “hachiware neko” (ハチワレ猫 / はちわれねこ) in Japanese, is also a popular type of cat.

nglishJapanese (Hiragana)Japanese (Kanji)
Black Catkuro neko黒猫
White Catshiro neko白猫
Tuxedo Cathachiware nekoハチワレ猫
Calico Catmike neko三毛猫
Tabby Cattora nekoトラ猫
Grey Catsabi neko錆び猫
Spotted Catbuchi nekoブチ猫

Expressions Including Cat in Japanese

Japanese culture is full of idioms and expressions that include cats. Here are a few that you might come across in your studies or travels:

  • Neko jita (猫舌): Literal translation is “cat tongue,” but it’s used to describe someone who is picky about food or drinks.
  • Neko ni koban (猫に小判): Literal translation is “gold coin to a cat,” but it’s used to describe something that is pointless or a waste of time.
  • Neko no te mo karitai (猫の手も借りたい): Literal translation is “I’d even borrow a cat’s paw,” but it’s used to describe someone who is desperate for help.
  • Nezumi toru neko wa tsume wo kakusu (鼠取る猫は爪を隠す): Literal translation is “a cat catching mice hides its claws,” but it’s used to describe someone who is hiding their true intentions.

The Cultural Significance of Cats in Japanese Society

Cats have played an important role in Japanese culture for centuries. They have been revered as symbols of good luck and prosperity, and have played a role in many legends and folktales.

In the past, cats were also thought to have spiritual powers and were believed to be able to ward off evil spirits. This is why you will often see statues of cats with one paw raised, which is known as the maneki-neko or “beckoning cat,” in shops and restaurants throughout Japan.

Today, cats continue to be a beloved part of Japanese culture. From the iconic Hello Kitty to the countless cat cafes and cat-themed souvenirs, it’s clear that Japan’s love for cats is still going strong.


What do Japanese call cats?

The word for cat in Japanese is “neko” (猫/ねこ).

How to write “cat” in Kanji?

The kanji character in Japanese for cat is 猫.

Meow-ing Your Way to a Better Understanding of Japanese

Whether you’re a cat lover or just fascinated by Japan’s feline culture, there’s no denying that cats play an important role in Japanese society. From the auspicious maneki-neko to the beloved Hello Kitty, cats are an integral part of Japan’s culture and history.

If you’re looking to learn more about Japanese and Japan, studying the country’s cat-related expressions and idioms is a great place to start, or you’re actually a dog person, then we got you covered here to learn about how to say dog in Japanese.

Don’t forget, if you want to improve your Japanese skills and have a better understanding of Japanese culture, you can always sign up for AmazingTalker’s online tutoring platform for personalized Japanese lessons. Also, unlock your language potential with AmazingTalker’s Language Q & A Platform now!

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