It's Raining Cats and Dogs: The Origins of Pet Idioms

091713_raining_cats_and_dogs_218x164It’s Raining Cats and Dogs: The Origins of Pet Idioms By Sher Warkentin

The English language is full of idioms about animals, but none are featured as much as cats and dogs. For instance, why is it always raining cats and dogs instead of cows and chickens? Let’s examine some tried-and-true “pet-isms.”

It’s Pouring Pets
It’s hard to make it through a big rainstorm without hearing the phrase that makes you imagine dogs and cats literally raining down from the sky. Many cats and dogs certainly aren’t fans of wet, soggy weather, so why are they the subject of it? Though we don’t know for certain where the idiom came from, there are lots of theories about why the phrase features pets and not, say, barnyard animals.
According to The Library of Congress, one explanation is that in Norse mythology, cats and dogs are symbolic of wind and rain. Another theory is that it stems from the Greek phrase cata doxa, which translates to “contrary to belief” as in, it’s raining unbelievably hard. A third explanation is that it comes from an old English word catadupe, which means waterfall.
Sleepy Pets
For most pet owners, the phrases catnap and dog tired aren’t exactly mysterious. The term catnap was first used in the 1800s to describe very short human naps, which resembled the way most cats sleep in sporadic, short periods throughout the day.
The phrase dog tired comes from an old English tale about the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great. The story recounts how Alfred sent his sons out for a game chasing after hunting dogs. Whichever son caught the most dogs would win a place next to their father at the dinner table. The boys were appropriately described as coming home from the chase dog tired.
It’s Great to Be a Pet
There are some pet idioms that remind us of how truly awesome our pets are. First coined in the roaring 1920s, the cat’s meow began as a reference to a flapper style of dressing that exposed women’s legs. It evolved into a popular slang term, meaning something or someone highly admired.
When it originated in the 16th century, it’s a dog’s life had a negative connotation, meaning to have a difficult time. Nowadays, however, as dogs have become adored and pampered, many doting pet owners would say a dog’s life is quite an easy one.
From you can’t teach an old dog new tricks to like herding cats, the list of pet idioms seems endless. We may not know exactly how all of these funny phrases came about, but one thing is certain: They have stuck around because cats and dogs have always had such an influential role in our lives. The next time you hear the phrase it’s raining cats and dogs, think about how much your own pet has influenced your life.
About the Author: Sher Warkentin
Sher Warkentin has been an animal lover her entire life. She has cared for all kinds of different pets, including rescue animals, and enjoys writing about them because it gives her the opportunity to share the amazing experiences she has gained so far.
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