50 Cat Idioms and Phrases

Updated on January 19, 2020
Ben Reed profile image

Ben has held a life-long interest in language and has a particular interest in the expressions, phrases and idioms that contribute to it.

Sitting Comfortably? Shall We Begin?

Before beginning to peruse these Cat Idioms and Phrases make sure you are sitting comfortably.
Before beginning to peruse these Cat Idioms and Phrases make sure you are sitting comfortably. | Source

Fifty Cat Related Idioms and Phrases

We use idioms every day, often without even realizing it. They create an evocative image that helps us to describe a situation that we are discussing. Yet, as with all idiomatic expressions, you can’t necessarily understand the phrase purely from the words used. This article focuses on fifty Cat related idioms. I hope that you will find them interesting as well as fun.

Feline Idioms 1 to 5

1. A Cat Nap

Meaning: To sleep or doze for a short time.

2. A cat burglar

Definition: refers to a burglar who uses stealth and agility to break into buildings. First recorded use of this idiomatic expression was between 1905 - 1910

3. A cat in gloves catches no mice

Meaning: that if you are too polite or careful, you might not achieve what you want.

4. A cat may look at a king

Sense: that a person of low social standing still has rights. That minimal human rights apply.

5. All cats are grey at night

A way of saying that in the dark, physical attributes are unimportant. Believed to have been first used by Benjamin Franklin.

Cat Idioms numbers 6 to 10

There are so many idioms that include a reference to cats, probably more than any other animal. Perhaps it is because a cat can portray many facets of their character.

6. A copy cat

An idiom that refers to a person who copies or imitates the actions of another.

7. A scaredy-cat

Said about someone who is very scared or easily frightened.

8. As conceited as a barbers cat

Meaning: someone who has a high opinion of themselves or their importance.

9. As nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Meaning: that a person is very nervous or jumpy. Believed to refer to the idea that cats are worried about having their tails trapped under a rocking chair.

10. Busier than a one-eyed cat watching two mouse holes.

Meaning: that a person is extremely busy – almost frantic

As Nervous as a Cat in a room full of rocking chairs - idiom
As Nervous as a Cat in a room full of rocking chairs - idiom | Source

More Cat Idioms 11 to 15

11. Busier than a three-legged cat in a dry sandbox

Meaning: hectic to the point of being frantic

12. Cool cat.

A phrase used to describe a fashionable person. Also used when talking about someone who is very calm or slow to anger.

13. Cat’s cradle.

This expression refers to something overly complicated. Likened to the children’s game “cat’s cradle.” A game played with a string wound around the fingers to create intricate patterns.

14. Cat’s Meow

Something outstanding or excellent.

15. Curiosity Killed The Cat

Meaning: That you should take care to look into something too profoundly. You might find something that disturbs you. You should not be curious; you may find something that you don’t want to know.

The Cats Meow - Outstanding!

Cats Meow Idiom
Cats Meow Idiom | Source

Funny and Crazy Cats Video

Cat Expressions Numbers 16 to 20

16. Dead Cat Bounce.

A phrase often used in the financial markets. This statement is referring to an automatic recovery of the financial market.

17. Dog My Cats.

An expression of astonishment.

18. Enough to make a cat laugh

Meaning: that something is very, very funny.

19. Fat Cat

A derogatory term used to describe someone who has acted dishonorably, or in a questionable way to achieve wealth.

20. Fight like cats and dogs

To be continually fighting or arguing with someone.

Fight Like Cat and Dog - Idiom
Fight Like Cat and Dog - Idiom

Feline Idioms and Phrases 21 to 25

21. Grin like a Cheshire cat

To smile broadly, in a very self-satisfied way.

22. Has the cat got your tongue?

Used when referring to someone who has very little to say for themselves. The origins of this idiomatic saying are unclear. Possibly originated from stories of witches whose cat would steal the tongue of their victims to prevent them from telling others.

23. Hellcat

A fiery, ill-tempered person.

24. High as the hair on a cat’s back

Meaning: To describe something very expensive or valuable.

25. Keep no more cats than will catch mice

Meaning: A way of saying that you should be efficient.

Keep No More Cats than can Catch Mice - Idiom
Keep No More Cats than can Catch Mice - Idiom

Idiomatic Expressions Involving Cats 26 to 30

26. Let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: That you have said something that you didn’t intend to say. That a person has revealed a secret.

27. Like a cat on a hot tin roof

A way of saying that a person is agitated or extremely nervous and fidgety.

28. Like herding cats

Refers to someone trying to manage multiple tasks at the same time. Can be used to describe a person attempting to manage a large team of individuals who are all being uncooperative.

29. Look like the cat that got the cream

That you, or another person, are very pleased with yourself and what you have accomplished.

30. Look like the cat that swallowed the canary

Meaning: to be extremely self-satisfied or smug. Often used to describe someone who is concealing some mischievous act.

Let The Cat Out Of The Bag - Idiom
Let The Cat Out Of The Bag - Idiom

Cat Idioms numbers 31 to 35

31. Look what the cat dragged in

A phrase often used in a slightly derogatory or playful way. Can be used to say that a person is a little scruffy or not properly dressed for the occasion.

32. Morals of an alley cat

Refers to a person of loose morals. References the actions of a stray cat that hangs around the streets and alleyways of a town or city.

33. Not have a cat in hell’s chance

Meaning: to have absolutely no prospect of doing something. To have no chance at all.

