Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cat n.1

[lit. and fig. uses of SE cat]

1. uses based on the identification of the cat with femininity.

(a) (later use is US black) a prostitute.

Political Poems II 113: Beware of Cristis curse, and of cattis tailis [M.] [F&H].
[Scot]D. Lyndsay Satyre of Thrie Estaits I (1604) 16: wantonnes Hay, as ane brydlit Cat, I brank.
[UK]Dekker & Webster Northward Hoe I i: I coulde teare out those false eyes, those Cats eyes, that can see in the night: punck I could.
[UK]N. Field Woman is a Weathercock (1888) I ii: Scratch faces, like a wild-cat of Pick’d-hatch.
[UK]Middleton & Rowley The Changeling I ii: Cat-whore, cat-whore, her permasant!
[UK]Cavendish Varietie IV i: [I am] one Cat among so many Mastives.
[UK]Mercurius Fumigosus 13 23–30 Aug. 120: Away with them mercinary Monkeys, pockey Pieces of mortality, that make a Trade of Lust, and a pastime of incontinencie [...] But hang them Powl-Catts.
[UK]Dryden Kind Keeper III i: Your kept Mistress is originally a Punk; and let the Cat be chang’d into a Lady never so formally, she still retains her natural property of Mousing.
[UK] ‘Debauchery Scared’ in Farmer Merry Songs and Ballads (1897) I 160: His master [...] swore he would turn him away, Sir, / ’Lest he would get him a bit for his Cat, / and into his Chamber convey her. / Some jolly Dame he was willing to have, / and gave to his Bumkin a Guiney.
[UK]Motteux (trans.) Pantagruelian Prognostications (1927) II 693: Those whom Venus is said to rule [...] light skirts, wrigglers, misses, cats.
[UK]Swift ‘Phyllis, or the Progress of Love’ in Chalmers Eng. Poets (1810) 403: For John was landlord, Phyllis hostess; They keep, at Staines, the old Blue Boar, / Are cat and dog, and rogue and whore.
[UK]C. Walker Authentick Memoirs of Sally Salisbury 29: Plundering his Lordship, who knew nothing of his Loss ’till next Morning [...] his Cats got too far off to be overtaken.
[UK] ‘The Court Wasp’ in Lover’s Pacquet 14: Just so Captain Wasp, every Night in is Arms / Hugs a Cat, and declares, she has ten thousand Charms.
[UK]Dyche & Pardon New General Eng. Dict. (5th edn).
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[Ire] ‘Answer to Darby O’Gallagher’ Songs (publ.?) 5: Then with a stout Blow, / Of two Stones Below, / He made her to Scream like a Cat in a Factory.
[US] ‘Flash Lang.’ in Confessions of Thomas Mount 19: Lewd women, cats.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict. 9: Cat – a drunken, fighting prostitute.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]Peeping Tom (London) 50 198/3: Mrs Simpson still lives, abandoned by every sentiment of virtue and decorum [...] She is now known as the Canterbury Cat.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 18: cat. A drunken prostitute.
[US]H. Sebastian ‘Negro Sl. in Lincoln University’ in AS IX:4 288: cat A low woman; a prostitute.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 99: The word cat, for example, was used to mean another boy, or a prostitute, or a man looking for a woman, or a homosexual.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]R. Gover One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding 21: Madam alla time tellin us cats, Don’ never say motherfug roun them real fay tricks, but Kee-ryees!
[US](con. 1890s) in S. Harris Hellhole 161: Criminals whom Molly still designates by the names with which she first learned to identify them: ‘Cats’ or ‘gooks’ – the small-time madams she presently meets in the House of detention.
[US]Ebonics Primer at 🌐 cat Definition: 1. a prostitute. Example: 42nd and Broadway is where the cats hang.
[US](con. late 19C) C. Jeffords Shady Ladies of the Old West 🌐 In the Kansas trail towns common terms included [...] ‘nymphs du prairie’, ‘calico queens’, and ‘painted cats.’.

(b) attrib. use of sense 1a.

[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (1937) 40: A little job now and then keeps them in cat money.

(c) a woman, esp. a spiteful and malicious one; thus old cat, an unpleasant, gossiping old woman.

[UK]Shakespeare Midsummer Night’s Dream III ii: Hang off, thou cat, thou burr! vile thing, let loose.
[UK]Marston Malcontent I vi: Why, that at four women were fools, at fourteen drabs, at forty bawds, at fourscore witches, and at a hundred, cats.
[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 108: She would kick up a fine dust, for there was not such a hell-fire old cat living.
[UK]Sporting Mag. May X 114/1: My Governess has been in such a fuss / About the death of our old tabby puss – / She wears black stockings – Ha! Ha! – What a pother, / ’Cause one old cat’s in mourning for another.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 22: ‘Cat, pussey’ — a pert coxcomical little lass, [...] But an ‘old Cat,’ is she who snarls and spits at those around her.
[UK]C. Dance Bengal Tiger 7: Horrid old cat!
[UK]T. Carlyle Diamond Necklace 15/2: We have a face ‘with a certain piquancy,’ the liveliest glib-snappish tongue, the liveliest kittenish manner (not yet hardened into cat-hood) with thirty pounds a year and prospects.
[Ire]S. Lover Handy Andy 130: She was a little cantankerous cat and a dirty tell-tale.
[US]Flash (NY) 31 July n.p.: You nasty old cat.
[UK]C. Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend III 117: Oh! you spiteful cat!
[US]Life in Boston & N.Y. (Boston, MA) 25 Oct. n.p.: It would be better for that foolish old cat, Mother P—t [...] to stay at home .
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 94: One with very shiny hair [...] answered the lady at the window, calling her ‘a d—d old cat’.
[UK]M.E. Braddon Trail of the Serpent 360: ‘Don’t you go to flurry your tender constitution and do yourself a unrecoverable hinjury,’ the old cat made reply.
[UK]Wild Boys of London I 106/1: ‘Mother Wilkins!’ ‘Where’s the cat?’ [...] ‘Yaa, hoo! yah, hoo!’ ‘Get home!’ ‘Nasty old thing!’ And such like were the cries.
[US]Chicago Street Gazette 22 Sept. n.p.: There is a dive on North LaSalle Street, called a wine hall, kept by an old procuress, and most any night you can find a congregation of boys, prostitutes, old cats, thieves and vags.
[US]A.C. Gunter Mr Barnes of N.Y. 185: Why, that foreign cat, Marina, of course! [...] she’s so deceitful she makes you think she loves you — but she loves him!
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 8 Mar. 1/4: ‘Young men, beware of frolicsome lasses. Remember that the cruel, spiteful old cat is developed from the playful frisky young kitten’.
[UK]R. Whiteing No. 5 John Street 230: She dislikes the ‘’aughty and overbearin’ ways’ [...] of the ‘young cats’ at the counter.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Sept. 20/1: This subsisting of self-constituted he and she cats to inquire into the troubles of the fellow-creatures and then leave them just where they were is a small and miserable Paul Pryism.
[UK]B.L. Farjeon Amblers 174: No wonder she puts on airs, the stuck-up cat!
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 12 Aug. 1/1: The Cochin Chinas behind the bars are invariably gossiping about some cat in the telephone department.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘A Dramatic Forecast’ Sporting Times 31 Dec. 2/2: She’ll elope with the villain, the ‘cat!’.
H. Hershfield Abie the Agent 24 Nov. [synd. cartoon strip] [girl about girl] The cat!
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 346: O yes, it cut deep because Edy had her own quiet way of saying things like that she knew would wound like the confounded little cat she was.
[UK]J.B. Priestley Good Companions 91: But she really is an awful old cat.
[Aus]N. Lindsay Redheap (1965) 279: ‘Go - go to that cat - tell her she can keep you’ .
[UK]E.F. Benson Mapp and Lucia (1984) 62: Tea-parties with a lot of old cats more in his line. Pshaw!
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 59: Blimey, she’d like to show that cat Elsie up.
[UK]A. Christie Body in the Library (1959) 138: Nosey old cat.
[WI]S. Selvon Lonely Londoners 124: Moses ask a cat one night and she tell him how the black boys so nice.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 232: cat [...] 2. female.
Online Sl. Dict. 🌐 cat n [...] 3. a female. (‘Look at that fine cat across the street’).
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Real Life 20 Feb. 1: Her escort overheard two jealous cats criticising.

