Cat Euphemisms

Several cat euphemisms come to mind. Euphemisms are used to hide the reality of what we do. It is the act of substituting a vague or mild term for one which might be considered to be harsh or blunt. Humans are very good at it. Sometimes we don’t like to look at reality or think about it.

Euphemisms can be useful but they can also deflect us from the truth. We need to address the truth in order to be able to correct things that we do which are morally wrong. Therefore, euphemisms can hold us back from improving ourselves.

Cat euphemisms

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


An unwillingness to change due to euphemisms applies to the world of domestic cats. Let’s start with a perfectly innocuous cat euphemism. The word is ‘scat’. The word means animal faeces or excrement. It is always used by scientists when conducting studies on cats. It is usually confined to studying the contents of sh*t in order to find out what an animal eats and therefore what the animal preys upon. Clearly we don’t like to think of animal poop (another euthemism)!

Euthanize or Euthanise

An example of a cat euphemism which dangerously perpetuates wrongdoings is “euthanasia” or “to euthanise”. The word means to kill humanely when an animal is seriously and chronically ill and suffering from an incurable disease and in chronic pain.

It’s an act of mercy and a moral act. The most important time when a cat owner euthanises their cat is at the end of the cat’s life because of a chronic illness due to old age.

A cat euphemism which has the same meaning is ‘to put an animal to sleep”. Unfortunately, both these euphemisms are frequently used when killing perfectly healthy animals, usually at cat rescue centres.

To Declaw

Another uncomfortable euphemism is “declawing” or “to declaw”. This euphemism implies that a veterinarian removes the claw of the cat. Sadly, this is far from the truth because a veterinarian removes that part of the cat’s toe which is beyond the last joint, times ten.

It is a partial amputation of each toe and a much more serious operation than simply removing the claw. Perhaps I am cynical but I would argue that veterinarians created this cat euphemism in order to promote declawing and to hide from cat owners the truth about the operation which is incredibly painful and which risks causing long-term health issues.


Sometimes we describe the domestic cat as a “meat eater”. The word “meat” is a euphemism which refers to the flesh of an animal. We use the word meat for ourselves in order to distance yourself from the fact that we are eating the flesh of an animal. People like to hide from the reality of how animals are slaughtered for our consumption. We like to reduce their flesh to something which is almost artificial on our plates.

Cull Breeding Cat

There is an interesting reverse cat euphemism which is the phrase “to cull a breeding cat”. This does not mean to kill a breeding cat but to simply remove the cat from the breeding program because she has an undesirable trait.

We should do away with cat euphemisms. The worst of these is ‘declawing’.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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6 Responses

  1. Jane Carter says:

    Never forget the ubiquitous “gone to Rainbow Bridge” aka died.

    I know there is a need for sensitivity around death, but over the years, being faced with the prospect of actual death myself a few times, and having had to have several cats euthanised, I am almost 100% intolerant of death euphemisms.

    I totally agree about “declawing” being one. of the worst.

  2. Jane Carter says:

    An ex bf of mine had a particularly brutal, father who insisted that any female cat should have a litter before being spayed. When the poor (usually under a year old) mother cat had her kittens he would allow her to keep the kittens for 3 weeks, then, early evening, at a time when the mother cat would be alert in crepuscular mode, he would “take the kittens for a wash” aka – drowning them in a bucket of cold water out in the back yard. I was told that some of these poor females witnessed this horror, but the hideous old man had no care for how grotesquely cruel this was to both mother and poor kittens. He was apparently carrying this out, under the instruction of his “trusted vet”. The distressed, traumatised mother cat, in shock & despair would be at the vets for spaying, first thing the next morning. A supposedly educated, well though of, middle class family, living in rural Eire, lovely countryside, barbaric attitudes in most of elderly, surprisingly right through to many of the younger folk that I met. Sadly, the violence of this man ran down the line to his sons too.

    • M E King says:

      I loved my grandfather dearly until I caught him drowning kittens. No matter how he tried and the rest of the family tried to minimize it that stuck with me.
      I try now not to judge on what was acceptable in the past but really this was never acceptable.
      My in-laws are horrible animal abusers. My husband is the only one to treat animals with true kindness and love the other 4 kids, now adults in their 50 and sister in late 40s are hideous monsters when it comes to animals of any type. Sadly I see their children doing the same things they did and are still doing.

      • Michael Broad says:

        “I loved my grandfather dearly until I caught him drowning kittens.”

        What is that about? Can you write about that? As you say it is to do with times past when there was a different attitude to animal welfare. But why did he do it? It does shed light on the gradual improvement in animal welfare albeit too slowly and it is still good enough for many of us.

  3. M E King says:

    Cull does mean kill and in many larger breeders especially of dogs used to use what was called dunkies. As in dunking the unwanted not up to par puppy in a bucket of water and drowning it. TB breeders will also hammer a foal that is deformed.
    Most dog and cat breeders will sell an altered pet that is ‘pet quality’ for a lower price. There are no required records that I’m aware of any requirement to report the number of animals born in a litter because most breeders don’t register every animal nor are they required to. The mope breeding animals they have the worse it becomes.

    • M E King says:

      My bad the euphemism for disposing of unwanted puppies and kittens by breeders was called ‘playing dunkies’.

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