Animal Idioms about CATS & Their Meanings in English

There are lots of English expressions based on animals – most especially the cat


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There are lots of English expressions based on animals – most especially the cat

CAT Idioms in English

1. has the cat got your tongue?

Why are you not saying anything?

2. put the cat among the pigeons

Say or do something that causes trouble or controversy

3. like the cat that got the cream

Looking particularly self-satisfied, often to the annoyance of others

4. let the cat out of the bag

Mistakingly allow s secret to be known

5. fight like cat and dog

Continually arguing with each other

6. when the cat’s away, the mice will play

When the person of authority is away, people will behave badly

7. fat cat

A negative description of a rich and powerful person

8. curiosity killed the cat

Being too curious can get you into trouble

9. not have a cat in hell’s chance

When some something has no chance of success, it doesn’t have a cat in hell’s chance.

10. look like something the cat dragged in

When someone looks very untidy and messy, they look like something the cat dragged in.

11. no room to swing a cat

Very small, not big enough

12. a cat nap

A short sleep during the day

13. a copycat

Someone or something that copies, imitates, mimics, or follows the lead of another. Often used by children for other children who copy exactly what they do or say.

14. rain cats and dogs

Rain very heavily

15. there’s more than one way to skin a cat

There’s more than one way of achieving a certain goal.

16. a scaredy-cat

Someone who is excessively scared or afraid.

17. cat’s cradle

The popular string and fingers game is called “cat’s cradle”. But it’s used to mean “messy”.

18. play cat and mouse

Trying to trick someone into making a mistake so you can defeat them.

19. Grin like a Cheshire cat

Smile a lot. This comes from Alice in Wonderland, when Alice meets a “Cheshire cat” who keeps on disappearing, but only its grin remains.

20. cool cat

Someone who has the respect of their peers in a young, casual way.

21. cat on a hot tin roof

Be extremely nervous

22. a cat has nine lives

Cats seem to get away with dangerous things

23. a cat’s eye

A reflector set into a road to warn drivers of where the lane markers are.

24. even a cat can look at a king/queen

I have every right to do this.

25. a cat in gloves catches no mice

You can’t get what you need if you’re too careful.

26. bell the cat

The expression refers to any task that is difficult or impossible to achieve.


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  1. Love the graphics! Could I get these eye-catching image files in color and in B&W to use in the public elementary school in CA, USA where I work??? My school is probably 40% English-language learners. My theme this year is Idioms—would love to print in color (without a color background—and feature one kid-friendly idiom each week with its meaning on the library bulletin board) and print the corresponding B&W outline version to give out free to students as coloring pages when the 3rd-6th graders visit the library at their recess times to color and draw. Please let me know. Thanks!

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