Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cat n.5

[reverse anthromorphism, poss. playing on its ‘going out at night’; however, for jazz/beatnik/hippie uses note Gold, A Jazz Lexicon (1964), who suggests ‘most. prob. shortened form of general and Negro slang tomcat’]

1. [late 19C+] (orig. US black, also kat) a person; also as term of address.

2. (orig. US black) in orig. jazz-orientated uses .

(a) [1920s+] a jazz musician.

(b) [1920s+] a smartly dressed, fashion conscious man; thus sharp cat.

(c) [1930s] a jazz fan.

3. [1980s+] a user of crack cocaine.

In compounds

cat clothes (n.)

[1950s] (orig. US black) fashionable clothing as favoured by jazz fans.

cat walk (n.)

[1960s+] (US black) a strutting style of walking, intended to emphasize one’s pride, independence and masculinity.

In phrases

cat on the peek port (n.) [peek n.]

[1940s] (US black) a lookout man.

cat that cracks the whip (n.)

[1940s] (US black) a playboy.

one’s kind of cat

[mid-19C] a person as needed in a given situation; usu. in negative.