Cat owners and lovers will agree that most cats are easily frightened by things. My cat, Keke is no exception. While she is as adorable as she can be, she is the textbook definition of an scaredy cat.
The Urban Dictionary’s definition of scaredy cat is Someone frightened by almost everything
She runs for cover at the drop of a dime. I cannot begin to count the number of times she hid in the bedroom closet whenever company cames to visit. Her behaviour made me curious about the old adeage – scaredy cat. So I began to do some research about this catchall phrase.
- The word scaredy doesn’t exist on its own. The phrase scaredy cat first appears in print in Dorothy Parker’s The Waltz, published in 1933, and she’s usually credited with coining the term. Thus, it is used with the word cat attached to it.
- “scaredy” relies on the english “-y” suffix which usually changes the word to “something having the quality of” (rain > rainy; mess > messy).
- Another phrase most people are familiar with is “Fraidy Cat”. This has a similar meaning but is typically directed towards a person’s cowardly behavior, in general.
I came across a poem called Scaredy Cat, by Leah Claire Kaminski with a thoughtful and fullbodied aroma of expressions. I clipped a small piece of it and encourage you to enjoy the full poem yourself.
It’s not passive, anymore than selecting stones for your pocket is. Just down again, because she’s down again. It’s what she summons from the outside, from everything she harms by walking through it, by it, under it, speaking to it or with it.
I stumbled across the following 2005 case study conducted by the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) in the UK. This study produced an annual review of data from cases referred to APBC members from veterinary surgeons.
In the 2005 review of cases, information was collated on 65 feline cases, of which 30 were male and 35 female. 11% showed some kind of fearful or ‘phobic’ response; 10% of cases presented with aggression towards people, 7% with behaviours caused by medical disorders and 5% with ‘bonding problems’ (presumably meaning cats showi a limited tolerance of interaction with people) (APBC, 2005).
Interestingly enough, ten percent is not the bulk of cats nor does it indicate scaredy cat refers to a female feline (although the majority of the cats were female).
Kaminski, Leah Claire. “Scaredy-cat.” Prairie Schooner, vol. 92, no. 2, 2018, p. 184 . Gale Literature Resource Center, https://link-gale-com.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/apps/doc/A544829144/LitRC?u=nclivensu&sid=LitRC&xid=a5fe9570. Accessed 2 Mar. 2020.