34. No room to swing a cat

Meaning: a tight or confined space.

35. Play cat and mouse

Meaning: to toy with or amuse oneself with something.

Cat and Mouse - Idiom
Cat and Mouse - Idiom

Cat Idioms Video

Cat Idioms and Puns

36. Pussyfooting around

A way of describing someone who avoiding a decision or avoiding saying what they mean.

37. The cat’s pyjamas

Refers to a person who is the best at what they do.

38. There is more than one way to skin a cat

Meaning: that there are many alternative ways of achieving something.

39. To Bell a cat

Refers to an impossible task. Believed to originate from the fable of a mouse who has the idea of hanging a bell around a cat’s neck to warn them of its approach.

40. To have kittens

Meaning: To be very upset or worried about something. A dramatic way of describing how frightened or upset you have been.

Alley Cat - Idiom
Alley Cat - Idiom

Feline Idioms 41 to 45

41. To make a cat laugh

Meaning: to say that something is ironic or very funny.

42. To put a cat among the pigeons

Meaning: a way of saying that someone has created an upset or a disturbance.

43. To rain cats and dogs

Refers to the fact that it is raining very heavily. A very old idiom that whose origins are lost.

44. To turn the cat in the pan

Meaning: To reverse to an outcome or situation. Also used to refer to someone who has turned traitor.

45. She’s the cat’s mother

Meaning: often used to rebuke someone. Most often used when a mother is called “she” in a conversation. Sometimes seen as being a disrespectful way of being addressed, giving rise to a response of “whose SHE, the cats mother”.

Walk Like A Cat On Eggs - Idiom
Walk Like A Cat On Eggs - Idiom

Yet More Cat Idioms 46 to 50

46. See which way the cat jumps

A way of saying that you should wait until you see how things develop or progress before committing yourself to a course of action.

47. Walk like a cat on eggs

Meaning: to take great care and consideration over something.

48. Wanton kittens make sober cats

Refers to people who in their younger days may act wildly or without restraint, often learn to their cost that this behaviour is inappropriate in later life.

49. Weak as a kitten

A way describing someone who is fragile or feeble.

50. While the cats away the mice will play

Meaning: That people left unsupervised will do / act as they please. That they will take advantage of the situation.

Questions & Answers

  • I have heard someone comparing a situation to something like a cat being sick on the carpet, what does this mean?

    It is common, as any cat owner will confirm, for cats to be sick or produce hairballs. In the home, these incidents often occur on the carpet. This can be very messy and will require cleaning. I believe the expression you have heard is a way of saying that something is unpleasant and messy.

  • What does the phrase "singed cat" mean?

    This expression is is used to say that something or someone is better or smarter than they first appear or look. In other words, a person is perhaps not doing themselves any favours by their appearance. This phrase can also be used in the context of describing a person who may choose to appear worse than they actually are. An example of this being from the book "Letters from the South" published in the in 1817 by James Kirk Paulding: "He is like a singed cat, and very often takes as much pains to appear worse than he is, as some people among us do to appear better."

  • What is meant by the expression: "live as a cat"?

    This expression can have has many facets to it as the cat has traits and characteristics. Generally, the expression is used to describe a situation where you are in charge of your own destiny, free to roam, perhaps be somewhat pampered, but probably more importantly, to be a free spirit.

  • What does the expression, "Which way grey-eyed cat would jump mean"?

    An interesting expression. I have never heard this phrase expressed in quite this way. I am familiar with the expression "to see which way the cat jumps" which means to wait and see what happens or transpires. I suspect that your expression is a variation on this theme.


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    • JC Scull profile image

      JC Scull 

      7 months ago from Gainesville, Florida


    • profile image


      8 months ago

      The cat photos are a nice touch. Very cute. (Find grumpy cat. Hint: alley cat.) :)

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      19 months ago from Redcar

      I've never heard that particular song. I have heard this expression used to conjure up an image of a cat furiously digging away at the surface of the ice for a prolonged period of time in an act of futile perseverance.

    • profile image

      D Thomas 

      19 months ago

      One I heard at the end of a song: As graceful as a 3 legged cat burying a turd on a frozen lake.

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      oof the cat

    • profile image

      Rajesh Mudi 

      23 months ago

      To see the cat

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      2 years ago from Redcar

      Thank you for your comment. Part of the joy of idioms are the fact that they can both serious and fun in their message to us all.

    • profile image

      Oluchi ogbonna. 

      2 years ago

      I love this idiomatic expression

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      It 8s fun

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      2 years ago from Redcar

      A very apt observation and comment on people's relationship with cats. Thank you for your comment Patricia.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      And what about ...

      "we are cat-sitting for a week. Then some friends arrive"

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      2 years ago from Redcar

      Thanks Jerry, I hope my list helps sum some small way. Good luck with your book.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      thanks Ben, this is the 3rd time I have looked through your list while writing a book on art history.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      2 years ago from Redcar

      Thank you. It seems that cats have a greater impact on people and our language than we might first imagine.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      2 years ago from Redcar

      Thank you Kari. I was suprised at the number of these idioms too.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      That's wonderful, Ben! I never realized just how many idioms about cats there are. :O

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      2 years ago from Redcar

      Thank you. I think that there is such much fun to be had from language and the way we speak.

    • mactavers profile image


      2 years ago

      Loved the photos and sayings. Fun Hub!


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