Source for inspiration: Maneki Neko: The Secrets of Japan’s Lucky Cat | Japanista (Site is gone now). Below is information from the original post on the site. If I work on another cat this would be great to know!
The name ‘mankei neko’ can be attributed to the cat’s welcoming paw, as the literal translation is ‘beckoning cat.’ In English, these are also commonly referred to as ‘lucky cats’ due to their use as a kind of talisman, or lucky charm. If you look closely at various maneki neko, you’ll notice certain items that are frequently held or worn by the cats. Neck decorations: You’ll rarely see a lucky cat with an unadorned neck. Collars, decorative bibs, and bells are all common neck ornaments for maneki neko. Like today, the real pet cats of the Edo Period wore collars with bells to allow their whereabouts to be easily tracked. As for the bibs, it has been speculated that they are related to those worn by Buddhist jizo statues. Coins: Maneki neko often hold a koban, a gold coin that was used in the Edo Period. A koban was worth one ryo (roughly $1,000 USD by today’s standards), Japan’s monetary unit of the era. You may even see a cat holding a coin marked ‘千万両’ which is ten million ryo, an incredible amount of money, especially for that time period! A carp (koi), or other fish: This is thought to be a symbol of fortune and abundance. Mallet of Fortune: The uchide no kozuchi, is a legendary magic hammer that can be seen in folklore such as Momotaro and The Tale of Heike. It is said to be the possession of Daikokuten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology, more specifically, a god of wealth. Money Bag: You can probably already guess that this symbolizes luck with wealth. Marble or Gemstone: One of these in the paws of a lucky cat symbolizes wisdom, as well as wealth. Fan or Drum: Both of these objects represent luck with business. The drum specifically, is a symbol of a shop that is overflowing with customers. Hollowed Gourds (hyotan): These were as containers for sake and over beverages, often used by another of the Seven Lucky Gods, Fukurokuju, the god of wisdom and longevity. It is believed to ward off evil and bring good luck. You can tell a lot about a maneki neko by examining its raised paw. Generally speaking, the the lucky cat gestures are as follows: Right paw raised: Brings wealth and good luck Left paw raised: Attracts customers to a place of business Both paws raised: Provides protection The higher the paw is raised, the more luck the cat is said to invite! While most often seen in the original Calico form, maneki neko are also available in a rainbow of different colors. As with gesture and ornamental variations, these too are symbolic, with each color associated with a different form of luck. White: Positivity and purity Black: Protection against evil Gold: Wealth and prosperity Red: Marriage, love, and other personal matters Green: Education and health Blue: Intelligence, wisdom, and success Pink: Love and romance Yellow: Stability, health, and relationships Based upon all of the aforementioned variations, you can choose the lucky cat that is best for you!]]>