50 Cat 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.

1. A Cat Nap

Meaning: To sleep or doze for a short time.

2. A cat burglar

Meaning: refers to a burglar who uses stealth and agility to break into buildings. First recorded use of this idiomatic expression was between1905 – 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

Meaning: 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.

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 character.

6. A copy cat

Refers to a person who copies or imitates the actions of another.

7. A scaredy-cat

Refers to 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 nervous of 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

11. Busier than a three legged cat in a dry sand box

Meaning: very busy to the point of being frantic

12. Cool cat.

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

13. Cat’s cradle.

Refers to something that is overly complex. Likened to the children’s game “cat’s cradle” which is played with string would around the fingers to create complex patterns.

14. Cat’s Meow

Something outstanding or excellent.

15. Curiousity Killed The Cat

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

16. Dead Cat Bounce.

A phrase often used in the financial markets. Refers 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 dishonourably or in a questionable way to achieve wealth.

20. Fight like cats and dogs

To be constantly fighting or arguing with someone.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.