There are a couple of reasons why the Japanese like cats. The cats are very tied to the Buddhist religion. There is a cat called “maneki neko,” lucky cat, and the cats guard Buddhist temples.
The Japanese like cats because of a famous Buddhist story. There was a big rain storm one day. There was a Buddhist monk standing under a big tree trying to stay dry. There was a cat across the way by the Buddhist monastery. The cat seemed to be beckoning for the Buddhist monk to come to where he was. In Japan, if you beckon for someone to come, you put your palm down to motion for the person to come. It really looked to the monk that the cat was doing it, and he was astonished! He thought it was an extremely interesting cat, and he left from under that tree and went ahead out in the rain letting himself get wet to check that cat out. As soon as he left the shelter of the tree, lightening hit the tree! The tree split, and it fell right where the monk had been standing. If the monk had still been there, the monk would have been killed! This made the monk love that cat!! The cat got a lot of special attention after that, as do other cats because of that particular cat.
The Japanese call special cats “maneki neko) which means “lucky cat.” Many business owners have an image of a cat, a maneki neko, sitting in their business or at the door of their business with their paw facing down as if they are beckoning for someone to come, and they call these cats “maneki neko.” The cat images are supposed to bring good luck to the business like bring in more customers and more money. This story is supposed to have actually happened in China, but as they usually do, the Japanese took another country’s story and made it their own.
Another reason they like cats are because cats are the guardians of the Buddhist temples. Siamese cats are called Siamese cats because their ancestors were guardians of Buddhist temples in old Siam, old Thailand. I have heard that when they were the guardians of the Buddhist temples, they were huge, more the size of a lion or tiger. Now a days, all the Buddhist temples have stone or golden guardians, and they are lions.