Origin of word ‘moggy’

There are 2 parts to the article. Please read the entire page as I believe the updating second part to be more accurate but the origin of the word ‘moggie’ is still somewhat up for discussion after all these years in use. The first part is by an appreciated visitor to the site. Michael Broad wrote the second part. My source is Dr Desmond Morris’s book Catlore. This page was first published in around 2008 and has been updated in May 2023.

What is a moggy?

I use the word ‘random-bred’ to describe the moggie. Another term is ‘mixed-breed’. They are created through natural selection as proposed by Charles Darwin in his theory of evolution compared to artificial selection or selective breeding for the creation of purebred cats. Purebred cats are often pedigree cats which means that they have a recorded family tree (a lineage) with the cat association where the cat is registered.


This section written by by Ria (Ockendon, Essex, England). The picture is of her cat, Pebble who’s a moggie.

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

This page also answers the question: Why are cats called moggies?

Moggy or moggie is an old British affectionate term for a domestic cat, but is also used as alternative name for a mongrel or mixed-breed cat whose ancestry and pedigree are unknown or only partially known. Because of this mixed ancestry and free-breeding, a moggy can either be very healthy, or, if from an inbred feral colony, genetically unsound and sickly.

However, as feral colonies are often left without any form of human intervention and veterinary attention, the sickliest generally do not live past kittenhood.

Also in Lancashire and Cumbria UK the word moggy was used to mean a mouse and the cat was called a moggy catcher. Eventually the ‘catcher’ was dropped and so both cat and mouse were called moggies.

It was thought to be derived from the classic M markings on a tabbies head! (Most cats have tabby markings as kittens). Because people don’t tend to be as careful of the breeding of cats the vast majority are moggies!

Olive Oyl moggie show cat with standard tail
Olive Oyl moggie show cat with standard tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

Hi Ria: Thanks for your submission. I changed the title to see if Google search finds it better. Michael


Further updating information by Michael Broad

I would also like to add some more on this subject. The term “moggy” began as a “local dialect variant” of the name Maggie which means a dishevelled old woman. In some places it was the name of a scarecrow. At its core it means something which is scruffy and untidy. At the start of the 20th century its use had spread to include cats.

Draco a glamorous moggie cat
A superb show moggy! Photo copyright Helmi Flick. This is a tabby. It is possible to show moggies at cat shows.

It appears to have begun in London where there were lots of scruffy community cats. Their poor condition was comparable to a dishevelled old woman. In between the world wars in Britain the word moggy was abbreviated to “mog”. In the 1920s and 1930s schoolboy slang referred to dogs and cats as “tikes and mogs”. The shortened version fizzled out after World War II while “moggie” returned to popularity to describe a random bred (non-purebred) cat. – source: Cat World by Desmond Morris.

Moving forward in time to the era of the AI computer, ChatGPT responds like this to the question in the title:

The term “moggy” is a colloquial British English word that is often used to refer to a domestic cat that does not belong to a particular breed or is of mixed breed. The origin of the word “moggy” is not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated from the term “Maggie,” which was a common name for female cats in the 18th and 19th centuries. Over time, the name “Maggie” may have become shortened to “moggy.”

Another theory suggests that “moggy” comes from the word “mongrel,” which is used to describe an animal of mixed breed or uncertain ancestry. However, while “mongrel” is often used to describe mixed-breed dogs, it is less commonly used to refer to cats.

Regardless of its origin, the term “moggy” has become a widely accepted term in British English to describe domestic cats of mixed breed or unknown ancestry.

Comments for ‘Origin of the word ‘moggy’ – there are more comments further down the page

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Feb 20, 2012
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Origin of moggy. NEW
by: allycat

I have heard that that moggy derives from the term “Maggie” meaning untidy old woman and used to describe something scruffy.


Jun 22, 2011
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Moggies
by: Aryan Girl

I wanted to thank you for your information on Moggies. I have 2 of them and I love them DEARLY. I would never change them for any other breed and was very interested in where their origin came from. Thank you very much.


Sep 25, 2010
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Moggies are mice
by: Dave

Your comment that in Lancashire & Cumbria the word moggy “used to” refer to mice is not exactly true. It should be pointed out that it definitely is still used in parts of Lancashire (especially the Wigan area)
for a mouse. There is a whole vocabulary attached to it – including moggy-hole, moggy-trap, moggy-coloured and moggy-meyt(cheese).
It was also a popular nick-name for the Morris Minor and not because the car was anything like a cat but because it looked like a clockwork mouse.
Someone once told me that the “moggies are cats” thing started with a cartoon cat character called “Moggie the Mouser” which appeared in a children’s comic in Edwardian times and it has sadly ousted the original “mouse” meaning since then.


6 thoughts on “Origin of word ‘moggy’”

  1. The name ‘MOGGIE / MOGGY derives from the word ‘MARGAY’.
    A small central and southern American cat that is somewhat similar in appearance to an Ocelot.
    That’s all!

    Reply
    • Thanks Mr C. Could you provide some more information on that. I’d be surprised if you are correct to be honest as the margay is a rare wild cat and I’d doubt people would think of the species in order to formulate the term ‘moggie’.

      Reply
  2. A moggie is a mouse, once looked up “moggie” in a dictionary 50 years ago, it said a small furry animal, Modern books say its a cat.
    Moggie is still used in St Helens and the old Lancashire coal fields.

    Reply

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