If there is one thing you must know about the Italian culture is their love for their furry family members. Almost one family out of two has either a dog or a cat as a pet.  

If you walk down the streets of Italy, it is not uncommon to see a dog in public spaces. Italians carry or walk their pets in every single place: family gatherings, piazzas, and coffee shops. The love and affection towards their dogs and cats are so ingrained in the Italian culture that we have expressions with animals. 

Here are the 10 most common expressions in the Italian language that use animals.

1. “Avere le farfalle nello stomaco” - to have butterflies in one’s stomach

This expression has the exact meaning of the English version. It indicates how a person feels when they first fall in love or have feelings of joy and happiness when they first start dating.


-Ho le farfalle nello stomaco quando vedo Paolo = I have butterflies in my stomach when I see Paolo

2. “Essere sano come un pesce” - To be healthy like a fish 

This expression means to be perfectly healthy like a fish.


-Ho fatto una visita dal dottore e sono sano come un pesce = I just had a doctor’s visit and I am perfectly healthy 

3. “Il lupo perde il pelo, ma non il vizio” - The wolf may lose its fur, but not its habits. 

This expression means that even though someone gives the appearance of behavior changes, their core or bad habits are still within them implying that nothing has changed

4. “Fare la gatta morta”- acting innocently or being the victim of a situation  

The literal translation is being a dead cat, but the metaphorical meaning is acting innocently. The expression has a negative connotation that is used when someone is pretending to be unaware of a situation or pretending to be naive while concealing their real reasons.

5. “Stare da cani” - feeling unwell like a dog 

This expression means to feel very unwell, whether physically, or emotionally.


-Sto da cani;ho dormito solo 4 ore = I feel awful; I have only slept 4 hours

6. “Sputare il rospo” - spit it out/spill the beans

It means to reveal something someone has been holding for so long.


-Dai sputa il rospo - sappiamo che hai avuto paura dopo aver visto il film = Spit it out - we know you were scared after watching the movie 

7. “Fa un freddo cane” - it is freezing cold

This expression indicates that it is freezing cold. 


-oggi fuori fa un freedo cane= today it is freezing 

8. “Mi sento solo(a) come un cane” - I feel lonely like a dog

It is used to indicate a feeling of loneliness and solitude


-Oggi mi sento sola come un cane = Today I feel lonely like a dog

9. “Non c'era neanche un cane in strada” - there was not even a dog in the street

This expression means that the roads were empty and deserted.


- Stamattina non c’era manco un cane in strada= This morning the roads were empty

10. “ Litigate come cani e gatti” - You two fight like cats and dogs

It is an English expression that means two people argue or quarrel frequently and very energetically, similar to how cats and dogs are traditionally known to not get along. It's used to describe contentious relationships or heated arguments between people.

These are very common expressions used in the Italian language. Stay assured that you will sound very much like a native if you use any of them.