In this dog-eat-dog world, I work like a dog and I’m always dog-tired

(Level B1 and above. Idioms and expressions involving dogs and cats)

Dogs and cats. Don’t we just love them? These lucky mammals, elevated to non-edible companion status, are in our hearts, and also embedded in our language.

There are dozens of expressions or idioms that involves cats and dogs.

There’s even one expression that includes both cats and dogs. Do you know it? We use this expression when talking about the weather, especially very wet weather.  In French, the equivalent would be pleuvoir des cordes.

(Check the answer at the bottom of the article).

Here is a list of some of our favorite dog and cat expressions with definitions and examples of how to use them.


When a situation is dog-eat-dog, it’s very competitive in a cruel and selfish way.

Banking can be a dog-eat-dog industry.

Trump has a dog-eat-dog philosophy.

The music industry is dog-eat-dog; one day you’re on top and the next, everyone has forgotten you


Very tired, exhausted.

He was dog-tired after working in garden from morning to night.

Nursing is a tough job, especially during a pandemic. Most nurses are dog-tired by the end of their shift.

His/her bark is worse than his/her bite

Someone who acts more aggressively than they really are. They make a lot of noise, but they not so threatening or dangerous.

Yes, the boss gets a little loud and excited but don’t worry. His bark is worse than his bite.


Snoop Dogg: Doggy Dogg World


Work like a dog

To work very hard.

She worked like a dog for two days straight to finish the presentation.

My weekend? Relaxed? No way! I worked like a dog all weekend putting up a garden shed.

Barking up the wrong tree

Going after the wrong person or target.

If the detectives think my friend took part in the robbery, they are barking up the wrong tree.

He was on holidays when the mistake happened. You are barking up the wrong tree.


Patti Page: (How Much is That) Doggie in the Window?



Let sleeping dogs lie

You let sleeping dogs lie when you choose to not to talk about a situation or topic which has caused problems in the past.

She never talks about her former husband. We never ask. It’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Can we just let sleeping dogs lie? We tried everything and each time it ends up with everyone angry and no resolution!


Determined and tenacious.

The defenders put up a dogged defence against Haaland, but he still kicked two goals.




Description of a well-read book, where the corners of many of the pages are turned down

Here, you can have my dog-eared copy. I’ve read it three times.

Cat burglar

An agile thief who climbs up the outside of a building in order to enter and steal something

Trailer of the film Entrappment with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones as two devilishly-talented cat burglars.



Let the cat out of the bag

to reveal a secret carelessly or by mistake

I wanted it to be a surprise, but my sister let the cat out of the bag.

I told you it was confidential. Now you’ve let the cat of the bag!

The cat that got the cream

To be extremely happy or satisfied.

You look like the cat that got the cream. Did you get the job? Congratulations!


Stray Cats – Stray Cat Strut


Cat got your tongue?

Said to somebody, especially a child, who stays silent when expected to speak, for example after being asked a question.

Did you do your homework? (no reply) What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue? 


(adjective) saying unkind things about other people; gossipy, bitchy.

Susan made a catty comment about the way you dress in the café this morning. I think she is jealous.


A walkway used by models to walk along and show off their clothes in a fashion show.

It’s easy just follow the catwalk to the end, do a bit of pirouette, and then come back.


Al Stewart -Year of the Cat


Verbs associated with cats and dogs:

Dogs bark (aboyer) , howl (hurler), and growl (grogner); cats purr (ronronner) and hiss (siffler).

Finally, in French a cat miaous and in English it meows and a dog goes ouah! ouah! in French and woof! woof! in English.


The expression we use to describe heavy rain: It’s raining cats and dogs.

Garry Littman

Garry Littman est le fondateur de The Language House à Genève. The Language House propose des coachings d'anglais à Genève pour les particuliers et les entreprises, ainsi que des cours intensifs d'anglais dans les pays anglophones. Garry a été journaliste en Australie et en Asie, il a travaillé pour World Radio Switzerland.

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