Main definitions of cat in US English:

: cat1cat2cat3CAT4

cat1

noun

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

    Felis catus, family Felidae (the cat family); probably domesticated in ancient Egypt from the local race of wildcat, and held in great reverence there. The cat family also includes the ocelot, serval, margay, lynx, and the big cats

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Pedigree dogs and mongrels performed the same overall, but pedigree cats scored marginally higher than mixed breed cats on all the tests.’
    • ‘The cat ran after the mouse and all the dishes came crashing down.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Cats and dogs also demonstrated their natural hunting instincts pricking up their ears when cats, mice and budgies came on the screen.’
    • ‘Holding a couple of Persian cats in his lap, he says they are the most widely recognised cat breed.’
    • ‘Various species have been used as models of human asthma, including guinea pigs, mice, rats, cats, and dogs.’
    • ‘We have domesticated dogs, cats, and birds, and have used horses as a means of transportation.’
    • ‘The dogs are fiercely protective of our house while the cats keep the mouse population in check.’
    • ‘We rustled through the branches like mice fleeing from a cat.’
    • ‘They play with people the way that a cat plays with a mouse.’
    • ‘The largely Southeast Asian disease is commonly found in birds but also occurs in mammals like pigs, cats, and humans.’
    • ‘But researchers have also stumbled across hints that cats were domesticated much earlier.’
    • ‘Deng Xiaoping once said that whether a cat is black or white, the cat that catches the mouse is a good cat.’
    • ‘Domestic cats may breed much more frequently, as often as 3 times a year, as they are not typically limited by nutrition or climate.’
    • ‘What do you want to ban next - fishing, dogs chasing cats, cats chasing birds and mice and playing with them till they die?’
    • ‘‘Oh I'm sure I'll get over it one day,’ said Tom, stretching out like a cat and yawning widely.’
    • ‘I lay there, silent, watching her as a mouse watches the cat.’
    • ‘As I prepared to write this review, I learned Manxes are domestic cats with no tails bred on the Isle of Man.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1 A wild animal of the cat family.
      ‘a marbled cat’
      See also big cat
      • ‘It was possible, he said, that it was a cat of the puma family.’
      • ‘Cats will be cats and the lions despite feeding are still straying.’
      • ‘New techniques for collecting information promise to further transform the study of cats in the wild.’
      • ‘Twice I had come across wild mountain cats, narrowly escaping death.’
      • ‘Now, the lions are a social cat, unlike that tiger that you saw in Columbus.’
      • ‘They say it's like the link between the small ocelot and the large cats like the lion and tiger.’
      • ‘He first entered the spotlight as a circus clown aged five and later trained exotic cats and became the show's wild animal trainer.’
      • ‘The Jaguar is the largest cat native to the Western Hemisphere.’
      • ‘Lions are large cats with short, tawny coats, white underparts, and long tails with a black tuft at the end.’
      • ‘They had seen lynx cats wild in Spain and were sure they were not mistaken.’
      • ‘Recent reported cheetah deaths suggest that some of the cats had their stomachs ripped open by hidden branches.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The Lynx is a medium-sized cat, similar to the bobcat, but appears somewhat larger.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They are sexually dimorphic and male lions are the only cats with manes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Roadkill has knocked an endangered cat, the ocelot, down to about 80 individuals in the U.S.’
      • ‘His works feature a variety of cats like the snow leopard, jaguar, tiger and lion in various settings.’
      • ‘Scientists say the last large cats to live and breed in the wild in Britain were lynx some 2,000 years ago.’
    2. 1.2 Used in names of catlike animals of other families, e.g., ring-tailed cat.
      • ‘Civet cats are not true cats, but short-haired mammals with long bodies, short legs, and tails.’
      • ‘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).’
    3. 1.3historical
      • ‘I'll wager you've ne'er felt the lash o' the cat.’
    4. 1.4
      short for catfish
    5. 1.5
      short for cathead
    6. 1.6
      short for catboat
  • 2North American informal (particularly among jazz enthusiasts) a person, especially a man.

