Main definitions of cat in English

: cat1cat2cat3

cat1

noun

  • 1A small domesticated carnivorous mammal with soft fur, a short snout, and retractile claws. It is widely kept as a pet or for catching mice, and many breeds have been developed.

    • ‘Pedigree dogs and mongrels performed the same overall, but pedigree cats scored marginally higher than mixed breed cats on all the tests.’
    • ‘If a cat, mouse and dog could be made to live in harmony, and form a super-trio, well, mankind will have achieved the impossible.’
    • ‘There is a guy in Bedfordshire who has sold the world's most expensive cat - a cross breed between a domestic cat and a feral one.’
    • ‘We have domesticated dogs, cats, and birds, and have used horses as a means of transportation.’
    • ‘We rustled through the branches like mice fleeing from a cat.’
    • ‘The largely Southeast Asian disease is commonly found in birds but also occurs in mammals like pigs, cats, and humans.’
    • ‘Domestic cats may breed much more frequently, as often as 3 times a year, as they are not typically limited by nutrition or climate.’
    • ‘But researchers have also stumbled across hints that cats were domesticated much earlier.’
    • ‘What do you want to ban next - fishing, dogs chasing cats, cats chasing birds and mice and playing with them till they die?’
    • ‘Cats and dogs also demonstrated their natural hunting instincts pricking up their ears when cats, mice and budgies came on the screen.’
    • ‘Deng Xiaoping once said that whether a cat is black or white, the cat that catches the mouse is a good cat.’
    • ‘The dogs are fiercely protective of our house while the cats keep the mouse population in check.’
    • ‘Various species have been used as models of human asthma, including guinea pigs, mice, rats, cats, and dogs.’
    • ‘The cat ran after the mouse and all the dishes came crashing down.’
    • ‘Far along in the distance one could see the cows frolicking in the fields, the birds soaring past the trees, and the cats taunting the field mice.’
    • ‘I lay there, silent, watching her as a mouse watches the cat.’
    • ‘Holding a couple of Persian cats in his lap, he says they are the most widely recognised cat breed.’
    • ‘As I prepared to write this review, I learned Manxes are domestic cats with no tails bred on the Isle of Man.’
    • ‘They play with people the way that a cat plays with a mouse.’
    • ‘‘Oh I'm sure I'll get over it one day,’ said Tom, stretching out like a cat and yawning widely.’
    feline
    tabby, ginger tom, tortoiseshell, marmalade cat, mouser, wild cat, alley cat
    pussy, pussy cat, puss
    moggie, mog
    grimalkin
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A wild animal of the cat family.
      ‘a marbled cat’
      See also big cat
      • ‘They say it's like the link between the small ocelot and the large cats like the lion and tiger.’
      • ‘Recent reported cheetah deaths suggest that some of the cats had their stomachs ripped open by hidden branches.’
      • ‘His works feature a variety of cats like the snow leopard, jaguar, tiger and lion in various settings.’
      • ‘Twice I had come across wild mountain cats, narrowly escaping death.’
      • ‘They are sexually dimorphic and male lions are the only cats with manes.’
      • ‘They had seen lynx cats wild in Spain and were sure they were not mistaken.’
      • ‘The Lynx is a medium-sized cat, similar to the bobcat, but appears somewhat larger.’
      • ‘Although the Department of Agriculture does not regulate the ownership of large wild cats as pets, state and local laws may apply in some situations.’
      • ‘It was possible, he said, that it was a cat of the puma family.’
      • ‘Lions are large cats with short, tawny coats, white underparts, and long tails with a black tuft at the end.’
      • ‘Scientists say the last large cats to live and breed in the wild in Britain were lynx some 2,000 years ago.’
      • ‘Now, the lions are a social cat, unlike that tiger that you saw in Columbus.’
      • ‘Roadkill has knocked an endangered cat, the ocelot, down to about 80 individuals in the U.S.’
      • ‘He first entered the spotlight as a circus clown aged five and later trained exotic cats and became the show's wild animal trainer.’
      • ‘We've got African wild cats, the black-footed cat, on the farm and they inter-breed with these feral cats and it destroys the whole species.’
      • ‘According to the Yorkshire Post, the involvement of humans in the lynx's extinction means that the government is obliged to reintroduce the cats to the wild.’
      • ‘This was an American mountain lion also known as a cougar or puma, a cat the size of a leopard that was once rare and considered virtually harmless.’
      • ‘Cats will be cats and the lions despite feeding are still straying.’
      • ‘The Jaguar is the largest cat native to the Western Hemisphere.’
      • ‘New techniques for collecting information promise to further transform the study of cats in the wild.’
    2. 1.2Used in names of catlike animals of other families, e.g. native cat, ring-tailed cat.
      • ‘We're now seeing some wildlife we never saw before - ring-tailed cats, green herons, beaver.’
      • ‘Cane toad toxin is very effective against virtually all Australian native species that attempt to eat toads, from small frog-eating reptiles to the Quoll (Australia's native cat).’
      • ‘Civet cats are not true cats, but short-haired mammals with long bodies, short legs, and tails.’
    3. 1.3informal A malicious or spiteful woman.
      ‘his mother called me an old cat’
      • ‘You sly little cat you.’
      • ‘As far as he was concerned she could stay with her mother for ever and they could be two jealous, spiteful old cats together for all he cared.’
    4. 1.4historical
      • ‘I'll wager you've ne'er felt the lash o' the cat.’
    5. 1.5
      short for catfish
    6. 1.6
      short for cathead
    7. 1.7
      short for catboat
  • 2North American informal (especially among jazz enthusiasts) a man.

