Animal Phrases, Dog and Cat Sayings, Plus More

We have compiled a comprehensive list of animal phrases, sayings, and idioms that are nearly as fascinating as the creatures they describe. Whether you’re a language enthusiast, an animal lover, or just curious about the origins of common phrases, you’ll find plenty of interesting content to explore here. Some of the expressions have their own dedicated page, providing you with additional details and explanations to help you better understand their meaning and origin. We invite you to examine each category and learn something new about these animal-related phrases that are also a part of our everyday language.

A drawn dog with the words "animal phrases" next to it.

What Are Animal Phrases?

Animal phrases are sayings that use animals to express a specific meaning. These phrases can be used to describe a situation, a behavior, or an emotion in a way that is easy to understand. For example, the phrase “all bark and no bite” refers to a person who talks big, but there is no action behind their tough words.

Using animal phrases can be a fun and useful way to communicate how we feel. They can even be used to add humor to our conversations. For instance, you could say, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse” to convey the strong hunger you feel. When used properly and in the right context, animal phrases can be a great way to add texture to our speech.

Animal Phrases and Sayings

If you want to add some flair to your speaking, animal sayings are a fun way to do just that. Whether you’re feeling as strong as a lion or showing the cunning of a fox, animal related phrases are regularly used to convey a wide range of emotions and ideas. So here is a list of animal phrases and sayings that can add variety to our everyday speech:

1. An elephant never forgets
Someone with a strong memory that does not easily forget.

  • Example: My grandpa is an excellent case of the saying “an elephant that never forgets” because even though he is in his nineties, he can still remember small details of his childhood.
  • Similar: Cemented in one’s memory, burned into one’s memory, like riding a bike (you never forget)

2. Beating a dead horse
Continuing to dwell on a topic that has already been resolved or dealt with.

  • Example: Tom kept trying to convince his friend to go on a trip with him, but his friend had already declined several times. Tom was beating a dead horse at this point.
  • Similar: Covering old ground, flogging a dead horse, running around in circles

3. Birds of a feather flock together
People with similar interests, personalities, or backgrounds tend to spend time together and form groups.

  • Example: While in high school, I noticed that the athletes always hung out together; I guess birds of a feather flock together.
  • Similar: Like two peas in a pod

4. Bull in a china shop
Someone who is clumsy or reckless with their actions, often causing damage.

  • Example: When he got his new job, he was like a bull in a china shop until he learned the ropes.
  • Similar: a loose cannon, like a runaway train, like a wrecking ball

5. Crocodile tears
A phrase that describes an insincere display of emotion, such as sadness.

  • Example: My coworker was shedding crocodile tears after I caught him eating my lunch.
  • Similar: Put on an act, faking it

6. Cry wolf
A false claim that’s given about something serious.

  • Example: Peter tends to exaggerate his problems and frequently asks for help when he doesn’t need it. At this point, he’s cried wolf so many times that it’s hard to take him seriously.
  • Similar: Blowing things out of proportion, false alarm, making a mountain out of a molehill

7. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
It’s impolite to criticize a gift even if it’s not exactly what you wanted.

  • Example: My parents bought me a car, and even though it’s not in my preferred color, I dare not look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • Similar: Beggars can’t be choosers, don’t bite the hand that feeds you

8. Elephant in the room
An obvious issue or problem that everyone is aware but no one wants to talk about it.

  • Example: No one wanted to address the elephant in the room and ask why one of our coworkers came to work dressed in his pajamas.
  • Similar: Sticks out like a sore thumb

9. Fish out of water
Feeling uncomfortable or out of place in a situation because it’s unfamiliar or different than what you’re used to.

  • Example: He went to a fancy dinner party and felt like a fish out of water because of being surrounded by people dressed in formal attire.
    Similar: In unfamiliar territory, out of your element

10. Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day
Provide someone with a temporary solution to a problem, rather than teaching them a skill that can help them solve it.

