13 Words For Your Feline Friend That Are Truly The Cat’s Meow

Humans have been fascinated by furry felines of all sizes since ancient times. The Ancient Egyptians considered cats good luck and even dressed them up in finery—not unlike today’s pet owners with their fur babies. Although International Cat Day is celebrated on August 8 to honor members of the Felidae family and all of their charms (and quirks), we believe cats deserve to be celebrated year-round. To join in on the celebration, we have rounded up some of our favorite words to describe one of the most popular animals on the planet, the cat.


If you are someone who celebrates International Cat Day, you are likely an ailurophile [ ahy-looruh-fahyl ]. Ailurophile, or aelurophile, is the technical term for “a person who likes cats,” otherwise known as a “cat fancier.”


  • My grandmother is such an ailurophile that even her clothes have cats on them.

The opposite of an ailurophile is an ailurophobe, or “a person who detests cats.” We just call them “haters.”


One of the things cats both wild and domestic spend a crazy amount of time doing is grooming their luxuriant pelage. Pelage is the scientific term for “the hair, fur, wool, or other soft covering of a mammal.”


  • The Arctic fox is instantly recognizable because of its white pelage, which it uses to blend in with the snowy environment.

Pelage comes from the French poil, meaning “hair” or “fur.”


What about the phrase “hair of the dog”? Do you know where it comes from?


There are dozens of species of cats on the planet, from large cats like the jaguar to the wee güiña. But none of them are quite like the liger, an enormous cat bred from “a male lion and a female tiger.” The liger is thought to be one of the largest cats in the world.


  • Ligers like to swim like tigers, but live in prides like lions.

The word liger is a combination of lion and tiger. The tiglon is also a cross between a lion and a tiger, but typically of smaller size.


A term that was inspired by one of the most majestic big cats but that has come to be more widely used is the adjective leonine [ leeuh-nahyn ], “resembling or suggestive of a lion.” It can refer to nearly any aspect of a lion, from their wild manes to their majestic stature to their strength.


  • The athlete projected a leonine intensity as she walked up to the starting line.

Leonine ultimately comes from Latin leō meaning “lion.”


Not only for big cats, leonine is a great word to describe many Leos. Discover even more words about them here. 


Another feline-inspired term is wildcatter, the meaning of which has evolved over the years but is always used to indicate daring, even possibly criminal, behavior. You can see how the elusive and dangerous wildcat came to be associated with this behavior.

The term wildcatter is most well-known in reference to individuals who drilled wells searching for oil. The term wild-cat wells is said to be a reference to an early prospector who shot a wildcat, had it stuffed, and attached it atop his drilling equipment in an area near Oil City. The area subsequently became known as Wildcat Hollow and the prospectors as wildcatters. However, the expression wild cat was in use well before prospectors hit black gold—it was applied to so-called wild cat bankers in the American West by at least the 1850s.

By the 1940s, the term came to be applied to strikers in a wildcat strike, “a labor strike that has not been called or sanctioned by the officials of the union.”


  • Like many of the old wildcatters, he had never struck oil, but he had plenty of great stories to tell.


One of the less-kind expressions inspired by cats is fraidy-cat [ frey-dee-kat ], a reference to how cats are often, well, skittish. (Have you ever seen how they react to a cucumber?) Fraidy-cat, as in afraid cat, means “a timid, easily frightened person.” The slightly more grown-up version of this childish expression is scaredy-cat, although they are both sort of silly.


  • “Quit being a fraidy-cat and just jump!” my brother yelled.


When it comes to describing cats, we tend to stick to the same few words: adorable, annoying, fierce. But there are all kinds of cool words we can use to talk about felines. One of these is solitudinarian [ sol-i-tood-n-air-ee-uhn ], meaning “a person [or animal!] who seeks solitude,” also known as a recluse. Cats are known for their standoffish air, often preferring their own company to that of others—unless it’s mealtime.


  • I lived as a solitudinarian in those days, only leaving my house to get groceries or other necessary supplies.


Besides being solitary and afraid of their own shadows, cats are also known for always landing on their feet. One way to describe these acrobatic creatures is as lissome, an adjective meaning “lithesome or lithe, especially of body; supple; flexible.” It can also mean “agile, nimble, or active.”


  • The cat gracefully arranged her lissome body along the top of the fence.

Lissome, or lithesome, is a cognate of the Latin term lentus, meaning “slow.”


It might seem hard to believe, but sometimes none of the words in the dictionary seem up to the task of describing what you see or feel or think. Say, for example, when you are trying to express how incredibly awesome your pet cat Roger is. Well, when you find yourself at a loss for words, the term ineffable might be helpful. Ineffable means “incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible.”


  • I was captivated by her ineffable beauty, particularly the way her lips curved when she smiled.

The poet T.S. Eliot was crazy about cats, and in his classic poem “The Naming of Cats,” he notes of the cat:

His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular name.

Effanineffable is a combination of feline and ineffable, which seems like a fair description of how your pet cat Roger might think of his name.


One of the more annoying tendencies pet cats, or Felis catus, have is to caterwaul. Caterwaul is a verb with a variety of meanings, primarily “to utter long wailing cries, as cats in rutting time.” Rutting time is a polite way of saying in heat.

  • When our old tomcat was ready for his dinner, he would let us know by caterwauling until we fed him.

Caterwaul comes from a combination of Middle Dutch cater meaning “tomcat” and Old English wawen meaning “to howl.” Although, frankly, it almost seems like it could be onomatopoeia.


If a neighborhood cat’s wailing gets to you, try to avoid describing it as psycho. We have plenty of of better alternatives here.


There have been some colorful titles for our feline companions, the house cat, over the years. One of these that is no longer in common use is grimalkin, meaning, literally “a cat” or, more specifically, “an old female cat.” The term has also been used as an insult meaning “an ill-tempered old woman.” (Rude!)


  • Although the room was warm, she sat by the fire petting the white grimalkin on her lap.

Want to know more about grimalkin and other cool words like it? Check out more gems of the dictionary here.


Scottish English is not as well known as some other varieties of English (outside of Scotland, of course), but it has some wonderful vocabulary, such as baudrons. Baudrons [ baw-druhnz ] means, quite simply, “a cat.”


  • We found a wee baudrons in the alley soaking wet and gave her some warm milk. 

Baudrons is particularly used as an affectionate term for a sweet cat.


Not everyone keeps pet cats around just because they are adorable. Some folks expect their cats to earn their keep by being good mousers, meaning “an animal that catches mice.” 


  • My calico Clarabelle is an excellent mouser; she caught three mice just last week.

If you live in a big city, you might actually need a ratter instead, as in “an animal that catches rats.” Sometimes you need a dog like a terrier for a task that big!

How much of this fine feline lingo did you already know? What words wiggled away? You can review all of these terms at our cool cats and kittens word list here. Or, if you’re feeling confident, you can test your knowledge with our fast and fun quiz here.


On the hunt for a quick refresher on other words for fast? Check out these synonyms that could well describe your agile kitty as well.

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