(d) in attrib. uses .

[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 10 Jan. 10/2: Susie D. is very lonely since her two cat-cobbers have gone away .
[US]R. Chandler Little Sister 134: ‘Nasty little scenes. They don’t mean a thing.’ ‘Cat talk.’.

(e) a gossip.

[US]Maines & Grant Wise-crack Dict. 11/2: Office cat – Office gossip.

(f) a sexually attractive woman; in weak use, a girlfriend.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 30 Sept. 1/5: And the nose is outer jint of every othr cat in Wooloomooloo.
[UK]Forbidden Fruit n.p.: Oh, you little love, you shall be all mine; that cat, beautiful as she is, shan't have you.
[UK]‘Ramrod’ Nocturnal Meeting 49: Your drawers are dripping, and it’s [i.e. vaginal secretions] running down your stockings. What a hot little cat.
[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 10: BARTS obsolescent old Sydney larrikin slang: girls, young unmarried females: [...] SYNS – shicksa, clinah, donah, rabbit, moll, cat.
[UK]T. Burke Limehouse Nights 213: ‘My word, she’s a little goer, eh?’ ‘You’re right. At that age, too! Fast little cat.’.
[US]Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang Aug. 5: Lottie and another girl were talking in one of the bedrooms regarding the ‘cat’ who had vamped the temporary affections of Lottie's former beau.
[US]N. Putnam West Broadway 222: ‘So pleased to meet you!’ says this blond cat. ‘I think your husband is such a nice man!’.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS.

(g) (US gay) a lesbian.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular.
[US]Maledicta VI:1+2 (Summer/Winter) 133: Here are some obsolete or nearly obsolete terms which careless lexicographers continue to list as current […] cat.

2. uses based on cat’s fur.

(a) the female pubic hair and genitals.

[UK]Shirley Compleat Courtier 129: ’Tis for love of thy Scut, Which resembles a Cat or a Cole [...] then let thy black Cat So bemumble my Rat That we ne’er may Repent th’Old Game.
[UK] in D’Urfey Pills to Purge Melancholy II 82: Cry’d pray, Run, fetch John, / He’s the man that can, / When it does need it, / Best knows how to feed it, / Or gad you will starve my Cat.
[UK]‘They Say I’m a Black Little Hairy Thing’ in Flash Minstrel! in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) I 116: They play with my tail and all that, / [...] / Then they call me an ugly cat, / Or a sly looking, Black little hairy thing.
[UK] ‘Cat’ [broadsheet ballad] When he pull’d up her smock it made him to smile / Instead of a hen it appared like a cat / For there was her beard and her rough hairy back.
[UK]Peeping Tom (London) 40 160/2: And the wanton little mousey / Goes — where I will not say. / The cat no more it fears, / For it burrows like a mole.
[UK] ‘Who’ll Stroke My Cat?’ in Rakish Rhymer (1917) 70: I quiz each flat, / And sing as I pass, Who’ll stroke my Cat?
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US]‘Marry’s Cat’ in Bawdy N.Y. State MS. n.p.: Marry had a little cat, / With curly short black hair / And every place that Marry went, / That cat was always there.
[UK]G.R. Bacchus Maudie 70: ‘You fuck my cat: oh, just such nice cat, ten francs’.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 79: The ‘peke’ was digging a washcloth into her armpits and ‘cat’.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 43: She dropped the soggy package from her cat on the cocktail table top.
[US]G. Clinton ‘Atomic Dog’ 🎵 Computer Games [album] Why must I feel like that / Oh, why must I chase the cat / Like the boys / When they’re out there walkin’ the streets / May compete / Nothin’ but the dog in ya.
[US]Dr Dre ‘Housewife’ 🎵 Slut I’m bout to nut and get up, go scrub yo’ cat.

(b) a ladies’ muff; thus free a cat, to steal a muff.

[UK]H. Brandon Dict. of the Flash or Cant Lang. 162/1: Cat – a muff.
[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds Mysteries of London III 85/1: No. 4 A cat, six pair of shakester’s crabs and a cule .
[UK]J. Archbold Magistrate’s Assistant (3rd edn) 444: To steal a muff – To free a cat.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn) 112: CAT, a lady’s muff; ‘to free a cat,’ i.e., steal a muff.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. [as cit. 1860].
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 2: Cat - A muff. Skinning a Cat - Having a muff.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 15: Cat, a lady’s muff.

3. based on other feline characteristics, e.g. quietness, disloyalty.

(a) (US Und.) one who researches potential robberies, plans them and poss. works as a lookout.

[US]S.F. Chronicle 6 Mar. 3: The ‘cat’ in Yegg parlance is a man shrewd enough to find ‘easy things’ where robbery may be safely committed. It is his duty to plan and maybe to stand on guard for a ‘rumble’.

(b) (US prison) an informer.

[US]R.J. Tasker Grimhaven 33: ‘There never was six gees got together in the world without at least one of them being a cat!’ ‘Cat?’ ‘Sure. A fink, stool-pigeon.’.
[UK] (ref. to 1920s) L. Duncan Over the Wall 245: He was known as a ‘cat’ – a man who would go to the bulls and betray his associates.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

(c) (Aus. Und.) a ‘cat’ burglar.

[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/5: Other English incorporations [in Australian slang] include: [...] .

(d) a narcotics user.

[UK]Guardian 10 Oct. 7: You see the addicts ducking past here with their hoods and caps pulled down real low. We call them ‘cats’ because they are always over fences and ducking round cars.

