Expressions Glossary: Cats and Dogs

Every Dog has its Day”, “Dog Tired”, “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs” are common expressions, but there are many more!  Check out our extensive list of commonly used dog and cat idioms.

Expressions Glossary: Cats and Dogs

Cats and Dogs Expressions


  • A Bag of Cats
    When a person is bad-tempered, he or she is a bag of cats.
  • A Barking Dog never bites 
    Few people who make threats actually take action. They just ‘bark’.
  • A Cat has Nine Lives
    According to myth, cats can escape life-threatening situations or high falls.
  • A Cat in Gloves catches no Mice
    A cat needs its claws to catch a mouse. If you are too careful and polite, you may never achieve your goal.
  • All Cats are Gray after Midnight / All Cats are Gray in the Dark
    We might look different from the outside, but underneath we are all the same.
  • Alley Cat
    Being homeless or having wandered away from home.
  • Another Breed of Cat
    You can say “Another Breed of Cat” when something is different from everything else.
  • As Much Chance as a Wax Cat in Hell
    If there is as much chance as a wax cat in Hell, there is no chance at all.
  • As Nervous as a Cat in a Room Full of Rocking Chairs
    When someone is very nervous.
  • Attack Dog
    Someone very harsh with little to no inhibitions.

  • Bell a Cat
    Doing the impossible (that no one else wants to do) or acting foolishly.
  • Better to be the Head of a Dog than the Tail of a Lion
    It’s better to be at the top of a lower level or group than a subordinate member in a prestigious group.
  • Big Dog 
    An important or successful person.
  • Bird Dog 
    Someone trained to receive something.
  • Bring a Dog to Heel
    To make someone follow orders.
  • Busier than a One-Eyed Cat Watching two Mouse Holes
    Being very busy. A similar expression is “Busier than a three legged cat in a dry sand box“.
  • Busier than a Three Legged Cat in a Dry Sand Box
    Being very busy. A similar expression is “Busier than a one-eyed cat watching two mouse holes“.
Purebred Puppies Boxers

  • Call off the Dogs
    To tell someone to stop criticizing or threatening a person.
  • Cat-and-Mouse Game
    A chase between two parties consisting of constant pursuit and repeated escapes. The ‘cat’ is never victorious over the ‘mouse’, who is able to repeatedly escape, though never defeats the ‘cat’.
  • Cat Around
    The expression ‘To Cat Around’ means to live a purposeless life.
  • Cat Burglar
    A burglar who unlawfully breaks into someone’s house and steal another person’s properties. This expression refers to the way cats can sneak up to steal their pray.
  • Cat-eyed or Cat Eyes
    Being able to see very well in the semidarkness or dark.
  • Cat got your Tongue
    You are not talkative or you have nothing to say.
  • Cat Ice
    Thin, dangerous ice that’s a half inch thick or less. It’s called this to suggest the ice can only support the weight of a cat.
  • Cat’s Concert, Cats in Chorus, Cat’s Melody
    The sound of harsh noises or crying out loudly.
  • Cat’s Cradle
    Cat’s Cradle is a string game played by two or more people.
  • Cat’s Paw
    A ‘Cat’s Paw’ is someone is duped and used by someone else.
  • Catkins
    The catkins, a cylindrical cluster of flowers, look like cats’ tails.
  • Catnap
    A short, light mid-day nap.
  • Catty Remarks
    “A Catty Remark” is a malicious or spiteful comment made by someone about another person.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin
    A huge, self-satisfied grin.
  • Clowder of Cats
    A group of cats is called a ‘clowder’.
  • Conceited as a Barber’s Cat
    Someone who is very conceited or vain.
  • Cool Cat
    Keeping up with the latest trends and fads; someone with a calm and collected manner.
  • Copycat
    Copying, imitating, or duplicating another.
  • Couldn’t cuss a Cat without getting Fur in your Mouth
    Referring to crowded spaces. See also ‘Not enough room to Swing a Cat’.
  • Couldn’t get Elected Dogcatcher
    Very disliked or unqualified.
  • Crooked as a Dog’s Hind Leg
    Being dishonest or corrupt.
  • Curiosity killed the Cat
    A warning that being too curious and nosey can be dangerous.
Cute Kittens Kissing

