Cat idioms and sayings about cats have been a part of our language. Some of them are funny, some are strange, some have interesting origins, and some have been repeated so many times. We use idioms every day, often without even realizing it. They create an evocative image that helps us describe a situation we are discussing.
Cat Idioms & Cat Sayings! Learn common cat idioms, phrases, and sayings in English with meaning and example sentences.
List of 50+ Useful Cat Idioms in English
(Like) Herding Cats
Meaning: Difficult to coordinate (said of members of a group)
Example: There are some brilliant thinkers at our office, but getting them to work together is like herding cats.
(There’s) More Than One Way to Skin A Cat
Meaning: There are multiple ways to accomplish this task.
Example: Joe’s user interface didn’t work well, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
(To Put the) Cat Among(st) the Pigeons
Meaning: Cause a disturbance or disruption, usually intentionally
Example: If we question the suspect now, it will put the cat among the pigeons, and his associates will scatter. Let’s hold off for now.
A Cat Burglar
Meaning: refers to a burglar who uses stealth and agility to break into buildings. The first recorded use of this idiomatic expression was between 1905 – 1910.
Example: ven Rose had no proof that the cat burglar was in Cannes.
A Cat Has Nine Lives
Meaning: Cats seem to get away with dangerous things
Example: The modern belief that a cat has nine lives comes from this tradition.
A Cat In Gloves Catches No Mice
Meaning: You can’t get what you need if you’re too careful.
Example: I think you’ll get that promotion if you pursue it more assertively. A cat in gloves catches no mice, after all.
A Cat May Look at a King
Meaning: that a person of low social standing still has rights. That minimal human rights apply.
Example: “A cat may look at a king,” he wrote, “and sometimes a historian can challenge an economist.
A Cat Nap
Meaning: A short sleep during the day
Example: Overcome with exhaustion, he lies down on the bed for a catnap.
A Copy Cat
Meaning: This idiom references a person who copies or imitates the actions of another.
Example: This first copy cat murder threw him for a loss.
Meaning: Someone who is excessively scared or afraid
Example: The fearless rodent proved he was no scaredy-cat as he astonishingly squared up to his large opponent and refused to budge – giving a new slant to the game of cat and mouse.
All Cats are Grey at Night
Meaning: A way of saying that in the dark, physical attributes are unimportant. Believed to have been first used by Benjamin Franklin.
Example: I really don’t care if she is ugly. All cats are gray in the dark.
As Conceited as a Barbers Cat
Meaning: someone who has a high opinion of themselves or their importance.
Example: No one in the neighborhood cares for the Smiths. They’re always as conceited as a barber’s cat whenever they’re socializing with us.
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.
Example: I was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs as I waited for them to announce the winner.
Bell the Cat
Meaning: Take on a difficult or impossible task
Example: It is difficult to get a man to bell the cat.
Busier Than a One-eyed Cat Watching Two Mouse Holes
Meaning: that a person is extremely busy – almost frantic.
Busier Than a Three-legged Cat in a Dry Sandbox
Meaning: hectic to the point of being frantic
Can’t Swing A Dead Cat In (Place) Without Hitting A (Thing)
Meaning: There are many examples of [thing] in this [place]
Example: You can’t swing a dead cat in Massachusetts without hitting a good pizzeria.
Note: Fling a dead cat is also used.
Meaning: A fight between two women
Example: It was a wild night at the bar last night. A lot of people got drunk, and they were thrown out when they started arguing and a cat fight broke out.
Cat Got Your Tongue?
Meaning: Don’t you have anything to say?
Example: What’s happened to all your brains, Frankie boy? Cat got your tongue?
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
Meaning: Be extremely nervous
Example: Her many outstanding cinematic performances, including the role of Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, above, made her a certifiable American icon.
Meaning: This expression refers to something overly complicated. Likened to the children’s game “cat’s cradle.”
Example: The searchlights wove a cat’s cradle of light.
Meaning: Something outstanding or excellent.
Example: That guy thinks he’s the cat’s meow.
Meaning: In a toying way; playful in an unpleasant way
Example: The shooting was just the latest tragedy in a cat-and-mouse game played since 1959.
Meaning: A person being used by someone else, a tool
Example: The prime minister has no real power. He’s really just a cat’s paw of business interests.
Meaning: Someone who has the respect of their peers in a young, casual way
Example: Tony is a cool cat. I really like him.
Curiosity Killed The Cat
Meaning: Stop asking questions, don’t be too curious
Example: The townspeople had learned the hard way that curiosity killed the cat – you stayed indoors if there was trouble.
Dead Cat Bounce
Meaning: A phrase often used in the financial markets. This statement refers to an automatic recovery of the financial market.
Example: Are we witnessing a genuine recovery in the share price, or is it just a dead cat bounce?
Dog My Cats
Meaning: An expression of astonishment.
Example: Well, dog my cats! I never thought I’d see you around these parts again!
Enough to Make a Cat Laugh
Meaning: that something is very, very funny.
Example: When he slipped on a banana skin it was enough to make a cat laugh.
Meaning: A highly placed, well-paid executive
Example: The report criticised boardroom fat cats who award themselves huge pay increases.