4. (Aus.) a person.

[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 22 May 4/5: Jimmy R. is rather fat, / With all he’s not a love, / And he’s quite a silly cat, / Whilst playing ‘forty love’ .

5. an animal other than a cat.

[US]‘Max Brand’ Rustlers of Beacon Creek (1935) 248: [of a horse] What a cat he is on his feet!
[US]D.M. Garrison ‘Song of the Pipeline’ in Botkin Folk-Say 106: We seen a big black ugly bear go into a cave. So I sez to Bub Bub, ‘Let’s get that big fuzzy-hide cat’.

6. (Aus./N.Z./UK prison) a passive male homosexual; thus cats’ gaol, a prison where the majority of inmates are homosexual/transsexual; cats’ yard, a segregated area of the prison set aside for homosexuals or otherwise vulnerable prisoners [may also be abbr. SE catamite, a boy kept for homosexual purposes; but note pussy n. (10)].

[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 99: The word cat, for example, was used to mean another boy, or a prostitute, or a man looking for a woman, or a homosexual.
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxiii 4/3: cat: An effeminate homosexual [...] cat’s yard: Segregated section of the prison where the cats are left. Sometimes catty.
[Aus]Adamson & Hanford Zimmer’s Essay 31: The big losers in prison sexual politik are the ‘cats,’ who will not accept feminine status, but who are weak and so are raped, or coerced into cock-sucking.
[Aus]R. Aven-Bray Ridgey-Didge Oz Jack Lang 22: Cat Passive homosexual.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. 🌐 Cat. A male person who takes the passive role in a homosexual relationship. A person who openly admits he is gay and submissive. An effeminate person. [Ibid.] Cats’ gaol. Traditionally Cooma Gaol (NSW), a prison for homosexual prisoners and particularly transexual prisoners. [Ibid.] Cat’s yard. Section of prison where homosexual prisoners are kept for their own protection.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 115: Later in the l9th century came the term gussie and the 20th century has contributed many more, such as [...] triss, cat (perhaps a shortening of a more or less polite 19th-century term for homosexuals, catamite, though cat may also be used as Lingo for a prostitute).
[NZ]W. Ings ‘Trolling the Beat to Working the Soob’ in Int’l Jrnl Lexicog. 23:1 68: [I]n prison slang in the 1950s, the word cat described a ‘straight acting’ but often sexually passive youth.

In derivatives

cattish (adj.)

(Aus.) mean-spirited.

[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 25 Sept. 5/6: Min F., the veteran war horse, has beaten her three cattish cobbers for A.B.
catty (adj.)

1. (US black) promiscuous.

[US]‘Digg Mee’ ‘Observation Post’ in N.Y. Age 28 June 9/7: Don’t let your pride keep you from his side. T’would be a shame to force him to some ‘catty’ dame.

2. verbally unpleasant, ‘bitchy’.

[Aus]B. Robinson Aussie Bull 18: I will not go into the argument of whether women are ‘catty’ [...] towards members of their own ‘you know what’.

In compounds

cat bar (n.) (also cat’s bar)

(N.Z.) a bar set aside for women and their escorts.

[NZ]N.Z. Observer 1 July 6: They could not help being brought into close personal contact with what some of them coarsely termed ‘the cats’ bar’ or ‘the mares’ nest’ [DNZE].
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 23: He’s a randy old coot always hangin around the cats’ bar.
[NZ]F. Sargeson Hangover 154: Somewhere in this place there’s what I believe they call a cat bar. You may prefer to pick up something out of there.
J. McClenaghan Travelling Man 118: ‘What bar’s that?’ ‘The cat bar,’ said Eton Junior. ‘I’d rather walk into a lion’s den than a cat’s bar.’ [...] It was explained that this bar [...] was used by women [DNZE].
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 26/1: cat’s bar ladies’ bar or lounge bar of hotel where women permitted, as opposed to all-male traditional public bar.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].
cat fight (n.)

1. a fight between two (or more) women.

[US]B.G. Ferris Utah & Mormons 308: The object is to keep the women and babies, as much as possible, apart, and prevent those terrible cat-fights which sometimes occur, with all the accompaniments of Billingsgate, torn caps, and broken broom-sticks.
[US]Pacific Spectator 3 374: Finally she can involve herself in a screaming catfight with Mrs. Kendall, and in the course of it Mr. Palmer can learn [...] what makes her pupils so large, what is the source of her furious and demented energy.
[US]E. De Roo Young Wolves 137: I give a little gift of appreciation and what happens? A cat fight.
[Aus]B. Robinson Aussie Bull 34: [T]he two ‘ladies’ [...] were down on the road having a terrific ‘cat fight’ after smashing into each other.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 36: Three old biddies from Georgia getting into a catfight about boyfriends.
[US]G. Sikes 8 Ball Chicks (1998) 198: Adults, dealing with boys who carried high-powered guns, tended to shrug off such female violence as cat fights.
[US]‘Touré’ Portable Promised Land (ms.) 39: By the time that night had turned high yaller they had the biggest catfight you could imagine.
[US]D. Dunbar Devil’s Paw [ebook] I had a bad premonition that Wyatt’s party was going to be ruined by a catfight of epic proportions. [...] I knew it would hurt Wyatt terribly to have his sisters break into a hair–pulling brawl.
[US]J. Ellroy Widespread Panic 189: I like your idea of a catfight at the Mocambo.

2. (N.Z. prison) a fight between two drag queens.

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 39/1: cat fight n. 3 a fight between ‘drag queens’ (transvestite males).
cat fit (n.)

(US) an attack of hysteria, usu. by a woman.

[US]Rock Island Daily Argus 14 May 5/3: Certain of those who compose the ‘infloonce’ had a cat fit yesterday when the erroneous information got into circulation [...] that the police were to wear ‘green’ helmets.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 9 Apr. 47/2: Castro throws his annual cat-fit.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 6 Nov. 46/2: She don’t know whether to throw another cat fit or faint.
cat flat (n.)

(US Und.) a brothel.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]D. Burley N.Y. Amsterdam News 6 July 13: The average polceman [...] is collecting ‘tribute’ from the apartment building ‘cat flats’ on his beat.
cat-house (n.)

see separate entry.

cat o’mountain (n.) [SE catamount, a cougar or panther]

a high-spirited whore or promiscuous woman.

