The Cat’s Meow: Our Favorite Feline Idioms

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Many humans are downright cat crazy. Need proof? Just listen to the way we talk. Famous feline idioms are silly, surprising, and engrained in our daily lives.

Modern English is chock-full of colorful sayings inspired by and pertaining to our feline friends. We’re utterly fascinated by cats — everything from their unique mannerisms to their playful personalities to their independent streaks — and this fact is reflected in our vernacular and the feline idioms that have developed over the course of several centuries.

Whether the enthrallment we feel towards cats is mutual, though, presents another conversation altogether. But nowadays the use of feline idioms in everyday conversation is commonplace, and as predictable as a daily dose of early-morning meowing rendering a cat owner’s alarm clock expendable.

Felines, simply put, are the cat’s meow for pet-loving humans.

Our 10 Favorite Feline Idioms

Cat-and-mouse game

Meaning: A situation characterized by two parties engaged in a constant back-and-forth routine in which the advantage alternates between them.

Example Sentence: It was an intense game of cat-and-mouse, as neither pet store customer seemed willing to relinquish control of the adorable kitten.

Cat got your tongue

Meaning: A comment made when someone is unaccountably or unusually quiet.

Example Sentence: Silence ensued when the pet store manager confronted the bickering customers, prompting him to ask, “What’s the matter – cat got your tongue?”

Look what the cat dragged in

Meaning: A phrase translating to, “Well, look who has just arrived!”

Example Sentence: Knowing they were in trouble, the bickering customers eyed the store manager suspiciously before one of them muttered, “Well, look what the cat dragged in!”

Cat nap

Meaning: A brief but restful period of sleep.

Example Sentence: Throughout the tense scene, the kitten enjoyed a quick cat nap, seemingly oblivious to the commotion surrounding her.

Cat is out of the bag

Meaning: When a secret has been made known.

Example Sentence: When the customers finally admitted to their childish behavior in vying for the kitten, the manager exclaimed, “I guess the cat’s out of the bag!”

Cool cat

Meaning: Someone who is cool.

Example Sentence: Just when it seemed like a full-fledge fight would break out, a third customer – one cool cat – managed to step in and defuse the situation.


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More than one way to skin a cat

Meaning: More than one method to reach the same end.

Example Sentence: “We’re all adults and animal lovers here, so let’s find a solution that ensures we’re all happy and that – more important – this kitten finds a good home,” the third customer said. “I’m sure we can find a suitable compromise for everyone – there is, after all, more than one way to skin a cat.”

Scaredy-cat

Meaning: Someone who is frightened when there is no reason to be

Example Sentence: When the dust finally settled and common sense prevailed, all parties agreed the third customer who had saved the day should raise the kitten. That customer graciously accepted the responsibility, though admitting to being somewhat of a scaredy-cat regarding how his wife would react to him bringing home an unexpected, new family member.

Curiosity killed the cat

Meaning: Being curious can get you into trouble.

Example Sentence: “Honey, I come bearing a surprise,” the man explained to his wife upon returning home. “I stopped at the pet store to browse, intervened in a customer dispute, and somehow inherited a new family member. Curiosity, it seems, can kill the cat.”

Purr like a cat

Meaning: To be very pleased and express pleasure.

Example Sentence: Much to the man’s delight and relief, his wife purred like a cat at the sight of their family’s adorable new member. And for her part, the cuddly kitten seemed to share the sentiment. Unexpected though it may have been, the occasion marked the blossoming of a loving human-feline bond.


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