    ‘this West Coast cat had managed him since the early 80s’
    ‘the cat went crazy on the horn’
    • ‘Don't you cats know this polka jazz is strictly from squaresville?’
    • ‘Master P (aka Percy Miller) is a down south cat, born and raised in downtown New Orleans.’
    • ‘I listen to the screams of drunks outside as they mix with the jazz of the cats on stage.’
    • ‘Referring to some of the songs of that year, it complained that ‘some fellow gets shot, and his baby and his best friend both die with him, and some cat's crying or ready to die’.’
    • ‘It's a sequel to last year's Masses, which found Spring Heel Jack collaborating with New York's most important underground jazz cats.’
    • ‘I also loved the sophistication and harmony of jazz, the melody and, of course, the great solos that jazz cats played.’
    • ‘The surprise is a cover of '‘Sunshine Of Your Love’' that's dedicated to Cream, who Jimi praises as ‘really groovy cats’.’
  • 3historical A short tapered stick used in the game of tipcat.

verb

[WITH OBJECT]Nautical
  • Raise (an anchor) from the surface of the water to the cathead.

    ‘I kept her off the wind and sailing free until I had the anchor catted’
    • ‘They catted her anchor as she went.’
    • ‘He had ordered three hands for punishment for a fault in catting the anchor.’

Phrases

  • all cats are grey in the dark

    • proverb The qualities that distinguish people from one another are obscured in some circumstances, and if they can't be perceived they don't matter.

      • ‘Besides, don't they say that all cats are grey in the dark?’
      • ‘Franklin says that just as all cats are grey in the dark, all women would be the same for pleasure.’
      • ‘I have no memory of the RAF teleprinter Room but I can only suppose that, on the principle that all cats are grey in the dark, I was so used to seeing teleprinters in action that I didn't find it surprising unless the uniforms were a different colour.’
      • ‘The sole bit of worldly advice my mother ever gave me was that all cats are grey in the dark.’
      • ‘The old adage that at night all cats are gray is in fact quite true.’
  • cat and mouse

    • A series of cunning manoeuvres designed to thwart an opponent.

      ‘he continues to play cat and mouse with the UN inspection teams’
      • ‘Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.’
      • ‘The trouble with playing this elaborate game of cat and mouse, though, was that it only delayed the moment of truth further.’
      • ‘The more he investigates, the more things don't add up and soon he is embroiled in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the real killer.’
      • ‘Fighting terrorism is a dangerous game of cat and mouse, and for the moment, it appears that the mouse has gotten a little smarter.’
      • ‘Protesters and police play cat and mouse for several hours.’
      • ‘Under a barrage of bricks and abuse, he rang the police and then played a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the gang to stop them escaping before police arrived.’
      • ‘All is set for another game of cat and mouse with the press trying - and probably failing - to find out anything about the wedding.’
      • ‘And so begins the taunting game of cat and mouse, which puts Joe's relationship and mental health in jeopardy.’
      • ‘For 25 minutes the sides played cat and mouse with each other while scores were at a premium.’
      • ‘But Mr Butcher says the louts play a game of cat and mouse with the police.’
  • a cat may look at a king

    • proverb Even a person of low status or importance has rights.

