WTH does “dead cat strategy” mean?

What the hell does a “dead cat strategy” mean? I don’t like the phrase already even though immediately before writing this I had no idea what it meant. I think it is disrespectful and I think it is incorrect to create an image of a dead cat in order to get a message across. Surely there is a better way?

The “dead cat strategy” is a way of introducing something shocking to divert media attention away from failures and problems in other areas. It is used as a political tool. Boris Johnson described it as an Australian political strategy which is employed when an argument is being lost and “the facts are overwhelmingly against you”.

Johnson in mourning wearing a black suit and tie during his resignation speech outside No 10
Johnson in mourning wearing a black suit and tie during his resignation speech outside No 10. Pic in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Boris Johnson referred to the saying in a column on March 3, 2013 that he wrote for the Telegraph. This is what he said:

“There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief”

It can also be used to avoid responsibility for the consequences of misconduct but the problem is you can’t go on doing it because eventually you are found out.

There is a headline on Sky News today which employs two cat sayings: ‘Prime Minister’s dead cat strategy failed so how did he use up his nine lives?’

As you no doubt know, the reference to “nine lives” is to surviving under difficult circumstances which is what domestic cats do and which is why they’ve been dubbed as having nine lives.

RELATED: Why do cats have nine lives and dogs don’t?

The Sunday Times uses another cat analogy:

Boris neutered
Boris neutered. The Sunday Times describing his last days in office as Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, the dead cat is used in another saying: “dead cat bounce”. This describes a temporary recovery in share prices after a big fall. The recovery is caused by people speculating and buying shares in order to cover their positions.

Why should people want to use a dead cat in sayings? Why not a dead dog? Or any other dead animal? And why does it have to be dead? I think this sheds light on an attitude towards domestic and stray cats which is unhealthy. It is disrespectful and it conjures up an image which is unpleasant. It is treating the domestic cat is an object, a non-sentient being.

The Express newspaper made up a cat saying 11 days ago when they said: “Boris Johnson faces slow political death “by a thousand cats”, warns Andrew Neil. This is a modification of the saying “by a thousand cuts”. Death by a thousand cuts was a form of torture and execution originating from Imperial China. Taylor Swift has a song called “Death by a Thousand Cuts”.

Below are some more sayings employing ‘cat’.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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