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9 Cat Idiomz From 11 Different Languages

In this video two savvy felines, Cool Cat and Fat Cat, share some of the cat-themed idioms they’ve picked up from humans.

Cats sauntered into human civilization thousands of years ago, and we’ve been catering to their every whim ever since. They can be stingy with their affection, and tend to be bad gift givers (“a dead bird in my bed – again?”), but we still love and admire our arrogant, aloof, irrepressible feline companions. After so many years of cohabitation, it’s no wonder they’ve infiltrated the way we speak.


To have nine lives like a cat
Meaning: to have a talent for getting out of bad situations

dokuz canlı kedi
Translation: cat with nine lives

Avere sette vite come i gatti
Translation: to have seven lives like a cat

Turkish, English and many Slavic languages assume cats have eight extra, mystical lives. Italian, German, Spanish and Portuguese give cats two fewer chances to defy mortality.


Retomber comme un chat sur ses pattes
Translation: to land like a cat on his feet
Meaning: to be lucky or successful after being in a difficult situation
Similar English expression: to land on one’s feet


Cat got your tongue?
Meaning: do you have nothing to say?

Donner sa langue au chat
Translation: to give one’s tongue to the cat
Meaning: to give up
Similar English idiom: to throw in the towel

¿Se te ha comido la lengua el gato?
Translation: did the cat eat your tongue?
Meaning: why aren’t you talking?


Gato escaldado tem medo de água fria
Translation: a scalded cat fears cold water
Meaning: to be traumatized by a bad experience
Similar English idiom: once bitten, twice shy


When the cat’s away, the mice will play
Meaning: when an authority figure is away, those under them enjoy some freedom

Quando il gatto non c’è, i topi ballano
Translation: when the cat’s not here, the mice dance

Wenn die Katze aus dem Haus ist, tanzen die Mäuse auf dem Tisch
Translation: when the cat’s out of the house, the mice dance on the table

Kad mačke nema, miševi vode kolo
Translation: when the cat’s gone, the mice lead the kolo
Meaning: when the boss is away, someone under them calls the shots

The kolo is a traditional Balkan dance popular at weddings and other social gatherings. It involves a large group of people dancing in a circle while holding hands. One person tends to lead the dance.


नौ सौ चूहे खाके बिल्ली हज को चली (Nau Sau Choohey Khakar Billi Hajj Ko Chali)
Translation: after eating 900 rats, the cat goes on a pilgrimage
Meaning: to veil a lifetime of wrongdoing with a few token expressions of virtue later in life


Nu arunca pisica în curtea altuia
Translation: don’t throw the cat in someone else’s yard
Meaning: don’t blame someone else
Similar English expression: don’t point the finger


All cats are grey in the dark
Meaning: the differences don’t really matter

Om natten är alla katter grå
Translation: at night, all cats are grey

À noite, todos os gatos são pardos
Translation: at night, all cats are brown


Avoir un chat dans la gorge
Translation: to have a cat in the throat
Meaning: to have a phlegmy, hoarse throat
Similar English idiom: to have a frog in the throat


There’s more than one way to skin a cat
Meaning: there are many different ways to solve a problem

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