      • ‘Still, as they say - appropriately for the visual media - a cat may look at a king.’
      • ‘On the principle that a cat may look at a king, the picture may be painted from the view-point of the humblest observer.’
      • ‘It is devoted to the proposition that if a cat may look at a king, a thief may win and woo a princess, with plenty of wizardry to help him.’
      • ‘But where these spiritual icons look deep into our eyes, the King's Minister stares haughtily out, allowing us to look at him… as a cat may look at a king.’
      • ‘The cat is pleasantly impertinent to the king and Alice notes that a cat may look at a king, so he isn't being uncivil.’
  • the cat's whiskers

    • informal An excellent person or thing.

      ‘this car is the cat's whiskers’
      • ‘He is dressed in his trademark style, which is to say that he not only looks like the cat's pyjamas, he is wearing them, along with his silk crimson black-lined robe.’
      • ‘You're still the cat's meow, baby, wherever you are.’
      • ‘Her conceptual artworks are curiosities rather than the cat's pyjamas, says Cristin Leach.’
      • ‘And hey, Kevin, you aren't exactly the cat's meow either!’
      • ‘She was a phenomenal producer - the cat's meow, as my mother would say - and every big player in town was after her.’
      • ‘For some women, casual relationships are the cat's pyjamas and fair dues to them, that's their own prerogative.’
      • ‘Tell Boyfriend you get why he's mad and that you could not be more mortified and sorry; show him that you think he and only he is the cat's meow.’
      • ‘They're the cat's meow and I love them so much!’
      • ‘I decided that having James as a last name was just the cat's meow.’
      • ‘The featherweight division is the cat's pyjamas in boxing at present.’
  • has the cat got your tongue?

    • Said to someone who remains silent when they are expected to speak.

      • ‘‘What's wrong, cat got your tongue?’’
      • ‘If others wanted to know what had been said, they would ask, ‘Tell us, or has the cat got your tongue?’’
      • ‘A brief silence ensued and the prince continued to gaze at her, which only persuaded Christine to then ask, ‘Has the cat got your tongue?’"’
      • ‘‘What's the matter, little girl, has the cat got your tongue?’’
      • ‘So what happened to you now, cat got your tongue?’
  • let the cat out of the bag

    • informal Reveal a secret carelessly or by mistake.

      ‘now that Viola had let the cat out of the bag, she had no option but to confess’
      • ‘Our families did a fantastic job in not letting the cat out of the bag, although there were times when I panicked that something might slip out.’
      • ‘Apparently, my relative let the cat out of the bag by letting villagers know that he is the father of the child.’
      • ‘He said: ‘What is clear is what has happened in Scarborough has let the cat out of the bag and is going to result in rapid changes.’’
      • ‘The rather inappropriately named Defence Minister let the cat out of the bag by admitting that there isn't really a threat after all.’
      • ‘Two such academics were so upset by the broadcast they injudiciously let the cat out of the bag completely.’
      • ‘It isn't letting the cat out of the bag to suggest you should expect an unconventional evening's entertainment this time, although to say much more would be to spoil the surprise.’
      • ‘Apologies to all your eight-year-old readers for letting the cat out of the bag!’
      • ‘So let the cat out of the bag: admit that what you're really up to is a satire on the state of arts funding.’
      • ‘Gavin Anderson apologises to those in the know for letting the cat out of the bag about this secret haven’
      • ‘Just as he should be celebrating a new poll that puts the Tories only a point behind Labour, the deputy chairman has resigned after letting the cat out of the bag.’
  • like a cat on a hot tin roof (british also on hot bricks)

    • informal Very agitated or anxious.

      • ‘He is no longer like a cat on a hot tin roof when it comes to putting the pieces together.’
      • ‘DeFrancesco runs wild over the keyboard like a cat on a hot tin roof before the orchestra recapitulates the pungent main theme.’
      • ‘I would work days with hardly any sleep, and finally my nervous system collapsed, so the doctor put me on tranquilizers which set me up like a cat on a hot tin roof.’
      • ‘Founding investor Wheatley was like a cat on a hot tin roof before the game but he said the corporate tickets had completely sold out for the whole season after the impressive 1 - 1 win.’
      • ‘The jury has been out since Wednesday, so he has been like a cat on a hot tin roof here.’
      • ‘I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, walking around the house in the early hours of the morning, struggling to type because my hands are shaking in agony.’
      • ‘When she got home that day, talking about Daddy and showing her mother the twenty-five cents, Mai was like a cat on a hot tin roof.’
  • like herding cats

    • informal Used to refer to a difficult or impossible task, typically an attempt to organize a group of people.

