Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cat n.3

[abbr.; later use is SE]

the cat-o’-nine-tails; thus get the cat, to be given a judicial whipping; note the right-wingers’ litany of bring back the cat.

[UK]A. Falconbridge Afr. Slave Tr. 40: A cat (an instrument of correction which consists of a handle or stem, made of a rope three inches and a half in circumference, and about eighteen inches in length, at one end of which are fastened nine branches, or tails, composed of log line, with three or more knots upon each branch) [M.] [F&H].
[UK]Sporting Mag. Jan. VII 223/2: For if rats with one tail can make fun, I opine, / There is more to be made with a cat that has nine.
[UK]‘A. Burton’ Adventures of Johnny Newcome IV 248: I do not like the thought of risking The chance of such another whisking! For Gales, and Actions — and all that, I do not care — but d—n the Cat!
[UK]‘Bill Truck’ Man o’ War’s Man (1843) 68: I have got some excellent cat on board, very much at the service of every lazy, good-for-nothing scoundrel.
[UK]Marryat Snarleyyow I 16: In the first place, I will cut you to ribbons with the cat.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 29 Nov. 2/5: Her long lids dart their woman's flashes / Against the cat's unmanly lashes!
[US]W. Sketch & ‘Nelse’ The Down-Trodden 172/1: Spare de nigga dis time and he’ll nebber run off any more. I’se a fraid ob de ‘cat’.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 387/2: The cats the convicts were then flogged with were each six feet long.
[UK]E. Greey Queen’s Sailors II 19: Ordering them to ‘stop their row, unless they wanted to taste the cat’.
[Aus]Melbourne Punch 12 Jan. 8/2: The public hangman, Upjohn, comes out with the cat, a thing with nine thongs and three knots in each thong.
[UK]W.S. Gilbert ‘Story of Prince Agib’ Fifty ‘Bab’ Ballads 119: I was walloped with a cat / For listening at the keyhole of a door.
[US]‘Frederick Benton Williams’ (H.E. Hamblen) On Many Seas 220: He it was who came near putting the marks of the cat’s claws on my back.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Wanted by the Police’ in Roderick (1972) 738: Behind the iron clank and the swishing ‘cat’ strokes of brutality.
[UK]Marvel 29 Oct. 9: Standing with the improvised ‘cat’ in his hand.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 16 Apr. 1/1: The epidemic of ruffianism wants stamping out with a stern foot .
[UK]E. Pugh City Of The World 252: Highway robbery being punishable with the cat [...] most always means a rough and tumble.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 218: He got five years and ten lashes of the cat.
[UK]‘Red Collar Man’ ‘Chokey’ 153: Pearson was tried at last and sentenced to twenty-four strokes with the cat.
[UK]N. Streatfeild Grass in Piccadilly 183: ‘How long did he get?’ ‘Ten years, and the cat.’.
[UK]J. Curtis Look Long Upon a Monkey 191: You couldn’t get the cat for copper-bashing, only screws.
[UK](con. 1920s) J. Sparks Burglar to the Nobility 83: TA lot of screws took pride in boasting about the dozens of men who’d had the Cat for them [...] saying: ‘Yes, touch me and I’ll get your backbone stripped’ .
[US]E. Grogan Ringolevio 190: You can threaten them with the cat, the rack, or the garotte but you won’t frighten them.
[US]Bizarre Lifestyles 1 in Murray & Murrell Lang. Sadomasochism (1989) 49: My delights include: Leather, black lingerie, boots, paddles, cats and golden showers. Enemas to the faithful!

In phrases

cat-fighting (n.)

(US) ‘Sadomasochistic activity in which two partners slash at each other with cats’.

[US]personal ad in restroom Murray & Murrell Lang. Sadomasochism (1989) 49: Dominant seeks other for wrestling, cat fighting, sharing of slaves.
comb the cat (v.)

to separate the ‘tails’ on the whip so that each one inflicts its own welt.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 19 July 8/1: His very expertness made it, however, the more surprising that Superintendent Argus should have had occasion to caution him to ‘comb his cats’ – that is, to separate the tails so that each should cause a separate welt.