- 1 a small animal with soft fur that people often keep as a pet. Cats catch and kill birds and mice. cat food see also kitten, tomcat See related entries: Pets, Domesticated mammals
- 2 a wild animal of the cat family the big cats (= lions, tigers, etc.) see also fat cat, wildcat Word Origin Old English catt, catte, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch kat and German Katze; reinforced in Middle English by forms from late Latin cattus.Extra examples Cats mark their territory by spraying. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat. In our childhood Irina and I fought like cat and dog. She went to Africa to photograph big cats. The cat miaowed pitifully. The cat slunk away into the darkness. The cat was in constant pain so they had it put down. The stray cats are wormed and treated with flea powder. There was a cat yowling outside my window last night. They didn’t want kittens, so they had their cat spayed. We have a pet cat called Archie. Young car thieves enjoy playing cat and mouse with the police. the fat cats of big businessIdioms (informal) to be the best thing, person, idea, etc. He thinks he's the cat's whiskers (= he has a high opinion of himself). See related entries: Happiness (informal) to be raining heavily (informal) said to somebody, especially a child, who stays silent when expected to speak, for example after being asked a question What's the matter? Cat got your tongue? (saying) used to tell somebody not to ask questions or try to find out about things that do not concern them to tell a secret carelessly or by mistake I wanted it to be a surprise, but my sister let the cat out of the bag.
very nervous She was like a cat on hot bricks before her driving test.
very pleased with yourself synonym smug She looked like a cat that’s got the cream. She was almost purring with pleasure. used to describe a very difficult task, especially one that involves organizing people Managing a political party is a lot like herding cats. (informal) (of a person) to look dirty and untidy (informal) when somebody says there’s no room to swing a cat, they mean that a room is very small and that there is not enough space to have no chance at all
to play a cruel game with somebody in your power by changing your behaviour very often, so that they become nervous and do not know what to expect He thought the police were playing some elaborate game of cat and mouse and waiting to trap him. (British English) to say or do something that is likely to cause trouble Then she told them she was dropping out of college. That really set the cat among the pigeons. (saying, humorous) there are many different ways to achieve something (saying) people enjoy themselves more and behave with greater freedom when the person in charge of them is not there