  • Example: Instead of giving her children the answers to their homework, she taught them how to solve it themselves, which follows the advice of the proverbial saying ‘give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’
  • Similar: Long-term solution

11. Go down the rabbit hole
Becoming absorbed in situation, idea, or task, that distracts you from the original goal.

  • Example: I was looking up a recipe for bacon pizza, but I ended up going down a rabbit hole of Italian cuisine.
  • Similar: Get sidetracked, go off on a tangent, lost in thought

12. Happy as a clam
To be very happy or satisfied with one’s current situation or circumstances.

  • Example: I finally received a promotion at work and I’m as happy as a clam.
  • Similar: On cloud nine, over the moon, walking on sunshine

13. Hold your horses
To wait, be patient, or slow down.

  • Example: I know you’re excited about heading out, but hold your horses until everyone is ready.
  • Similar: Hold on a minute, slow down, take it easy

14. I smell a rat
Suspecting that something is wrong or that someone is being dishonest.

  • Example: The car salesman was talking up a vehicle that had caught my attention, but I smelled a rat and decided not buy it.
  • Similar: Something doesn’t add up, something smells fishy

15. Like shooting fish in a barrel
A task or activity that is extremely easy to accomplish.

  • Example: The other team didn’t show up to the game, so winning it was like shooting fish in a barrel for us.
  • Similar: A piece of cake, no sweat, walk in the park

16. Long in the tooth
Someone that is old in age or something that has been around for a long time.

  • Example: That microwave is getting long in the tooth, I should get rid of it.
  • Similar: Getting up there in age, no spring chicken

17. Love birds
Two people that have strong affection for each other.

  • Example: Those two have been married for years and everyone considers them to be love birds.
  • Similar: Crazy in love, head over heels

18. Playing possum
Pretending to be dead or feigning ignorance.

  • Example: When approached by a bear, he played possum and pretended to be unconscious until the bear left.
  • Similar: Act innocent, play dumb

19. Sitting ducks
Individuals or a group of people who are easy targets because they are unaware of the danger they are in.

  • Example: The tourists were sitting ducks for the roaming pickpockets on the crowded streets.
  • Similar: Easy prey, helpless

20. The early bird gets the worm
People who act quickly will have an advantage over those who hesitate.

  • Example: To get a good deal on a flight, you need to book early. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm.
  • Similar: Strike while the iron is hot, you snooze you lose

21. The straw that broke the camel’s back
A final small burden that causes someone to lose their patience.

  • Example: After months of being overworked, the extra assignment his employer gave him was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so he quit.
  • Similar: A bridge too far, the last straw, the tipping point

22. Ugly duckling
A person or thing that appears unattractive or incapable, but later develops into something beautiful or extraordinary.

  • Example: She was often teased for her looks as a child, but she grew up to be a remarkable model. She started as an ugly duckling who later turned into a swan.
  • Similar: Comeback story, diamond in the rough

23. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink
You can provide someone with an opportunity, but you cannot force them to take it.

  • Example: The employees were offered free training courses, but nobody took advantage of it. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
  • Similar: The ball is in your court, you can only do so much

10 Common Cat Sayings

Cats are popular pets, and they have inspired many common animal sayings in the English language. These cat-related phrases see frequent use and will likely be recognizable to native speakers. So then, meow’s the time for 10 common cat sayings and expressions that are tailor-made for feline pet owners:

1. Cat burglar
A thief who breaks into buildings or homes to steal valuables while avoiding detection.

  • Example: A cat burglar was responsible for the recent string of jewelry thefts in my neighborhood.
  • Similar: Burglar, robber, safe-cracker

2. Cat fight
A physical or verbal fight between two women.

  • Example: The two actresses had a public cat fight on social media, as they exchanged insults and accusations against each other.
  • Similar: Going at it, heated dispute, quarreling, verbal sparring

3. Cat got your tongue
A phrase that is used to ask someone why are they suddenly not speaking, or being speechless.

  • Example: When confronted on why he didn’t speak up at school, Dave had nothing to say, so his classmate asked, “What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?”
  • Similar: At a loss for words, rendered speechless, tongue-tied

4. Cat nap
A short, light amount sleep, typically lasting for around 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Example: To ensure I have enough energy to get through the day, I’ll take a short cat nap before work.
  • Similar: Doze off, power nap, resting one’s eyes, take five

5. Copy cat
A person who imitates or copies the behavior, actions, or even the style of another person.

  • Example: Phil accused his brother of being a copycat after noticing he was wearing the same clothes as him.
  • Similar: Follow suit, jump on the bandwagon, monkey see monkey do

6. Curiosity killed the cat
A proverbial expression used to warn against unnecessary exploration or investigation as it could lead to harm.

