The 'beckoning cat' is a common Japanese figurine (lucky charm, talisman) which is believed to bring good luck to the owner. It is also called the 'Chinese lucky cat' and is popular among Chinese merchants. The Maneki-neko is also the subject of a number of folk tales.
I had fun researching this challenge Ngaire - thank you. I will look at these little cats in restaurants and shops with a different eye now!