  • Dead Cat Bounce
    In a financial market, a ‘Dead Cat Bounce’ is a brief recovery.
  • Dirty Dog
    To be a sneaky and unsavory person.
  • Dog and Pony Show
    An over-staged performance or presentation in order to impress or convince someone.
  • Dog Days of Summer
    Hot, long summer days. The ‘Dog Days of Summer’ are mostly in July and August.
  • Dog-Eared
    A book or magazine is ‘dog-eared’ when you turn down corners of pages to mark the page where you stopped reading.
  • Dog-faced Liar
    A person who lies repeatedly.
  • Dog in the Manger
    When someone has something they can’t use or don’t want but refuses to give it to anyone else.
  • Dog It
    You ‘Dog It’ when you fail to accomplish a goal due to fatigue or laziness.
  • Dog my Cats
    Being surprised or astonished, like “My goodness, what do you know!” It’s most commonly known from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Dog Pound
    Jail or Prison
  • Dog Someone
    To follow, trail, or bother persistently.
  • Dog Tired
    When you’re ‘Dog Tired’, you’re very tired or exhausted.
  • Dog’s Dinner / Dog’s Breakfast
    This expression originally referred to a cooking mishap. ‘A Dog’s Dinner’ or ‘A Dog’s Breakfast’ means that something is a mess.
  • Doggy Paddle
    We all know how to do it! When someone first learns to swim, they ‘Doggy Paddle’ and swim by moving their legs back and forth quickly.
  • Dressed up like a Dog’s Dinner
    Sillily dressed for a formal occasion.
  • Dust Kitten
    A dust ball or clump, also called a ‘Dust Bunny’.

  • Enough to make a Cat Laugh
    Something very silly or funny.
  • Every Dog has its Day
    You can use the expression ‘Every Dog has his Day’ to cheer someone up when they’re having a setback. At some point in life everyone will achieve success and happiness.
  • Everyone and their dog
    A huge number of people.

  • Fat Cat
    A rich, privileged (business) person who is ostentatious with their wealth.
  • Fight like a Kilkenny Cat
    This expression refers to an old story about two cats who fought until both were destroyed.
  • Fight like Cats and Dogs
    To argue viciously.

  • Give a Dog a Bad Name
    If you give someone a poor reputation, they may never overcome it.
  • Going to see a Man about his Dog
    Used when you don’t want to tell someone you’re headed to the bathroom.
  • Gone to the Dogs
    Something is ‘Gone to the Dogs’ when it is not as good as it used to be.

  • Happy as a Flea in a Doghouse
    When you’re as happy as a flea in a doghouse, you’re very content.
  • Have a Cat in Hell’s Chance
    No chance at all.
  • Have a Dog in this Hunt (or Fight)
    To have a personal stake in an issue.
  • Have Kittens
    To get really upset or worried about something.
  • Hellcat
    A woman who is bad-tempered or evil.
  • High as the Hair on a Cat’s Back
    Something very expensive.
  • Honest as the Cat when the Meat’s out of Reach
    If a person is likely to be caught he will not steal.
  • Hot (Diggity) Dog!
    An exclamation of excitement, like “Oh yeah!”
Dog and Cat Idioms

  • If you can’t Run with the Big Dogs, you’d Better Stay on the Porch
    If you can’t keep up, then don’t try.
  • If you lie down with Dogs, you will get up with Fleas
    If you hang around bad people, you will get dragged down by them.
  • In the Doghouse
    In trouble with someone, usually with a spouse.
  • It’s a Dog eat Dog World
    People are selfish and only look out for themselves, even if they hurt other people.
  • It’s a Dog’s Life
    Having a hard, unpleasant life.
  • It’s raining Cats and Dogs
    When it’s raining very hard you can say ‘It’s raining Cats and Dogs’.

  • J‘ If you know any cat or dog idioms starting with the ‘J’ let us know!

  • Keep no more Cats than will Catch Mice
    Don’t keep more than what you need.

  • Let sleeping Dogs lie / Let sleeping Cats lie
    When you let sleeping Dogs or Cats lie, you leave disagreements in the past and leave things as they are to avoid rekindling an old argument.
  • Let the Cat out of the Bag
    To accidentally reveal a secret.
  • Like a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
    Extremely nervous or agitated; see also ‘Like a cat on Hot Bricks’.
  • Like a Cat on Hot Bricks
    Extremely nervous or agitated ; see also ‘Like a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’.
  • Like a Dog with Two Tails
    Visibly happy and pleased.
  • Like Cat and Dog
    ‘Like Cat and Dog’ means squabbling savagely.
  • Like Dog’s Breath
    ‘Like Dog’s Breath’ means unpleasant or unpopular.
  • Like Herding Cats
    When something is nearly impossible to accomplish.
  • Live a Cat and Dog Life
    To be quarreling all the time.
  • Live under the Cat’s Foot
    Living under the cat’s foot means that someone controls you.
  • Look like somebody just shot your Dog
    To be shocked about the news you’ve just heard.
  • Look what the Cat dragged in
    Used if someone shows up unexpectedly to the party or for the arrival of a disliked person.
  • Looks like the Cat that swallowed the Canary
    To appear self-satisfied, especially when you know you did something you weren’t supposed to.
  • Love Me, Love my Dog
    If you love someone, you should accept everything and everyone that the person loves.