  • Example: John’s father warned him not to mess with the electrical outlets in the house, reminding him that “curiosity killed the cat.”
  • Similar: Don’t poke the bear, let sleeping dogs lie

7. Has nine lives
A resilient person that has survived dangerous situations.

  • Example: After barely surviving a car accident and a serious illness, everyone joked that Bob was like a cat with nine lives.
  • Similar: Dodged a bullet, survived by the skin of your teeth, walking on thin ice

8. Let the cat out of the bag
To reveal a secret, or to disclose something that was meant to be kept under wraps.

  • Example: Amy accidentally let the cat out of the bag when she revealed to her friend that a surprise party was being planned for her.
  • Similar: Break the news, come clean, spill the beans

9. Raining cats and dogs
A common saying that is used to describe heavy rainfall or a downpour.

  • Example: We were planning on having an outdoor picnic, but then we had to cancel our plans because it started raining cats and dogs.
  • Similar: When it rains it pours

10. Scaredy-cat
An informal expression used to describe someone who is easily scared or afraid.

  • Example: Mike is such a scaredy-cat when it comes to spiders, so I have to deal with them instead.
  • Similar: Chicken, scared stiff, yellow-bellied

10 Familiar Dog Phrases and Expressions

Dogs make faithful companions and are known as man’s best friend. But did you know they have also inspired numerous idiomatic expressions that we still use today? That’s right, dogs have left their paw prints all over the English language, so it’s no surprise to see so many familiar animal phrases about our furry friends. Without further ado, here is a list of 10 dog phrases that we dug up for your reading delight:

1. All bark and no bite
Someone who talks tough but is unlikely to follow through with any action.

  • Example: The company I work for frequently boasts about innovating their products, but they are all bark and no bite because they never deliver on their promises.
  • Similar: All hat and no cattle, all smoke and no fire, all talk and no action

2. Barking up the wrong tree
To make an incorrect assumption about someone or something.

  • Example: James was barking up the wrong tree when he thought his neighbor had stolen his bike.
  • Similar: Jumping to conclusions, mistaken, off base

3. Doggy bag
A doggy bag is used at restaurants as a container for leftover food.

  • Example: We were unable to finish our plates, so we asked the waiter for a doggy bag to take the remaining food home with us.
  • Similar: Food storage bag, leftover container

4. Let sleeping dogs lie
It is better to leave a situation alone rather than risk making it worse by trying to change it.

  • Example: I advised my roommate not to bring up a previously resolved argument with another roommate, instead suggesting that he let sleeping dogs lie.
  • Similar: Don’t poke the bear, don’t stir the hornet’s nest, leave well enough alone

5. Puppy dog eyes
A pleading expression typically characterized by wide, innocent-looking eyes, used to persuade someone to do something.

  • Example: Sarah looked at her mother with puppy dog eyes to try to convince her to buy a new toy.
  • Similar: Innocent eyes

6. Sick as a dog
Someone who is very ill or feeling unwell.

  • Example: I am at home lying in bed because I’m as sick as a dog.
  • Similar: Down in the dumps, feeling a bit off, feeling under the weather

7. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
A sentence, also known as a pangram, that uses every letter of the alphabet.

  • Example: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog is commonly used to test fonts.
  • Similar: Other pangrams

8. Underdog
A person that is expected to lose at a competition, even though they have potential to pull off an upset victory.

  • Example: My baseball team is the underdog going into the semifinals, but I still hope we win.
  • Similar: Dark horse, Cinderella story

9. With your tail between your legs
Feeling ashamed or embarrassed because of being defeated or chastised.

  • Example: Oliver left the classroom with his tail between his legs because the teacher reprimanded him for cheating on a math test.
  • Similar: Egg on your face, eat humble pie, hang your head

10. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
It is difficult to change someone’s habits or behavior, especially if they have been doing things a certain way for a long time.

  • Example: Teaching my dad new technology is difficult, as it feels like I’m trying to teach an old dog new tricks.
  • Similar: Stuck in their ways

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