If you adore your cat, snuggle with it every chance you get, and delight in the profusion of YouTube video clips chronicling the charming antics of charismatic felines to your heart's content. But, if your particular cat crosses the line, and drops a few unwanted biological nuggets into your milk and cereal, or licks one of your eyeballs while you're half asleep, you might want to remind your kitty that it wasn't always an Internet star.
Idiom makers have tormented cats for centuries. These poor creatures have suffered mountains of metaphorical (and sometimes real) abuse for the sake of an apt expression. While the imagery may be absurd at times, the fate of the imaginary cat is often tragic. Here are some of the cruelest cat idioms to have ever slipped off a person's tongue -- provided a watchful tomcat didn't get hold of that tongue first.
1. Let The Cat Out of the Bag
This expression comes from cheats selling pigs. Back in the day, a sly market trader might have substituted a worthless cat inside a sack for a prized piglet in an attempt to dupe a customer. The miserable cat crammed inside the bag would freak out after the hoodwinked shopper opened the purchase up and discovered the fraud. Whatever you do, don't try this trick at home with your beloved pet -- unless you want a furious kitty tearing your face off, of course.
2. Curiosity Killed the Cat
Some cats escape idioms with only slight injuries, like charred paws, and thus live another day, able to seek out revenge for their metaphorical maltreatment. Not so with this deadly expression. Apparently "worry" used to dispatch the cat, but somehow "curiosity" got thrown into the mix, dooming inquisitive felines to very brief lifespans.
With any luck, the cats in your neighbor are big dummies, without an iota of curiosity -- otherwise you might end up with heaping piles of dead pets on every street corner, which would be a nightmare for cat ladies and garbage collectors alike.
3. Like a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
If you're a jittery sort, you could be acting "like a cat on a hot tin roof." Tennessee Williams coined this expression for the title of his famous play. Roasting small animals on blistering tin and then forcing them to vault about might be an extremely descriptive simile, but once again, the tin-fried kitty and its seared paws suffer for our linguistic gratification. At least Williams won the Pulitzer Prize for his playwriting efforts, and this sadistic-sounding title.
4. Killing Two Birds with One Stone
I know what you're thinking. This expression has absolutely nothing to do with cats. You're right, it doesn't. I threw it in to give our feline friends a brief respite before the beating continues.
Two birds dead with one stone? How could a cat not get behind a murderous idiom like that? If your cat ever caught you knocking out two songbirds with one stone throw (please don't do this), you'd get a kitty nod of approval, while your tiny companion thought, "I guess this guy is more than just a primate can opener, after all."
5. No Room to Swing a Cat
This idiom is fairly self-explanatory. If you can't swing a cat around a room, you need more space. Some people believe this expression comes from whipping the cat-o'-nine-tails about, but chances are it's an actual, mistreated cat. If, in one of your lesser moments, you're tempted to measure a room with a spinning cat, try and avoid the urge. A tape measure is much more accurate, and it won't attempt to murder you after you're finished.
6. It's Raining Cats and Dogs
This common saying most likely comes from a time when English cities were writhing cesspools bubbling over with filth and death. When a strong storm swept through, the rushing water would wash the corpses of cats and dogs down the street. That's quite a lovely image, isn't it? At least a surviving cat -- they get nine lives, after all -- could have taken comfort in the fact that its canine nemeses had been transformed into decomposing death rafts as well.
7. Busier Than a Three Legged Cat in a Dry Sandbox
This idiom is simply ruthless. It's an old and seldom-used expression, but still, the picture it invokes is pretty clear. I'd like to think that the soul behind this phrase ran a rehabilitation center for injured cats of some sort -- otherwise we're probably talking about a psychotic child who relished torturing crippled cats in sandboxes. The first story seems so much nicer.
8. Hotter than a Six Peckered Alley Cat
The cruelty of this expression really depends on where those peckers are located. If they're lined up in a neat little row in an appropriate area, then we've got one heck of a frisky feline on our hands. Talk about a mutant tomcat with some serious bragging rights. If, on the other hand, those tiny johnsons are scattered about willy-nilly, with a couple dangling from its chin, and another smack dab in the middle of its forehead, then the viciousness of this metaphor holds no bounds. As any real estate professional can tell you, location is everything.