Fletcher Cust. of Country I i: The rude claws of such a cat o’ mountain! [F&H].
[UK]J. Shirley Grateful Servant III iv: Fair, high-fed, glorious, and springing cat-a-mountains, ladies of blood, whose eyes will make a soldier melt, an he were composed of marble.
[UK]Dekker Penny-Wise n.p.: The poor catamountains in Turnbull who venture upon the pikes of damnation for single money.
[UK]J. Shirley Gentleman of Venice III iv: What man of menaces Dare look awry upon my cat-a-mountain?
cat party (n.) (also cats’ party)

a party consisting of women only.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. & Its Analogues.
[US]Highland Recorder (Highland Co. VA) 23 Aug. 3/1: A social, which was given the special name of a ‘cat party’ was given [...] by Misses Phoebe and Mabel Jones.
[Aus]W.A. Sun. Times (Perth) 19 Jan. 1/1: Actions for slanders are promised in consequence of her dissemination of cat-party candards.
[US]Arizona Republican (Phoenix, AZ) 11 Nov. 15/3: Miss Elizabeth Kendrick entertained with a cat party in honor of her cousin Miss Walter.
[US]Holbrook News (Navajo, Co., AZ) 27 Oct. 5/3: The ladies of the Obesity Division of the Deuce and Needle club [...] held a cat party.
[UK]‘William Juniper’ True Drunkard’s Delight 246: Weak tipple, swish-swash, fit only for drinking at a cat-, hen-, or bitch-party.
[UK]Partridge DSUE.
cat shop (n.) (also cats’ nest) [shop n.1 (1)]

(US) a brothel.

[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 573: cats’-nest, n. A house of ill repute.
[UK]I. Fleming Diamonds Are Forever (1958) 112: Legalized cat-shops. Nice set-up.
cat wagon (n.) [found in many US rural areas before the anti-‘white slavery’ legislation of 1910; the women travelled and worked from a horse-drawn covered wagon, following the cattle trails or visiting cowboys out on the range] (US)

1. a travelling brothel.

[US]Columbia Jrnl (NE) 30 Jan. 6/2: The senate has passed a measure that its author calls the ‘cat wagon’ bill. It places wagons used for immoral purposes in the same category [etc.].
[US]Red Cloud Chief (Webster Co., NE) 2 Dec. 5/4: Two gentlemen [...] were taken into custody [...] after a shooting affray at a ‘cat wagon’.
[US]‘Dean Stiff’ Milk and Honey Route 163: The ‘cat wagon’ is an ancient institution of the harvest belt. They usually go about, two ladies and a procurer.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Randolph & Wilson Down in the Holler 108: The vans used by travelling prostitutes are known as cat-wagons.
[US](con. 1870s) Miller & Snell Why the West was Wild 15: The existence of portable brothels or ‘cat wagons’ [...] seem to have given the military authorities particular trouble.
[US]Maledicta IX 149: The original argot of prostitution includes some words and phrases which have gained wider currency and some which have not […] cat wagon (vehicle used by touring pros).

2. a van used to take prostitutes to prison.

Pearl Cops 67: Driving around in the cat wagon and picking them up in bunches [HDAS].

In phrases

feed the cat (v.)

of a man, to have sexual intercourse.

[UK]Peeping Tom (London) 12 48/3: [advert] the wanton warbler — Feeding the Cat.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

catish (adj.) [the popular idea of the sinuously elegant feline]

(US) elegant, stylish .

[US]E.L. Warnock ‘Terms of Approbation And Eulogy’ in DN IV:i 22: catish. Stylish, elegant. [...] ‘She’s a very catish lady.’.

In compounds


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

catface (n.) (also cat’s face) [fanciful resemblance. Note timber jargon catface, a mark in a piece of lumber-wood]

(US) a wrinkle in one’s clothing.

[US]F.C. Brown North Carolina Folklore 1 525: Catface [...] A wrinkle or pucker in clothing ironed when too dry .
[US]M. Angelou Caged Bird 48: I had to iron seven starched shirts and not leave a cat’s face anywhere.
[US]G. Smitherman Talkin 258: Cat faces, wrinkles in clothes when ironing them, as in ‘Chile, you call yo’self done iron this, with all these cat faces in it?’.
cat fight (n.)

(N.Z. prison) a cowardly attack.

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 39/1: cat fight n. 1 an attack from behind. 2 a cowardly assault.

see separate entries.

cat-fit (n.) (also catnip-fit) [reverse anthropomorphism]

(US) a tantrum.

[US]L. Pound ‘Dialect Speech in Nebraska’ in DN III:i 60: catfit, catnip-fit, n. Same as conniption fit.
W. Lillibridge Where The Trail Divides 110: Mary’d have a cat-fit if she knew [DA].
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 163: He’ll throw cat-fits all over the house.
catflap (n.)

1. weak or diluted spirits [sense 1c].

[Scot]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 1 Sept. 3/6: The language of the London East-end pub [...] ‘Cat flaps’ and ‘Wet Quakers’ — Drinkers of diluted stuff.

2. a bisexual person [it swings both ways].

[UK]M. Walker ‘The Nice Bit’ in ScotsGay Mag. Issue 22 🌐 Who actually likes the terms ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ or ‘bisexual’ or ‘transgender’ or ‘straight’ anyway. Do you prefer ‘queer’ or ‘dyke’ or ‘catflap’?

see separate entries.

catgut (n.)

see separate entries.


see separate entries.

cat-lap (n.) [lap n.2 ]

1. tea or coffee; thus cat-lap shop, a breakfast room.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Cat lap, tea.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]R.B. Peake Americans Abroad II iii: I can’t say I like your catlap as we call it in our parts.
[UK]R.B. Peake A Quarter to Nine Act I: (sees the tea equipage.) What is that I behold? [...] what your brother Jonathan calls ‘your catlap and cow-juice’.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Young Tom Hall (1926) 73: We’ll have a light breakfast here — slops (catlap, you know) and so on — then drive there and have a regular tuck-out.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Young Tom Hall (1926) 99: Which is the way to the cat-lap shop? [...] The cat-lap shop — the breakfast-room, to be sure.
[UK]M.E. Braddon Aurora Floyd II 77: ‘I’ve mashed the tea for ’ee,’ said the ‘Softy’; ‘I thought you’d like a coop.’ The trainer shrugged his shoulders. ‘I can’t say I’m particular attached to the cat-lap,’ he said, laughing.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 2: Cat-lap - A contemptuous expression for weak drink.
[UK]H. King Savage London 148: We won’t have no weak cat-lap to-night, Bell. The tea on the hob there is made rare and strong.
[UK] press cutting in J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 66/2: A vast crowd, but not much animation; plenty of card tables, but few players; no supper, but plenty of soup; also ‘catlap’ in abundance.
[UK]Taunton Courier 26 Apr. 10/2: Cat-lap — Tea.

2. any form of weak drink, incl. watered-down alcohol.

[UK]J. Nyren Cricketers of My Time (1902) 96: Punch! — not your new Ponche à la Romaine, or Ponche à la Groseille, or your modern cat-lap milk punch — punch be-devilled, but good, unsophisticated John Bull stuff.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK] ‘’Arry on the Battle of Life’ in Punch 21 Sept. in P. Marks (2006) 136: Says he, ‘Is it lotion or catlap?’.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 16: Cat Lap, weak drink.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 25 Nov. 42/2: Weak tea is unpalatable; so he styles it cat lap.

