It's from a novel of 1938 by E.C. Bentley's Genuine Tarbard. Now the expression of 'cat's back' seems not to be in use any more. However, what's the meaning of this 'cat's back'?


It's a saying that means something is very high or very tall. It's just one of many such colorful phrases. It references the fact that when cats get scared they puff up and arch their backs.

Similar to phrases like "colder than a witch's tit" or "dumber than a bag of hammers" or "deeper than the holler."

  • 1
    There might possibly be a mythic allusion lurking here. In the Gylfaginning (the first part of the Prose or Snorra Edda), Ch. 47, in the adventure of Útgarða-Loki, one of the magically delusive tests attempted and failed by Þór is to lift a cat by the stomach, high enough so that its paws leave the ground. The cat just keeps arching its back higher and higher without more than one of the paws’ lifting from the ground, for it is really Jǫrmundgandr, the Miðgarð Serpent. Afterwards it is confessed that Þór lifted it almost to heaven. – Brian Donovan Jun 23 '14 at 1:23
  • 2
    E.C. Bentley is an English author. – Neil W Jun 23 '14 at 2:01
  • 1
    Seems it's a Southern country saying, after all. research.udmercy.edu/find/special_collections/digital/cfa/… myoldkentuckytales.com/southern-sayings – Kris Jun 23 '14 at 5:41

In this case, it means an expense. Example:

“To go up like a cat’s back.” (To rise quickly as the cat’s back docs when the animal is angry.) “The price of corn went up like a cat’s back.” -A word-list from "Bill Arp" [pseud.] and "Rufus Sanders" [pseud.]. by Margaret Gillis Figh. ...A word-list from southern Kentucky, by A. P. Dalton. The secretary's report. (1950)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.