Cat idioms 

These cat idioms are popular English expressions and will increase your vocabulary.

You may feel like "cat's got your tongue" when you try to speak but these idioms will help you sound more natural as idioms are used frequently in informal English.

First, let's review what idioms are:

Idioms are a group of words that have a fixed meaning that is different than if you looked up the words separately in the dictionary. 


An info-graphic with 3 photos of cats and the 8 idioms listed on this page with sentence examples.

More sentence examples

Here are some more sentence examples to help make sure you really understand these cat idioms in the info-graphic above:


cat got your tongue:  this is used to ask someone why they're silent or not answering a question.

  • I asked you why you didn't go to school today.  What's wrong, cat got your tongue?
  • Don't just sit there looking at me. Cat got your tongue or something?
  • What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?

a fat cat:  A rich person who is powerful, especially in politics or business.

  • Politicians like that are just fat cats living for the thrill of manipulating they system for their own benefit. 
  • It's hard to believe my college roommate is now some fat cat at Microsoft. 
  • You might be a fat cat at work but you're still afraid of your wife getting upset with you. 


a cat nap:  a short restful sleep.

  • During my lunch I often close my office door and take a cat nap.
  • I meant to take a cat nap before dinner but I woke up disoriented at 2:00 am and of course was wide awake the rest of the night.
  • I was able to take a cat nap during the flight so I feel rested and ready to go out. 

cat's meow:  someone or something wonderful or remarkable. 

  • The Tesla X is the cat's meow if you ask me..
  • My husband thinks Jennifer Lopez is the cat's meow.
  • Where did you get those boots? They're seriously the cat's meow.


play cat and mouse:  a series of planned actions involving pursuit, captures and repeated escapes.

  • We've been playing cat and mouse with our main investor and I think he might pull out of the project.
  • Now that she's famous she's had to learn to play cat and mouse with the paparazzi.
  • The serial killer played cat and mouse with the police until they were able to find him using DNA technology.

look like something the cat dragged in:  to look dirty, untidy, disheveled or ragged.

  • I wanted to die when the guy I love stopped by my house when I looked like something the cat dragged in.
  • Where have you been?  You look like something the cat dragged in.
  • I stayed over at my boyfriend's dorm last night and had to sneak across campus early in this morning looking like something the cat dragged in.


while the cat's away the mice will play:  people will behave badly or as they like when a supervisory or authority figure is not there.

  • My parents never leave us alone when the go out of town. They know very well that while the cat's away the mice will play.
  • Our teacher is out with the flu and our substitute teacher has learned first-hand that while the cat's away the mice will play.
  • I assume my assistant is done nothing this past week. As they say, when the cat's away the mice will play

grin like a Cheshire cat:  to smile mischievously or broadly as if one is satisfied with oneself.

  • What's wrong with you?  Don't just sit there grinning like a Cheshire cat.
  • I have no idea what my children were doing today but when I arrived home they were sitting in the kitchen grinning like Cheshire cats.
  • We bought our daughter a new bicycle and all week she's been grinning like a Cheshire cat.


You might like these other idiom infographics

Your turn to practice!

The best way to learn new vocabulary is to use it in your own practice sentences. You can write your own sentences in the comments below and I will correct any errors.


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