      ‘controlling the members of this expedition is like herding cats’
      • ‘Software project management has always been like herding cats.’
      • ‘It has been said that managing programmers is like herding cats.’
      • ‘Then again organizing homeschoolers is like herding cats.’
      • ‘Like a popular television commercial says, being a leader can be "like herding cats."’
      • ‘Viewed from the front bench, discipline is said to be like herding cats.’
      • ‘Trying to make sense of which way a woman will go is like herding cats.’
      • ‘Getting the British people to panic is like herding cats.’
      • ‘We all know that making doctors do anything against their will is like herding cats.’
      • ‘Controlling the members of this expedition is like herding cats.’
      • ‘But anticipating the direction of the Cannes jury is like herding cats.’
      not possible, beyond the bounds of possibility, out of the question, not worth considering
      View synonyms
  • like the cat that got (or stole) the cream

    • informal Self-satisfied, having achieved one's objective.

      ‘you sit in this office like the cat that got the cream and expect the world to revolve around you’
      • ‘Anyway, we spent the night together and now he's like the cat that's got the cream, whereas I'm wondering if I've done the right thing.’
      • ‘She now has an agent, a book deal and the expression of a cat that got the cream.’
      • ‘He replied with a smile that told me that the cat had definitely gotten the cream.’
      • ‘Why is it that you sit in this office like the cat that got the cream and expect the world to revolve around you?’
      • ‘She was smiling like the cat that got the cream: a truly smug and evil look that sent a wave of adrenaline through my body.’
      • ‘We're still at the party, where Sophie is smiling like the cat that's got the cream and telling Sally that things with Blake feel just like they used to.’
      • ‘Johnny feels like the cat that's got the cream.’
      • ‘Still smiling like the cat that got the cream, she leaned towards me as if preparing to divulge important information.’
      • ‘My mum usually utters comments like ‘Leave the poor lad alone’ to which he would stand there smirking like the cat that got the cream.’
      • ‘Ray turned to me like the cat that's got the cream, ‘looks like you haven't been paying your wife enough attention and someone else has’.’
  • look like something the cat brought in

    • informal Look very dirty or dishevelled.

      • ‘They probably could earn better money elsewhere, they have their lives opened to scrutiny, then in the studio they're treated like something the cat brought in.’
      • ‘One of them says we look like something the cat brought in and Malachy has to be held back from fighting them.’
      • ‘He grinned as they entered: ‘Look what the cat brought in’.’
  • not have a cat in hell's chance

    • informal Have no chance at all.

      ‘the plan did not have a cat in hell's chance of succeeding’
      • ‘Good luck to all the home nations - including the three who don't have a cat in hell's chance of winning it.’
      • ‘I fear that there's not a cat's chance in hell of much of it happening.’
      • ‘There is not a cat in hell's chance of this council providing £280,000 for a covered market.’
      • ‘I can grin pleasantly and make nice speeches, but I don't have a cat in hell's chance of getting anywhere.’
      • ‘They were sending a very clear message that there is not a cat's chance in hell that they will unilaterally change their trade policy.’
      • ‘The American-based organisation are in the United Kingdom because they don't have a cat in hell's chance of getting away with their propaganda in the United States.’
      • ‘I told him I hadn't a cat in hell's chance of paying that.’
      • ‘If there's a million-dollar tournament on in the US, I don't have a cat in hell's chance of putting on an event in Europe to compete with it.’
  • put (or set) the cat among the pigeons

    • Say or do something that is likely to cause trouble or controversy.

      • ‘Bing's surprise arrival at the station immediately puts the cat among the pigeons, and he appears to actively enjoy the awkwardness he all too often creates around about him.’
      • ‘‘If you didn't grant permission again it would really set the cat among the pigeons,’ he said.’
      • ‘John Maynard Keynes put the cat among the pigeons when he said that Newton was not the first great scientist, but the last great magician.’
      • ‘We certainly set the cat among the pigeons when we broke the news that Britain's biggest building society would face a demutualisation vote in July.’
      • ‘Anyway, our Brendan decides to put the cat among the pigeons by means of this post slagging off the monarchy and right wing bloggers.’
      • ‘We have requested a presentation from the housing associations about the scale of the problem and I think that has set the cat among the pigeons.’
      • ‘He set the cat among the pigeons by insisting CDs be clearly marked as such, and that they should not bear the familiar Compact Disc logo, because effectively they weren't.’
      • ‘Our Peter has been putting the cat among the pigeons.’
      • ‘An anonymous poison-pen letter doing the higher ed rounds has set the cat among the pigeons at the universities' international marketing and recruitment arm.’
      • ‘However, a quick wicket or two could set the cat among the pigeons and precipitate a collapse.’
  • see which way the cat jumps

    • informal See what direction events are taking before committing oneself.