3. milk.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.
[UK]Flash Mirror 19: Out-and-out cat lap is serv’d out in regular tin conweyancers by the imperial kevart [...] Any swell covess that sluices in warm cat-lap, may hear of a buyer who will [...] take it away.
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 280: He ought to have stuck in a few squeakers climbing up dad’s knee while he’s gorging his cat-lap and pannam.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 151: We haven’t done a milkman yet. Who keeps the old man in cat-lap?
[US]Minneapolis Jrnl (MN) 15 Dec. 28/1: If your babe screams fire at night, it might be well to see what the milkman is doing to his little cat-lap.
cat-lick (n.) [the phr. is supposedly reminiscent of a cat, although, in fact, cats are punctilious in their self-cleansing]

a casual, perfunctory wash.

[UK]J. Franklyn This Gutter Life 164: My God, Jerry, it’s awful, having a cat’s lick in a basin!
cat-licker (n.)

see separate entry.

cat-man (n.)

(US black) a cat burglar.

[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 110: That’s what all you catmen say.
[US](con. 1940s) Malcolm X Autobiog. (1968) 177: You couldn’t imagine a known cat-man thief regularly exposing himself as one of the most popular people in [the bar].

see separate entries.

cat road (n.) [a cat’s nocturnal wanderings]

(US) a back road.

[US]J.E. Hoover Persons in Hiding 178: By this time the back or ‘cat’ roads used by bank robbers were choked with snow.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 314: We never used anything but the cat roads on a get-away and they had mud two feet deep on ’em.

In compounds

cat’s (n.) [abbr. cat’s pyjamas n.]

anything exceptional, superlative.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 25: You say you heard the story of the flounder’s head? Yep — it’s the cat’s.
[US]F.W. Pollock ‘The Current Expansion of Sl.’ in AS II:3 145: The approbative ‘She’s the cat’s,’ and its variations.
[US]H.W. Brecht Downfall 73: Gee, Dick, that’s the cat’s.
[US]Current Sl. III–IV (Cumulation Issue) 125: The cat’s adj. interesting; superior.
cat’s ass

see separate entries.

cat’s balls (n.) [balls n.] (US)

anything exceptional, superlative.

[US]E. Stephens Blow Negative! 228: ‘Where did you have an art professor, Lydia?’ ‘Radcliffe.’ ‘What?’ ‘Isn’t that the cat’s balls?’.
[US]S. Shem House of God 127: Howard, who knew that being a doc really was the cat’s balls after all.
[US]R. Delgado (ed.) Best Short Plays 152: Denis: Unbelievable! Marvelous! Sammy: Now isn’t that the cat's balls —.
cat sense (n.)

(US black) common sense, intelligence.

[US]Democrat & Chron. (Rochester, NY) 1 July 134/4: I wonder if it might not be a blessing [...] if more people had what might be called ‘cat sense’.
[US](con. 1930s) R. Wright Lawd Today 125: That woman ain’t got cat sense!
cat-shag (v.) [shag v.1 (2)]

(Aus.) to fool around.

[Aus]D. Ireland Unknown Industrial Prisoner 143: These men are trained for years, they know more than us, they’re bent over books and calculus and things we’ve never heard of while we’re out cat-shagging around and learning to get on the piss.
[Aus](con. 1941) R. Beilby Gunner 248: Now, let’s stop cat-shagging about and get started.
catshit (n.) [shit n.]

1. (US) lit. cat excrement, a disgusting or objectional circumstance or individual; also attrib.

[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 121: That’s a crock [...] a stinking, full-to-the-brim crock of unburied cat shit.
[US]J. Flaherty Tin Wife 65: I wouldn’t ask you to do something terrible. This is catshit. Forget the punk.
Gina at 16 Oct. 🌐 Paris stole marykates bf, and i’m not too happy about that. But i reckon if a catshit chick steals ur shipping heir its not that bad, and thats just what paris is. catshit.

2. nonsense, esp. in the form of suposedly ‘mystical’ pronouncements.

[US]W.T. Vollmann Whores for Gloria 37: Man don’t bother me with input and that catshit like some beady-eyed chaplain.
[Aus]J. Byrell Lairs, Urgers & Coat-Tuggers 98: [H]ard-nosed Uncle Ern was never the type to go along with dreams or premonitions or any other suchlike catshit [ibid.] 173: When asked by the press boys why he was giving his favourite hoop of ten years the heave-ho, the old boy [...] came out with some sort of prophetic Eastern catshit like: ‘The winds and the dunes make many courses’.
cat-skin (n.)

1. a second-rate silk hat.

[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown’s School-days (1896) 78: Tom is arrayed [...] in a regulation cat-skin at seven-and-sixpence.

2. a military busby or ‘bearskin’.

[UK]Islington Gaz. 16 Nov. 3/4: ‘Remember the day on which the defendant first appeared in his cat skin-hat’.

3. (Irish) the outer crust or end of a loaf of bread.

[Ire]C. Brown Down All the Days 26: They dipped thick cuts of dry bread and the hard ‘heels’ of loaves which were also called ‘catskins’.
[Ire]P. O’Keeffe Down Cobbled Streets, A Liberties Childhood 71: Secretly I liked the rubbery feel of the catskin, but as often as not it was a slice which my mother discarded.
cat’s kittens (n.) [var. on cat’s pyjamas n.] (US)

anything or anyone exceptional, superlative.

Eau Claire Leader (WI) 16 May 12/6: ‘Isn’t this hat of mine the cat’s kittens’.
[US]T. Gordon Born to Be (1975) 204: London was the cat’s kittens.
cat’s meat (n.)

see separate entry.

cat-smellers (n.) [a cat uses its whiskers as an extra sense]

(US) facial hair, whiskers.

Davy Crockett’s Almanack n.p.: The war the men with cat smellers on thar upper lips [HDAS].
cat’s meow (n.)

see separate entry.

cat’s mother (n.) (also cat’s aunt, ...grandmother, ...father) [? the (middle-class) admonition to a child talking of ‘she’, when describing a woman, who ought to be ‘Mrs X’ or ‘Miss Y’: ‘She’ is the cat’s mother]

a dismissive description of an individual or a response to a question that is considered impertinent or over-intrusive.

[[UK]G.F. Northall Folk-Phrases of Four Counties 15: Her’s the cat’s mother [...] Said to one who uses the possessive her of the third person instead of the nominative she].
[US]St Cloud Times (MN) 7 Sept. 12/2: ‘She — the cat’s mother,’ Mrs Hainess murmured.
[UK]J. Franklyn Cockney 272: Who’s she? – the cat’s mother?
[Ire]L. Daiken Out Goes She 37: Who’s SHE? / The cat’s mother!
[Ire]E. Brady All in! All in! 22: She did it / Who’s she? / The cat’s mother!
[UK]P. Devlin All of us There 51: ‘Who’s he?’ she said. ‘The cat’s father?’.
[UK]P. Barker Liza’s England (1996) 134: ‘She’s after us, Dad.’ ‘She’s the cat’s grandmother. Say who you mean.’].
[Ire](con. 1970) G. Moxley Danti-Dan in McGuinness Dazzling Dark II i: noel: Who did? Me? dolores: No, the cat’s aunt.
[US]J.T. Ellison Deeper Darkness 58: He sometimes referred to Sam's mother as her. Laura would always retort, ‘Who’s her, the cat's mother?’ .
cat’s nuts (n.) [nuts n.2 (1); var. on cat’s pyjamas n.] (US)

1. anything exceptional, superlative.

