Green’s Dictionary of Slang

kitten n.

1. a pint or half-pint pot [i.e. a small cat n.4 ].

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 414/1: At this lodging-house cats and kittens are melted down, sometimes twenty a day. A quart pot is a cat, and pints and half pints are kittens.

2. (US Und.) the junior member of a gang, used to check places susceptible to a robbery, etc. [dimin. of SE cat, but note cat n.1 (3a)].

[US] Denton (MD) Journal 11 July 1/8: The ‘kitten’ is a boy, young man, or cripple, whose duty it is to visit houses and places of business, apparently begging food or selling shoestrings [...] and who then reports to the gang the ‘lay of the land.’.

3. a young woman [dimin. of SE cat but also play on cat n.1 (1c)].

(a) an attractive young woman.

[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘In Vino Veritas’ Sporting Times 30 June 1/4: A lady who looked like a belle, / But who might not have been quite a kitten; / For the lady was veiled, and no glimpse of her face / Could he get.

(b) (US black) a young, inexperienced girl.

[US]D. Hammett ‘The Tenth Clew’ in Continental Op (1975) 22: The Dexter kitten didn’t do it.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 194: Walking down the street, glimming the cute kittens.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 96: A jazzed-up kitten still fleshy with baby fat yet to be rubbed off.
[UK]R.A. Norton Through Beatnik Eyeballs 52: He must truly feel a mighty fine cat, with all them kittens playing up to him.

(c) an affectionate term of address to one’s girlfriend or child.

[US]R.A. Wason Happy Hawkins 13: ‘Marry me, kitten?’ sez I, laughin’ free an’ natural.
[US]N. Kimball Amer. Madam (1981) 138: A girl wants to be liked, to be well liked, to be petted, be called kitten, eating pussy, dolly, baby Venus, honey child.
[UK]A. Christie Body in the Library (1959) 130: Hallo, Kitten, who’s this, eh?
[Aus](con. 1936–46) K.S. Prichard Winged Seeds (1984) 147: That’s all right, kitten.
[US]R.M. Stern Brood of Eagles (1976) 276: I know the figure of speech, kitten.
[US]R. Campbell Alice in La-La Land (1999) 93: Time to open up your presents, kitten.

(d) (US black) a girlfriend [a jazz-era coinage, plays on cat n.5 (1)].

[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 112: There was a traffic jam out in front of that café, cats and their kittens blocked up the sidewalk.
[US]J. Ridley Conversation with the Mann 88: The Village cribbed every fresh artist, every new musician, and every cat and kitten who desired to be one.

4. the vagina [var. on cat n.1 (2a)].

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z 49/1: hittin’ the kitten – v. engaging in sexual intercourse.
[US]‘Lara the Webmistress’ [Internet] 21 Mar. In the back of the cab, he wrapped his hand around the inside of my thigh and worked it up to my bare kitten. He stroked at my button and he laughed out loud when he could feel how wet I was.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

In phrases

have kittens (v.) (also cast a kitten, get kittens, ...zebras, have a kitty, ...kittens in the granary, ...pups) [the nervousness of a pregnant cat]

to worry to excess, to throw a fit, to succumb to one’s emotions, to lose one’s temper, often through worry or fear.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 44: kitten, n. In phrases ‘get kittens,’ ‘have kittens.’ 1. To get angry. 2. To be in great anxiety, or to be afraid. [Ibid.] 70: zebra, n. In phrase ‘to get zebras,’ to get angry, ‘to get kittens’.
[UK]Lincs. Echo 22 Nov. 2/4: In an article on college slang in the United States [...] in Princeton ‘to have pups’ means to be angry.
[US]F.S. Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise in Bodley Head Scott Fitzgerald III (1960) 60: Oh my Lord, I’m going to cast a kitten.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Third Round 745: The poor dear chap went mad. In his own charming phraseology he got kittens in the granary.
[US]V. Carter ‘University of Missouri Sl.’ (in AS VI:3) 206: to have kittens: to be angry.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 86: There’s big buck navvies would have laid down and had kittens at half what this here Spencer went through.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 162: Come on [...] Ziggy’ll have pups if we don’t get stuck into it.
[UK]K. Amis letter 7 Sept. in Leader (2000) 451: I’m mightily pleased that That Uncertain Feeling seems to be selling satisfactorily. I really was beginning to have kittens about it.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves in the Offing 60: ‘Your uncle will be most upset.’ ‘He’ll have kittens.’.
[Aus]A. Buzo The Roy Murphy Show (1973) 130: You must have had kittens during that attempted naughty, eh Col?
[UK]A. Payne ‘Senior Citizen Caine’ in Minder [TV script] 7: They’re having kittens up in Jockland.
[US]S. King Christine 194: If he had done it in front of his parents, I figure Regina would have had a kitty.
[Aus]M. Walker How to Kiss a Crocodile 103: Little did I know that John Murray, our producer at the time, was having kittens.
[UK]Indep. 28 Oct. 5: AN Wilson [...] gave Martyn Goff kittens by blithely hand-signalling the winner on the way to his table.
[UK]D. Mitchell Black Swan Green 137: His poor mother. She must be having kittens.
real kittens (n.)

(US) something or someone exceptional.

[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Down the Line 78: I don’t think Clara Jane considered him the real kittens but [...] she found him pleasant company.