      • ‘Then it will be interesting to see which way the cat jumps.’
      • ‘An eavesdropper might attempt to subvert the entire procedure by setting up a fake source that emits three particles rather than two, and intercepting the third stream of particles to see which way the cat jumps.’
      • ‘But the others are undecided, waiting to see which way the cat jumps.’
      • ‘Though the new operating system seemed extremely fast and stable, most PC users decided to wait to see which way the cat jumps.’
      • ‘Like real Dutchmen we wait to see which way the cat jumps before a company will stand up and profess to produce the discs for the European market.’
      • ‘Henry's death has changed matters and now I must see which way the cat jumps, ere I decide whether I stay or return.’
      • ‘I don't spend a lifetime watching which way the cat jumps: I know really which way I want the cat to go.’
      • ‘According to a familiar saying, they are waiting to see which way the cat jumps; and when they have ascertained that, their ‘principles’ will lead them to jump in that particular direction.’
  • when (or while) the cat's away, the mice will play

    • proverb People will naturally take advantage of the absence of someone in authority to do as they like.

      ‘‘His parents are away for the weekend.’ ‘I see—while the cat's away.’’
      • ‘However, it rings true that when the cat's away, the mice will play,’ said Dronkers.’
      • ‘But, as they say, when the cat's away, the mice will play, and so they did.’
      • ‘We''ve always enjoyed that restaurant, but you were right in saying when the cat (the owner) is away the mice will play.’
      • ‘His employees decide that while the cat is away the mice will play and their search for adventure quickly develops into farcical madness.’
      • ‘He was propping up the bar when she entered the pub, because, as he explained with a wink, ‘Fiona's organizing a charity lunch and, while the cat's away…’.’
      • ‘It's certainly a case of while the cat's away, the mice will play - what they get up to is barely legal!’
      • ‘He left last night, straight from work, and as you know, while the cat's away, the mice will play.’
      • ‘But when the cat's away, the mice will play and that's exactly what the players will be hoping to do while their big game-breakers are missing.’
      • ‘It looked like a case of: when the cat's away, the mice will play.’
  • who's she—the cat's mother?

    • 1Used as a mild reproof, especially to a child, for impolite use of the pronoun she rather than a person's name.

    • 2Expressing the belief that a woman or girl has a high opinion of herself or is putting on airs.

Origin

Old English catt, catte, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch kat and German Katze; reinforced in Middle English by forms from late Latin cattus.

Pronunciation:

cat

/kat/

Main definitions of cat in English

: cat1cat2cat3

cat2

noun

  • ‘models fitted with a cat as standard’
    • ‘A clogged cat prevents exhaust gases from flowing smoothly out of the engine; thus, it won't be able to clean them properly.’
    • ‘So the obvious key to reducing pollutants is to heat the cat faster.’
    • ‘DEC cats meet these criteria and offer superior flow and lower sound levels’
    • ‘It also cleans up the engine's emissions, which means smaller cats are needed, and the manufacturer claims that these help to improve low-rev throttle response.’

Pronunciation:

cat

/kat/

Main definitions of cat in English

: cat1cat2cat3

cat3

noun

  • short for catamaran
    • ‘Wright said it would be possible to refit the fast cats, as suggested by Kvaerner Masa Marine.’
    • ‘The fast cats were on their way from BC Ferries' Deas Dock to Canada Place, where they will be sold on Monday.’
    • ‘BC Ferries has been trying to unload the three fast cats ever since the boats were built.’

Pronunciation:

cat

/kat/

Main definitions of cat in English

: cat1cat2cat3

CAT

  • 1Clear air turbulence.

  • 2Computer-assisted (or -aided) testing.

  • 3Medicine
    Computerized axial tomography.

    [as adjective] [as modifier] ‘a CAT scan’

Pronunciation:

CAT

/kat/