[US]W.C. Williams Spring & All in Coll. Poems (1991) 216: Our orchestra / is the cat’s nuts.
[US](con. 1900s–10s) Dos Passos 42nd Parallel in USA (1966) 70: ‘Ain’t this hunkydory?’ whispered Ike. ‘It’s the cat’s nuts, Ike.’.
[US]M. Levin Old Bunch (1946) 189: He forgot his hat! That’s the cat’s nuts!

2. a superior person, or someone who poses as such.

[US]M. Levin Reporter 32: At Welf Anjou’s funeral [...] they jumped Catsnuts Maloney for trying to make a grave picture.
[US]M. Levin Old Bunch (1946) 123: Is she the cat’s nuts! Boy, I could go fur her!
[US]B. Pronzini Bones (2011) 179: She thinks you're the cat’s nuts, too.
[US]J.F. Mariglino Best Known Unknown 145: I had the top down and I felt like the cat’s nuts!
cat’s pee (n.) [pee n.1 (1)]

any form of weak alcoholic drink.

M. Heuzenroeder ‘Guestbook’ on 🌐 When I lived in Berlin in the early 80s, I really liked Jever Pils, but only ever get to drink it when I visit Germany which is infrequent. It is impossible to get this beer in Australia which is a great shame because most aussie beer is cat’s pee.
[UK]L. Page And One for Luck n.p.: I’m sure the landlord waters the beer. It's like bloody cat’s pee. No ’ead at all.
cat’s piss (n.) [piss n. (3a)]

any form of weak drink.

Tharunka (Kensington, NSW) 11 Sept. 11/1: And there’s nothing worse than downing cat’s piss.
[Aus]R.G. Barratt ‘TV Ads’ in What Do You Reckon (1997) [ebook] Resch’s is the worst beer on the market. It tastes like tomcat’s piss.
‘Letter from America’ 31 Oct. at 🌐 Better than the usual American beer, though, for which I’m told the official term is ‘cat’s piss’.
M. Nespolo Seven Ways to Kill a Cat 9: ‘What's weird is the bottle’s legit, but I’m guessing it didn't come with this cat’s piss in it’.
cat’s prick (n.) [prick n. (1)]

(UK juv.) the elongated end of a burning cigarette, caused by its being shared and smoked fast.

OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 cats prick n. overly elongated burning end of a cigarette that’s created when a group of people pass it round and smoke it very quickly. Imagine 5 or 6 lads in the boy’s bogs passing round a Benson & Hedges, By the time it’s almost finished the burning ember is about an inch long, and someone would always exclaim, ‘look at the fuckin’ cat’s prick on that!’.
cat’s pyjamas (n.)

see separate entry.

cat sticks (n.) [SE catstick, a stick or bat used in games of tip-cat or trap-ball]

very thin legs; thus catsticked adj.

[UK]T. Brown Amusements Serious and Comical in Works (1744) III 107: His belly is the counter-part of his back, and seems to poise the machine, and keep it in equilibrio on his cat-stick legs.
[UK]Ladies Delight 23: Think Strumpets Saints, or catstick’d Beau a Mars.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Cat sticks, thin legs, compared to sticks with which boys play at catsticks.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
cat’s whiskers (n.)

see separate entry.

catwanker (n.) [wanker n., lit. one who masturbates cats]

a general term of derision.

‘xxx’ posting on 14 Jun. 🌐 A degree in the university of life you cat wanker, something you wouldn’t know anything about! Grow up...a degree, like marriage, is just a bit of paper, it shows that you can remember crap from text books.
cat-whipper (n.) [whip the cat v. (4b)]

(Aus.) one who whinges over their misfortunes.

[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 23 Apr. 5/1: Why some of my patients — beg parding, I mean clients — if they do a dollar in at the races are always so bally mournful and pull such long faces that it would be only a fair thing to charge them extra for a shave. Wishter goodness these cat whippers could only borrow a few smiles from you occasionally.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 13 Feb. 4/3: One of the chief cat-whippers in Melbourne today must be Scobie Breasley [...] Breasley saw Kintore donkey-lick a field of youngsters in the Federal Stakes, and had salt rubbed into his wound when the Lewis cuddy Valour curled the mo in the Bond Handicap.
cat-whiskey (n.) (also tom-cat whiskey)

(US black) cheap, rotgut whisky.

[US]Big Joe Williams cited in Levet Talkin That Talk (2010) 104/2: Drinking what they call cat-whiskey [...] some call it corn, but it’s cat-whiskey.
[US]R.L. Van Ommeren From Rebellion to Submission 190: Some said the stuff was made with corn, yeast, and battery acid. If a dog, cat, or rat fell in the brew, they’d be drinking that too; no one was sure what was in it. It was known as cat whiskey; it was like a stealthy cat pouncing on you before you know it. You don't fight it; you just pass out. Cat whiskey steals one’s thoughts. In the middle of a sentence thoughts are lost. It eats the liver and the stomach.
[US](con. 1930s) M. Watman Chasing the White Dog 120: He charged 35 cents for a half-pint of whiskey. This was ‘first-made’ whiskey, that’s what I call it: tom-cat whiskey. It wasn’t bonded liquor.
[US](con. 1900s) B. Cogburn Rooster 111: With the demand for good, mountainmade cat whiskey greater than ever, accusations of stealing whiskey stills and caches led to many a brawl.

In phrases

black cat (with its throat cut) (n.) (also cat with its throat cut)

the female pubic hair and vagina.

[UK]‘Toasts’ in Gentleman’s Private Songster in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) III 384: A black cat with its throat cut.
[[UK]song title in Flash Olio in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) III 190: My Black Cat Is Pleased When I Stroke It.
[[UK]Peeping Tom (London) 17 68/3: The lad [...] uttered a loud yell and run down stairs saying ‘his mistress had cut her throat from ear to ear’].
[US]T.R. Houser Central Sl. 10: black cat, the [...] ‘I dance for tricks and let them see the black cat.’.
[UK]J. McDonald Dict. of Obscenity etc. 60: A group of words for the vagina and vaginal labia which draw on the imagery of cut flesh [...] cat with its throat cut, and beef curtains.
Markelle ‘Muffy’s World of Vagina Euphemisms’ at 🌐 Black cat with its throat cut.
[US]B. Barrack Touch Wood n.p.: My Daddy always calls it ‘the black cat with its throat cut’.
cat and dog life (n.)

an unhappy marriage, in which the partners fight like cat and dog (occas. dog and cat); also of non-marital partnerships (see cites 1825, 1867) ; note ad hoc var. in cit. 1954.

