Everybody likes cats. Well, almost everybody. A cat is one of the most popular pets. So we use many habits and mannerism of cats to describe life situations or emotions.


Cats are everywhere: at home, outside, on Instagram, on your cell. I offer you, Russian fans, to learn some amazing sayings about cats in Russian and try it in your everyday language.

Let’s check out some catty sayings in Russian.



1. Кот в мешке – something unknown and unexpected, a surprise.
Literally: a cat in a sack.
English variant: a pig in a poke.

  • Я не буду покупать эту машину! Я даже не пробовал ездить на ней. Настоящий кот в мешке! I will not buy this car! I haven’t even tried it! A real pig in a poke!



2. Жить как кошка с собакой – to quarrel regularly, to swear.
Literally: to live as a cat with a dog.
English variant: to live a cat-and-dog life.

  • Она жила с ним как кошка с собакой, и для неё был праздник, когда его не было дома. She lived a cat-and-dog life with him. It was a holiday for her when he was not home.



3. Кошки на душе скребут – to be disappointed, sad, depressed, and moody.
Literally: cats scratch the soul.
English variant: to feel heavy-hearted.

  • У меня сейчас кошки на душе скребут: мне нужно побыть одному. I feel heavy-hearted now. I need to stay alone.



4. Между ними кошка пробежала – sudden disfavour (they were friends before but suddenly quarreled).
Literally: a cat ran between them.
English variant: to fall out with someone.

  • После той вечеринки между ними словно кошка пробежала: теперь даже не здороваются друг с другом. After that party they fell out with each other, now they don’t even greet each other.



5. Играть как кошка с мышкой – to play with somebody using advantages or preferences (privileges).
Literally: to play as a cat with a mouse.
English variant: to play a game of cat and mouse.

  • Ты играешь с ним как кошка с мышкой: то кокетничаешь, то делаешь неприступный вид. Это жестоко. You play a game of a cat and a mouse with him: now you flirt, then you have an air of touch-me-not. That’s cruel.



6. Ночью все кошки серы – when there is little information, everything seems the same; it’s hard to understand who is right under such circumstances.
Literally: all cats are grey at night.
English variant: all cats are grey in the dark.

  • Ты ничего не сможешь сделать. Виноватых не найти. Ночью все кошки серы. You can't do anything. It's impossible to find the guilty party. All cats are grey in the dark.



7. Искать черную кошку в темной комнате – to do something useless.
Literally: to look for a black cat in a dark room.
English variant: the same.

  • Не ищите черную кошку в темной комнате! Все ваши обвинения – фикция. Don't look for a black cat in a dark room! All your accusations are a figment of your imagination.



8. Знает кошка, чьё мясо съела – to understand that yourself is to blame and you might be punished.
Literally: the kitten knows whose meat it has eaten.
English variant: surely feels the shoe pinching.

  • Ага! Оправдываться начинаешь? Знает кошка, чьё мясо съела! Aha! Excuses again? Surely you feel the shoe pinching!



9. Кот из дома - мыши в пляс – to do something forbidden when someone who is not there.
Literally: when the cat’s away, the mice will play.
English variant: the same.

  • Начальник уехал на встречу, и сотрудники сразу побежали в курилку. Кот из дома – мыши в пляс. The chief left for a meeting, and the clerks ran to the smoking-room right away. When the cat’s away, the mice will play.



10. Доброе слово и кошке приятно – using kind words makes life kinder.
Literally: a word warmly said gives comfort even to a cat.
English variant: soft fire makes sweet malt.

  • Почему ты такой ворчливый? Будь мягче. Доброе слово и кошке приятно. Why are you so grumpy? Be kinder. Soft fire makes sweet malt.



11. Отольются кошке мышкины слёзки – karma.
Literally: a cat is harmed for a mouse’s tears.
English variant: what comes around goes around.

  • Ничего, подожди! Отольются кошке мышкины слёзки. Всё плохое, что ты сделал, вернётся к тебе. It's ok! Wait a moment! What goes around comes around. All the bad that you did will come back to you.



12. Не всё коту масленица – not everything is good and nice all the time.
Literally: not all is carnival for a cat.
English: not every day is Sunday.

  • Послушай, у тебя уже был отпуск и выходные ты брал недавно. Давай уже работать. Не всё коту масленица. Listen, you already had a holiday and you took one day off recently. Let’s work. Not every day is Sunday.



13. У кошки девять жизней – to have nine lives.
Literally: a cat has nine lives.
English variant: the same.

  • Представляешь, с ней уже третья авария происходит, и ни царапины. У неё, как у кошки девять жизней. Imagine, she had a third car accident, and left without a scratch. She has nine lives like a cat.



14. Кот наплакал – very little of something.
Literally: a cat cried.
English variant: chicken feed, nothing to speak of.

  • Даже не думай просить у него в долг. У него денег кот наплакал. Don’t even try to ask him for money. He has nothing to speak of.



15. Тянуть кота за хвост – to do something very slowly.
Literally: to pull a cat’s tail.
English variant: to drag something out.

  • Сколько можно тянуть кота за хвост? Говори уже, что ты хотела сказать. How long can you drag this out? Tell me what you want to say.



16. Коту под хвост – to do something to little effect, for nothing.
Literally: under a cat’s tail.
English variant: out the window.

  • Все мои усилия коту под хвост! Мой проект не приняли. All my efforts are out the window! My project wasn’t accepted.



17. Кошка, которая гуляет сама по себе – to be independent, to do something on one’s own.
Literally: a cat that walks by itself.
English variant: the same.

  • Твоя сестра – кошка, которая гуляет сама по себе. Ей никто не нужен, всего добивается сама. Your sister is a cat that walks by itself. She needs nobody, and works toward everything by herself.


What cat-like proverbs do you have in your language? I know that there are funny and interesting proverbs and sayings about cats in English, German, French, Japanese, Greek, Spanish, and other languages.


For example, there is an English proverb, “It is enough to make a cat laugh”. The Russian variant is “It is enough to make a chicken laugh” (Курам на смех).


Share your variants!


Hero image by Octavio Fossatti (CC0 1.0)