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English Sayings and Idioms About Cats Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in Culture, English Grammar, English Language, English Vocabulary

Are you a cat lover? Or maybe you’re more of a dog person? Whether cats or dogs, people love their pets. The English language also loves them, as there are tons of expressions about both. In this post, we’ll learn some English sayings and idioms about cats. Sorry, dog people. You’ll just have to wait for the next post.

English Sayings and Idioms About Cats

Don’t let this cat out of the bag…

cat got your tongue

Meaning: This is usually used in a question to someone who is silent but should be speaking.

Example: “Why is your room so dirty?!… What’s the matter – cat got your tongue?” (Said by a parent to their child when they find the room is a mess.)

cool cat

Meaning: Someone who is cool/hip.

Example: “You see that guy? He’s a real cool cat.”

fat cat

Meaning: A negative way to describe someone who is rich/powerful.

Example: “I’m so sick of all the fat cats in my company.”

Just a little cat nap.

cat nap

Meaning: To take a short rest; sleep for a short amount of time.

Example: “Today was a long day. I need a cat nap before dinner.”


Meaning: A shout, whistle, or comment. Usually from men to women in a sexual nature.

Example: “I don’t like walking around the city alone, because men are always catcalling me.”

a (crazy) cat lady

Meaning: A woman – usually old and single – who lives with many cats.

Example: “Your neighbor seems a bit strange.”

“Yeah, she’s a crazy cat lady.”

put the cat among the pigeons

Meaning: Something bad will happen because of what someone said/did. Think about what would happen if you really put a cat in a group of pigeons.

Example: “You really put the cat among the pigeons when you started that argument.”

the cat’s meow/pajamas

Meaning: Someone or something that is very cool/stylish/impressive. This was very common slang in the 1920s but is still used to this day.

Example: “He’s so stylish and such a good dancer. He really is the cat’s meow!”

let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: To tell a secret.

Example: “He told Jane about her surprise party! I can’t believe he let the cat out of the bag!”

herding cats

Meaning: Trying to control a group that is uncontrollable.

Example: “I’m sick of trying to plan this party. It’s like herding cats trying to get my friends together!”


to swing a (dead) cat

Meaning: To suggest a place is small or that something is very near. Some people add “dead” to make it more outrageous.

Example: “Her apartment is so small. There isn’t even room to swing a cat!”

In my hometown (Detroit), we like to say “You can’t swing a dead cat and not hit a liquor store.”

Curiosity killed the cat.

Meaning: Being too curious/asking too many questions can get you in trouble.

Example: “You’d better stop asking her about it. You know curiosity killed the cat, don’t you?”

Look what the cat dragged in.

Meaning: Usually said in a joking manner to someone who just arrived, this idiom denotes being dirty/untidy.

Example: “Well look what the cat dragged in!” (Said to a friend arriving at a party.)

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Meaning: There are multiple ways to do something.

Example: “Don’t worry that it didn’t work. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, so let’s try something different tomorrow.”

When the cat is away the mice will play.

Meaning: When the boss/teacher/parents are away, people will misbehave.

Example: “My students behaved so poorly with the substitute teacher yesterday!”

“You know what they say – when the cat is away, the mice will play!”

It’s raining cats and dogs.

Meaning: To be raining very heavily.

Example: “Wow look at it outside! It’s raining cats and dogs!”


That last one was for all you dog people out there. Be sure you check back for the next post, as I’ll share plenty of English sayings and idioms about dogs just for you. For now, let’s end this post with the thing the Internet was created for – funny cat videos!


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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.