[UK]New Brawle 1: Jack being jealous of Doll his bozzy Wife, / Like Dogge and Catt, they always live at strife.
[[UK]Swift ‘Progress of Love’ in Works (1759) VI 154: And with exact poetic justice; / For John is landlord, Phillis hostess: / They keep at Staines the old Blue Boar, / Are cat and dog, and rogue and whore].
[UK]Gentleman’s Mag. Jan. 34/2: Ill-match’d couples are more than once said to lead a cat and dog life.
[UK]W. Scott ‘Search after Happiness’ in The Sale-Room V 1 Feb. xvii: John Bull, whom, in their years of early strife, She wont to lead a cat-and-doggish life.
[Scot]W. Scott Kenilworth I 25: A cat-and-dog life she led with Tony.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.
[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 22 May 134/1: ‘He lives like dog and cat with the woman he keeps! [...] skrimmiging [...] they’ur always at it —barrin when he’s out‘.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Handley Cross (1854) 94: After an evening of this agreeable dog and cat-ing [...] the gallant Captain at length made his adieus.
[UK]Sportsman 15 Oct. 2/1: Notes on News [...] Was therre ever a literary guild that did not lead a cat-and-dog life?
[UK]Cumberland Pacquet 30 Mar. 7/2: He’d a bloomin’ young wife, hey, i’ lesser a year — An’ snarlin’ cat un’ dog life they led.
[UK]Sportsman (London) 29 Jan. 4/1: [T]hose who have lived cat-and-dog life are rejoicing [...] at being once more restored to freedom.
[Scot] ‘I Never Says Nothing to Nobody’ in Laughing Songster 149: In short, quite a cat and dog life.
[[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 9 Nov. 3/3: [T]he couple lived a feline and canine life, finally separated and Mrs. Crenshaw applied tor a divorce].
[UK]G.A. Sala Things I Have Seen II 146: The young lady and her fiancé were of hopelessly contrary dispositions, and [...] they would lead a cat-and-dog life.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘Outside and Declined’ Sporting Times 8 Aug. 1/3: ‘What a cat and dog life theirs is!’ very possibly may come / From the lips of those less fortunately mated; / For, in spite of all our squabbles, we are happier than some / Who proclaim their bliss aloud.
[US]F. Dumont Darkey Dialect Discourses 14: Some leads a cat and dog life.
[UK]C. Stead Seven Poor Men of Sydney 33: They led a cat-and-dog life and she tried to get a doctor to certify that he was not all there.
[US]B. Appel Sweet Money Girl 51: I just had to get a break [...] to make up for my ex, Ronny, and the cat-and-dog year we’d been married.
[UK]A. Sillitoe ‘The Fishing-Boat Picture’ Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1960) 73: You miss a woman when she’s been living with you [...] for six years, no matter what sort of cat-and-dog life you led together.
cat couldn’t scratch it (also one a cat couldn’t scratch)

(US) used of an especially hard penile erection.

[US]D. Westheimer Song of Young Sentry 157: I could sure as hell plow with mine. It gets so hard a cat couldn't scratch it.
[US]J. Williams Elite/Elate Poems 66: He used to get so hard / a cat / couldn’t / scratch it.
[US]M.M. Thomas Green Monday 201: All I ended up with was a death wish and a hard-on that a cat couldn’t scratch!
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Godson 127: [H]e had a horn that hard a cat couldn’t scratch it.
[US]L. Howard Dream Man 41: From the minute she had turned those dark blue eyes on him, he’d had a boner so hard a cat couldn't scratch it.
[US]‘BJAlex61’ ‘My Brother’s Cum’ Pt 5 on Nifty Erotic Stories Archive 🌐 I was also unaffordable as my cock was also so hard that ‘a cat could not scratch it.’.
[UK]P. Estelle Plead the Baby Act [ebook] The picnic hamper hampered his movement but did a great job concealing something a cat could not scratch the entire length of […] the North Circular.
cat in a sack (n.)

(US) something to be suspicious or wary about; thus buy a cat in a sack, to buy something that one has not actually inspected.

[US] in DARE.
cat in (the) pan (n.) [phr. turn the cat in the pan, ‘to reverse the order of things so dextrously as to make them appear the very opposite of what they really are’ (OED) and/or ? cate (lit. a culinary ‘dainty’ and here used as cake) in the pan, a pancake, which must be turned if it is to be cooked]

a traitor, one who changes sides to advance their self-interest; thus turn cat in the pan, to inform, to betray, to change sides.

[UK]G. Walker Detection of Vyle and Detestable Use of Dice Play 18: These cheaters turnd cat in the pan, giving to divers vile, patching shifts, an honest and goodly title, calling it by the name of a law.
[UK]R. Edwards Damon and Pithias (1571) Ciiii: Damon smatters as well as he of craftie Phylosophie, And can tourne Cat in the panne very pretily.
[UK]F. Merbury Marriage Between Wit and Wisdom III i: I am as very a turncote as the wethercoke of Poles; For now I will calle my name Due Disporte. So, so, finely I can turne the catte in the pane.
[UK]Nashe Four Letters Confuted in Works II (1883–4) 286: If it bee a home booke at his first conception, let it be a home booke still, and turne not cat in the panne.
Bacon Essays (of Cunning) (Arber) 441: There is a Cunning, of the Cat in the Pan, which is, when that which a Man says to another, he laies it, as if Another had said it to him [F&H].
[UK] ‘The Committee of Safety’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) II 99: Charles Fleetwood is first and leads up the Van, / Whose counterfeit Zeal turns Cat in the pan.
[UK]J. Phillips Maronides (1678) VI 54: Dear Friend, quo he, what makst thou here? / [...] / Has Phoebus thus turn’d Cat in Pan?
[UK]Dialogue Between a Yorkshire Alderman and a Salamanca Doctor 2: I can turn cat in the Pan as well as any Whip Poet.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Cat-in-pan turn’d, of one that has chang’d Sides or Parties.
[UK] ‘The Vicar of Bray’ [ballad] When George in pudding time came o’er, / And moderate men look’d big, sir, / I turned a cat-in-pan once more, / And so became a Whig, sir [N].
[UK]Newcastle Courant 23 May 2/1: Tonsor being poor [...] turn’d Cat-in-pan.
[Scot]Caledonian Mercury 5 Feb. 2/1: Of Men who [...] at Toads, and lick up Spittle, Turn Cat in Pan, be Dupes [...].
[UK]Leeds intelligencer 25 Mar. 2/3: Here lies Thurot, bold buccanier [...] / Who weary of this humble station, / To raise the glory of his nation / Turn’d cat in pan.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 57: jove has now turn’d cat i’th’ pan.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Cat in pan, to turn cat in pan, to change sides or party; supposed originally to have been to turn cate or cake in pan.
[Scot]W. Scott Old Mortality in Waverley II (1855) 561: O, this precious Basil will turn cat in the pan with any man!
[UK]Westmoreland Gaz. 24 Aug. 3/4: He was first a Tory, then a Whig; next a Yellow, now a Blue. How often he may, hereafter, ‘turn the cat in the pan,’ depends [...] upon the length of his life .
[UK]Chester Chron. 20 May 2/7: Why the late government should be [...] in the unenviable position of either turning cat in the pan or saying nothing.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[US]Burlington Wkly Free Press (VT) 5 Apr. 1/5: Those persons and interests [...] have as by magic [...] turned cat in the pan.
[UK]Sportsman 22 Apr. 2/1: Notes on News [...] [H]e also tells us of sort of ‘cunning for a man’s self,’ which in England call the turning of the cat in the pan.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 111: Cat-in-the-Pan a traitor, or turncoat – derived by some from the Greek ???????, altogether; or – and more likely – from cake in pan, a pan-cake, which is frequently turned from side to side.
[US]New Ulm Wkly Rev. 8 Sept. 1/4: He talks of turning cat in pan.
[UK]Newcastle Courant 16 Sept. 6/5: Dandy must have been copped [...] Will he turn cat in the pan do you think?
[US]N.Y. Dly Tribune 26 June 7/4: You catch Whitmore and then force him to turn cat-in-the-pan.
cat (out) (v.)

