“Having a cat locked up” Definition and Meaning

“Having a cat locked up” is an expression that means there is something suspicious.

As such, it is an expression used to indicate that, in a given situation, there is a hidden reason or there are secret handles.

In this sense, the phrase applies to situations or actions that arouse distrust or restlessness, and that prevent us from potential deception. Hence, it is used to indicate this situation. For example:

  • The president of the association suddenly resigned, which leads me to think that there is a cat locked up there.
  • How is it possible for a government official to flee the country? Here is a cat locked up.
  • The player was not sanctioned, despite the hard tackle. It smells like a locked cat.

However, the expression is misleading for us, speakers of the 21st century, since cat does not refer precisely to the domestic feline known to all. At least not directly. In the seventeenth century, in Spain it was common to make bags (bags, purses) to store money, with cat skin. Gato, by extension, became the bag where money was stored.

Hence the expression “having locked cat”, which is nothing but a way of referring to the suspicious attitude of those who wear something hidden and want to protect themselves from thieves. Thus, what originally came to mean the expression was that there was hidden money.

In English, the phrase “having a cat locked up” does not have an exact translation, so it can be translated as “it sounds fishy” (“sounds fishy”, literally) or “I smell a rat” (“I smell a rat”) , expressions to refer to something strange or suspicious about an issue.

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