Fight Like Cat And Dog
Meaning: Continually arguing with each other
Example: Those two fight like cat and dog, so please don’t put them together on the project.
Grin Like a Cheshire Cat
Meaning: To smile broadly, in a very self-satisfied way.
Example: I like laughing while praised by teacher, teased by schoolmate, so much as criticized, I also grin like a Cheshire cat.
Meaning: A fiery, ill-tempered person.
Example: The husband is overcome really, go looking for hellcat to think way for him.
High as the Hair on a Cat’s Back
Meaning: to describe something very expensive or valuable.
Keep No More Cats Than Will Catch Mice
Meaning: a way of saying that you should be efficient
Example: Personally, I always try to keep no more cats than can catch mice.
Let the Cat Out of the Bag
Meaning: Reveal a secret, usually a secret you or others are trying to keep
Example: I tried to keep my birthday a secret but my brother let the cat out of the bag.
Like The Cat That Got The Cream
Meaning: Looking particularly self-satisfied, often to the annoyance of others
Example: After her promotion, Janet spent the rest of the day looking like the cat that got the cream.
Look Like the Cat That Swallowed the Canary
Meaning: to be extraordinarily self-satisfied or smug. Often used to describe someone who is concealing some mischievous act.
Example: They were smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary.
Look What the Cat Dragged In
Meaning: Someone unwelcome has arrived
Example: In strolls Babs. “Now look what the cat’s dragged in,” says Jeanie, with a nod.
Morals of an Alley Cat
Meaning: References the actions of a stray cat that hangs around streets and alleyways of a town or city and refers to a person of loose morals.
Example: He may have the morals of an alley cat but raping a semi-comatose girl was beyond him.
No Room To Swing A Cat
Meaning: Very small, not big enough
Example: This bus is too crowded ! I have no room to swing a cat!
Not Enough Room to Swing a Cat
Meaning: A very small space
Example: It’s a cute house, but there’s no room to swing a cat.
Not have a cat in Hell’s Chance
Meaning: Have no possibility of succeeding, coming to pass, or achieving something
Example: They don’t have a cat’s chance in hell of getting into the playoffs this year.
Read More: Animal idioms in English
Play Cat And Mouse
Meaning: Trying to trick someone into making a mistake so you can defeat them
Example: Coy girls often like to play cat and mouse with Boys.
Meaning: Suggestive of someone avoiding a decision or avoiding saying what they mean.
Example: Stop pussyfooting around/about and tell me what you really think.
Put The Cat Among The Pigeons
Meaning: Say or do something that causes trouble or controversy
Example: The bank is poised to put the cat among the pigeons this morning by slashing the cost of borrowing.
Rain Cats And Dogs
Meaning: Rain very heavily
Example: In a sunny winter morning, it might suddenly rain cats and dogs.
See Which Way the Cat Jumps
Meaning: A way of saying that you should wait until you see how things develop or progress before committing yourself to a course of action.
Example: I’m sure nobody will commit themselves at this stage. They will see which way the cat jumps.
She’s The Cat’s Mother
Meaning: An expression often used to rebuke someone. Most often used when a mother is called “she” in a conversation.
Example: Who’s ‘she’, the cat’s mother?
Sweeten the kitty
Meaning: Make something financially more attractive
Example: Before you decide which job offer to accept, perhaps we can offer you a few added fringe benefits to sweeten the kitty.”
The Cat Is Out of the Bag
Meaning: The secret has been revealed
Example: Maria told her friends about seeing us together at the movie. The cat is out of the bag.
The Cat’s Pajamas
Meaning: Refers to a person who is the best at what they do.
Example: Tom’s new Cadillac is really the cat’s pajamas!
There’s More Than One Way To Skin A Cat
Meaning: There’s more than one way of achieving a certain goal
Example: Our talks with the investment group may have fallen through, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat!
To Bell a Cat
Meaning: This expression 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.
Example: Everybody seems to agree that we’ve got to bell the cat, but no one wants to step forward and volunteer to lead.
To Have Kittens
Meaning: to be very upset or worried about something. A dramatic way of describing how frightened or upset you have been.
Example: A wild tabby cat has turned up in Welford and Mandy is worried. The poor cat is about to have kittens, and she has no one to look after her.
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.
Example: Benedict Arnold was a general in the Revolutionary War. At what point did he turn the cat in the pan?
Walk Like a Cat on Eggs
Meaning: taking great care and consideration in an activity.
Example: Sometimes everyone feels like they are tiptoeing on eggs, but with friends we can be ourselves.
Wanton Kittens Make Sober Cats
Meaning: Refers to people who in their younger days may act wildly or without restraint, often learn to their cost that this behavior is inappropriate in later life.
Example: wanton kittens make sober cats proverbial saying, early 18th century, meaning that someone who in youth is light-minded and lascivious may be soberly behaved in later life.
Weak as a Kitten
Meaning: A way of describing someone as fragile or feeble.
Example: She’s as weak as a kitten.
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
Example: While the bosses are out of the room, the workers watch the game – a case of while the cat’s away the mice will play.
Who’s She, the Cat’s Mother?
Meaning: Why does she have such a high opinion of herself?
Example: Samantha has been ordering everyone around lately. Who’s she, the cat’s mother?