(US black) to wander the streets aimlessly, to stay out all night, to hide away.

Hal Ellson Duke 154: Maybe it was that catting out that did it, made me feel all better inside.
[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 99: To cat out was to sneak away.
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 19: That catting was staying away from all night was all I knew about the term. [Ibid.] 73: A new suit [...] was usually the first thing I would steal when I was going to cat out.
[US]R.D. Pharr S.R.O. (1998) 58: ‘Catting. No place to stay’.
cat’s head cut open (n.) [supposed resemblance]

the labia minora.

[US]Maledicta IV:2 (Winter) 1834: Some terms that have survived this ignorance include [...] double-sucker, ear between the legs, cat’s head cut open, etc., for the lesser lip.
cat up

see separate entries.

like who shot the cat

(US) a general intensifier, e.g. very fast, very successful.

[US]W.R. Burnett Dark Hazard (1934) 238: Yes sir. I had top kennel at Baden, where they pay real money. I been going like who-shot-the-cat.
live under (the sign of) the cat’s foot (v.) [? SE cat’s foot, a fool]

of a man, to be dominated by one’s wife.

[UK]J. Ray Proverbs (2nd edn) 68: He lives under the sign of the cats foot.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: To live under the cat’s foot, to be under the dominion of a wife, hen-pecked.
[UK]Pvbs of our Ancestors C3: E- of S--a--n. He lives under the sign of the cat’s foot.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G.C. Needham Life of Charles H. Spurgeon xx: [chapter heading] He Lives under the Sign of the Cat’s Foot.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US]C. van Vechten Tiger in the House 140: He lives under the sign of the cat’s foot (his wife scratches him).
on the cat (US black)

1. in hiding.

Hal Ellson Duke 133: A guy is on the cat there, a run-away. He’s got a room.

2. staying out at night.

[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 73: When I was on the cat, I knew I was going to get caught sooner or later.
see which way the cat jumps (v.) (also see how the cat jumps, ...the pussy jumps)

to wait to see how events turn out before making one’s own decision or move.

[UK]Bickerstaff Romp in Eng & Amer. Stage XIV 30: Oh, are you there, mr. captain? then I see how the cat jumps.
[UK]‘The Tortoise-shell Tom Cat’ in Vocal Mag. 1 Feb. 44: I see how the cat jumps now!
[Ire]W. Scott in Croker Papers I (1884) 319: The numerous rumours which reach me in this quarter are so varying that had I time, I believe I would come to London merely to see how the cat jumped.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker I 78: Thinks I to myself, a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse, I see how the cat jumps.
[US]T. Haliburton Letter-bag of the Great Western (1873) 18: Oh, ho, says I to myself, is dat de way de cat jump? – now I see how de land lay.
[UK]Lytton My Novel (1884–5) II Bk XII 474: No — I don’t promise. I must first see how the cat jumps.
[UK]Yorks. Gaz. 29 Sept. 8/2: Just as he sees which way the cat jumps will he determine as to the extent of his demands.
[UK]Western Mail (S. Glamorgan) 22 June 2/9: The world is waiting to see which way the cat jumps.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Mar. 7/1: Dan O’Conner, in a speech, / Is certain Dalley to impeach; / Levien is waiting in the dumps / To see which way the pussy jumps.
[US]H. Frederic Seth’s Brother’s Wife 280: P’raps you kin git an idee by this time haow the Jay caounty cat’s goin’ to jump.
[US]Kansas Agitator (Garnett, KS) 4 Jan. 1/3: We are sorry to see a ‘leading Populist paper’ holding back [...] until it sees ‘which the cat jumps’.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 92: Wait to See How the Cat Jumps, watching one’s opportunity.
[UK]Morn. Post (London) 19 May 4/5: Germany is lying low to see which way the cat jumps.
[US]Phillipsburg Herald (KS) 19 July 4/1: It seems to be bonds which ever way the cat jumps.
[Ire]L. Doyle Ballygullion 188: ‘Thin I began to see how the cat was jumpin’,’ sez the sargint, rubbin’ his hands.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 18 Aug. 24/1: The States were urged to back the Commonwealth; but the States were cantankerous and, anyhow, they wanted to see the cat jump first.
[Scot]Dundee Courier 14 Aug. 4/2: The nationalisation of all the mines without delay is Mr Smith’s call, and it will be interesting to which the way the cat jumps now.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 596: If, as time went on, that turned out to be how the cat jumped all he could personally say on the matter was that [...] it was highly advisable in the interim to try to make the most of both countries.
[UK]Yorks. Post & Leeds Intelligencer 31 Oct. 9/3: The Socialists have used such slippery methods [...] they can claim any credit or disown whichever way the cat jumps.
[UK]Derby Dly Teleg. 27 Mar. 3/3: One can hardly blame him for [...] waiting to see which way the cat will jump.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 189: Anyway, it won’t worry me much which way the cat jumps.
[US]C. Himes Cotton Comes to Harlem (1967) 38: I’ve got to see which way this mother-raping cat is jumping.
[UK]J. van der Ploeg Born from Within 121: Many of their colleagues sit on the fence and are waiting to see which way the cat jumps.
[UK]P.J. Earle Barros Pawns 47: We’ll see which way the cat jumps. Obviously, for you and me, there’s this other matter.

In exclamations

for cat’s sake!

see separate entry.

my cats!

(US) a mild oath.

[US]Van Loan ‘The Golden Ball of the Argonauts’ in Big League (2004) 72: My cats! Ain’t she heavy!