  • Meaner than a Junkyard Dog
    Cruel, quick to fight.
  • My Dog ate my Homework
    An unbelievable or not thought-out excuse.
  • My Dogs are Barking
    When your feet hurt after a long day of walking.

  • Nimble as a Cat on a Hot Bake-Stone
    Used when you’re in a hurry to leave.
  • Not a Dog’s Chance
    No chance of something happening.
  • Not enough Room to swing a Cat
    Referring to crowded spaces. See also ‘Couldn’t cuss a Cat without getting fur in your mouth’.
  • Not my Dog
    If it’s not your dog, it’s not your problem.

  • ‘O’ let us know if you know any cat or dog idioms starting with this letter!

  • Pretty as a Speckled Pup
    Someone or something very pretty.
  • Proud as a Pup with a new Collar
    Means that someone is very proud.
  • Puppy Love
    Blind affection.
  • Put on the Dog
    Dress stylishly to display wealth.
  • Put the Cat among the Pigeons
    Causing a big fight, usually by revealing a secret.
  • Put the Dog off the Scent
    To distract someone from something you don’t want them finding.

  • Quick as a Dog can lick a Dish
    Ever seen a dog eating a dish? It happens very quickly!

  • Rub someone’s fur the wrong way
    To annoy someone.
Siberian Husky Puppies

  • Sad as a Hound Dog’s Eye
    Very sad, pathetic or pitiful.
  • Scaredy-Cat/ Fraidy Cat
    Being very afraid to try something new.
  • See which way the Cat Jumps
    Wait in making a decision and first see what others do or what is going to happen.
  • Shaggy Dog Story
    Long winded and pointless story that purposely ends with an anticlimax.
  • Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog
    Something that is so terrible it shouldn’t happy to anyone or anything.
  • Sick as a Dog
    If you are ‘Sick as a ‘Dog’, you are very sick.
  • Sitting in the Cat Bird Seat
    Being in a superior or favored position.
  • Sly, Old Dog
    A ‘Sly, Old Dog’ refers to someone who is cunning and devious, though the term is usually used affectionately.
  • Sweeten the Kitty
    Increasing the pot (kitty) in a game of poker.

  • The Cat may look at the King
    ‘The Cat may look at the King’ means “I am as good as you”.
  • The Cat’s Meow or Cat’s Pajamas
    Something or someone very cool and popular.
  • The Cat’s out of the Bag
    The secret is out.
  • The Cat’s Whiskers
    A person or thing considered to be outstanding or excellent.
  • The Hair of the Dog that Bit you
    Refers to an alcoholic drink you have in the morning to get over a hangover.
  • The Tail wagging the Dog
    When the tail wags the dog, the minor, but important, part of a situation controls the whole situation.
  • There’s a Dead Cat on the Line
    When something suspicious is happening or something is wrong.
  • There’s Life in the Old Dog Yet
    Refers to someone who is old, but still has a get-up-and-go attitude.
  • Throw to the Dogs
    To disregard or abandon someone, especially in their time of need.
  • Top Dog
    Someone who has authority, usually a boss or leader.
  • Two (or Three) Dog Night
    Ever slept embracing three dogs in your bed during a very cold night? A one dog night is cold, a two dog night is colder, and a three dog night is a bitter cold night!

  • Underdog
    Have you ever felt like an underdog? When a person or group in a competition is expected to lose, they’re the ‘Underdog’.

  • V‘ We would love to hear some expressions here!

  • Walk like a Cat on Eggs
    To walk very lightly.
  • Walk the Cat Back
    Truly understanding a situation from the present to the past.
  • Watch Dog
    A ‘Watch Dog’ is someone who is very overprotective of and looks after someone else.
  • Weak as a Kitten / Cat
    Being very fragile or vulnerable.
  • When the Cat’s away, the Mice will play
    People might misbehave without supervision.
  • Why keep a Dog and Bark Yourself
    Don’t do something you have outsourced.
  • Work like a Dog
    When you work very hard, ‘you work like a dog’.

  • X‘ We would love to hear some cat and dogs idioms here!

  • Yard Dog
    An uncivil and foul person.
  • You can’t Teach an Old Dog new Tricks
    This expression means that it is impossible or almost impossible to change people’s old habits. You can use this phrase when it’s difficult to adapt to new things.

Z‘ If you have heard about a dog or cat idiom starting with the ‘Z’, let us know and we will be happy to add this new expression to our list!

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