In ancient Egypt, cats were regarded as sacred animals; the goddess Bastet is shown with a cat's head.
all cats are grey in the dark the night obscures all distinguishing features; saying recorded from the mid 16th century, and used in a variety of contexts.
Cat and Mouse Act an informal name for the 1913 act passed, during the suffragette campaign, to allow for the temporary release of prisoners on hunger strike and their subsequent rearrest.
a cat in gloves catches no mice restraint and caution (or ‘pussyfooting’) achieve nothing. Recorded from the late 16th century; a similar 14th-century French saying runs, ‘a gloved cat will never mouse well.’
a cat may look at a king even someone in a lowly position has a right to observe a person of power and influence. Proverbial expression recorded from the mid 16th century.
cat o' nine tails a rope whip with nine knotted cords, formerly used (especially at sea) to flog offenders.
cat's cradle a child's game in which a loop of string is put around and between the fingers and complex patterns are formed.
cat's paw a person who is used by another, typically to carry out an unpleasant or dangerous task, and originally with allusion to the fable of a monkey which asked a cat to extract its roasted chestnuts from the fire.
the cat, the rat, and Lovell our dog, rule all England under the hog hostile rhyme describing the rule of Richard III, whose personal emblem was a White Boar, and his three favourites, William Catesby (‘the cat’), Richard Ratcliffe (‘the rat’), and Lord Lovell, whose crest was a dog; the rhyme is recorded from the early 16th century in Robert Fabyan's Chronicles, and is attributed to the English landowner and conspirator against Richard, William Collingbourne (d. 1484).
the cat would eat fish but would not wet her feet commenting on a situation in which desire for something is checked by unwillingness to risk discomfort in acquiring it. Recorded from the early 13th century; a similar saying is recorded in medieval Latin.
let the cat out of the bag reveal a secret, especially carelessly or by mistake. Recorded from the mid 18th century.
put the cat among the pigeons stir up trouble; the expression is recorded from the early 18th century, and the idea of the destructive potential of a cat inside a pigeon-loft is explained as standing for a man getting among women.
when the cat's away the mice will play many will take advantage of a situation in which rules are not enforced or authority is lacking. Saying recorded from the early 17th century; similar sayings are found earlier, as in the 14th-century French proverb, ‘where there is no cat, the rat is king.’
See also bell the cat, care killed the cat, curiosity killed the cat, fat cat, have no room to swing a cat.
cat1 / kat/ • n. 1. a small domesticated carnivorous mammal (Felis catus), with soft fur, a short snout, and retractile claws. The cat family (Felidae) also includes the ocelot, serval, margay, lynx, and the big cats. ∎ a wild animal of the cat family. See also big cat. ∎ used in names of catlike animals of other families, e.g., ring-tailed cat. ∎ hist. short for cat-o'-nine-tails. ∎ short for catfish. ∎ short for cathead. ∎ short for catboat. 2. inf. (particularly among jazz enthusiasts) a person, esp. a man.• v. (catted , catting ) [tr.] Naut. raise (an anchor) from the surface of the water to the cathead.cat2 • n. short for catalytic converter.cat3 • n. short for catamaran.
The cat is not mentioned in the Bible although cats were domesticated in ancient Egypt, as is evidenced by the fact that vast numbers of mummified cats have been found in tombs at Beni Hasan and elsewhere. In rabbinic literature there are few references to the cat, which was apparently not bred to any great extent, other animals being preferred for catching mice and snakes. It was permitted to breed cats in Ereẓ Israel together with other animals that rid the house of pests (bk 80a–b). Wild cats abounded and they preyed on fowl (tj Pe'ah 3:8, 17d). In Babylonia the cat was highly regarded as a means of ridding the home of poisonous snakes, and it was even stated that entering a house after dark in which there is no cat was dangerous, for fear of being bitten by a snake (Pes. 112b). The cat was praised for its extreme cleanliness, and it was said: "If the Torah had not been given, we could have learnt modesty from the cat" (Er. 100b). A mosaic, uncovered at Nirim in the Negev, on which there is the figure of a cat, testifies to its having been bred in Ereẓ Israel in Byzantine times. Some moralists of the Ghetto period recommended that cats or other domestic pet be kept in the home in order to accustom children to fulfill the mitzvah of feeding animals before partaking of food themselves. The Italian loan-bankers of the Renaissance period were often bound by their contract to keep cats in order to control the mice and other pests which might do damage to the pledges in their care.
Lewysohn, Zool, 74–76; Tristram, Nat Hist, 66f.; F.S. Bodenheimer, Ha-Ḥai be-Arẓot ha-Mikra, 2 (1956), 372–5.
CAT / ˈkat/ • abbr. ∎ clear air turbulence. ∎ computer-assisted (or -aided) testing. ∎ Med. computerized axial tomography: [as adj.] a CAT scan.
1. Strong movable penthouse to protect besiegers, also called cat-house.
1. Lofty work used in fortifications and sieges.
3. Double tripod with six legs.