    • ‘I listen to the screams of drunks outside as they mix with the jazz of the cats on stage.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘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.’

verb

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

    • ‘They catted her anchor as she went.’
    • ‘He had ordered three hands for punishment for a fault in catting the anchor.’

Phrases

  • cat and mouse

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

      ‘their elite fighters are playing cat and mouse with US troops’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.’
      • ‘Fighting terrorism is a dangerous game of cat and mouse, and for the moment, it appears that the mouse has gotten a little smarter.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But Mr Butcher says the louts play a game of cat and mouse with the police.’
      • ‘The trouble with playing this elaborate game of cat and mouse, though, was that it only delayed the moment of truth further.’
      • ‘For 25 minutes the sides played cat and mouse with each other while scores were at a premium.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Protesters and police play cat and mouse for several hours.’
  • a cat may look at a king

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • has the cat got your tongue?

    • Said to someone who, when expected to speak, remains silent.

      • ‘So what happened to you now, cat got your tongue?’
      • ‘‘What's wrong, 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?’’
      • ‘If others wanted to know what had been said, they would ask, ‘Tell us, or has the cat got your tongue?’’
  • let the cat out of the bag

    • informal Reveal a secret carelessly or by mistake.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Apologies to all your eight-year-old readers for letting the cat out of the bag!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Gavin Anderson apologises to those in the know for letting the cat out of the bag about this secret haven’
      • ‘The rather inappropriately named Defence Minister let the cat out of the bag by admitting that there isn't really a threat after all.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘Two such academics were so upset by the broadcast they injudiciously let the cat out of the bag completely.’
      • ‘Apparently, my relative let the cat out of the bag by letting villagers know that he is the father of the child.’
      • ‘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.’
  • like a cat on a hot tin roof

    • informal Very agitated or anxious.

      • ‘DeFrancesco runs wild over the keyboard like a cat on a hot tin roof before the orchestra recapitulates the pungent main theme.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He is no longer like a cat on a hot tin roof when it comes to putting the pieces together.’
      • ‘The jury has been out since Wednesday, so he has been like a cat on a hot tin roof here.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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’
      • ‘It has been said that managing programmers is like herding cats.’
      • ‘Viewed from the front bench, discipline is said to be like herding cats.’
      • ‘Software project management has always been like herding cats.’
      • ‘Getting the British people to panic is like herding cats.’
      • ‘Like a popular television commercial says, being a leader can be "like herding cats."’
      • ‘Controlling the members of this expedition is like herding cats.’
      • ‘Trying to make sense of which way a woman will go is like herding cats.’
      • ‘We all know that making doctors do anything against their will is like herding cats.’
      • ‘Then again organizing homeschoolers 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
  • look like something the cat dragged (or brought) in

    • informal (of a person) look very dirty or disheveled.

      • ‘He grinned as they entered: ‘Look what 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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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.

      • ‘It looked like a case of: when the cat's away, the mice will play.’
      • ‘It's certainly a case of while the cat's away, the mice will play - what they get up to is barely legal!’
      • ‘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…’.’
      • ‘His employees decide that while the cat is away the mice will play and their search for adventure quickly develops into farcical madness.’
      • ‘We''ve always enjoyed that restaurant, but you were right in saying when the cat (the owner) is away the mice will play.’
      • ‘However, it rings true that when the cat's away, the mice will play,’ said Dronkers.’
      • ‘He left last night, straight from work, and as you know, while the cat's away, the mice will play.’
      • ‘But, as they say, when the cat's away, the mice will play, and so they did.’
      • ‘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.’
  • the cat's pajamas

    • informal An excellent person or thing.

      ‘this car is the cat's pajamas’

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//kæt/

Main definitions of cat in US English:

: cat1cat2cat3CAT4

cat2

noun

    • ‘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//kæt/

Main definitions of cat in US English:

: cat1cat2cat3CAT4

cat3

noun

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

Pronunciation

cat

/kat//kæt/

Main definitions of cat in US English:

: cat1cat2cat3CAT4

CAT4

abbreviation

  • 1Clear air turbulence.

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

  • 3Medicine
    Computerized axial tomography.

    as modifier ‘a CAT scan’

Pronunciation

CAT

/kat//kæt/