French Friday: Not du Pipi de Chat

In a country that is becoming more and more dog friendly, I belong to a smaller segment of the population: the people who favor cats.

Dutch cats that my daughter met in Amsterdam last week

A lot goes back to childhood, so it’s not really my fault if I’m still quite afraid of dogs. For five consecutive years, a dog barked at all the kids on their way to the elementary school. I never saw more than his bared teeth behind the wrought iron fence. That was plenty enough. In addition, one of my uncles was a hunter and kept several dogs that jumped on people to welcome them. I’m likely my uncle’s only niece who stayed in the car until his dogs were locked in their pen. They never hurt me or anyone else, but they scared me so much. As I grew up I learned that most dogs are friendly, but I remained cautious around them, even though many years later, I insisted to keep the female Lab that showed up one day at our door. Unlike me, my kids instinctively loved her.

Today I still prefer cats. I like their independent attitude, their nimbleness, their soul-digging stare, and their soft coat too.

Over my early morning or late afternoon walks I often cross the path of neighboring cats.

The two cats featured below are my daughter’s. She invited me to share Tuck and Aly with you.

This is Tuck, one of two rescued sisters from a large litter found in rural Pennsylvania

And this is Aly. Both she and Tuck were so tiny that my daughter fed them with a bottle for a while. They’re no longer kittens, even though we still call them babies.

Really, people, who, but cats, would have the imagination to consider a radiator a chaise lounge?

The current pro dog trend is visible through literature. Some amazing books have been written with dogs as protagonists. I’ve read and adored The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Dog’s Purpose.

Whether for adults or kids there is indeed more often a dog in the story than a cat, and when there is a cat, it’s often a mean one 😦

Surprinsingly, I’ve done it myself in my middle grade novel that features a beloved dog and a snob cat. In my upcoming YA novel, an old Lab plays a role too. Finally, I spontaneously included two cats in the novel I’m working on now.

However, there are cat heroes in many picture books.

Aly, exhausted after working at the computer. My own cat used to type on my keyboard and would check the screen aftwerwards.

Everybody knows Dr. Seuss’s iconic Cat With the Hat, but maybe less contemporary Pete the Cat.

Splat is the feline hero in the cattish Series Splat the Cat.

One the most popular children’s books’ character of the early 2000s is Skippyjon Jones. The Siamese cat believes he’s a Chihuahua because he doesn’t look like his mother and sisters. New titles have been added over the years.

The graphic novel Series Catstronauts features an elite group of cat astronauts that elementary kids will adore.

My all-time favorite remains Rotten Ralph, the very nasty cat who gets in big trouble and seems to regret his errors until…next time.

I easily found two copies on the shelf where I keep my children’s favorite books.

Dogs may be the #1 choice for a pet, cats still matter to their loving owners.

For the last few days, I’ve seen a Missing Cat flyer posted in my neighborhood. It makes me sad, since I know that missing cats are rarely found. Although naturally cautious in their familiar habitat, they are easy preys in the wild.

My daughter’s cats would be devastated if anything separated them and she would too, of course.

Cats played a crucial role in ancient civilizations, and not only in Egypt. They must have marked the French collective too, considering the number of popular expressions that involve a cat.

I already introduced a couple of them in the past, through my yearly series of French expressions. I’m also using a few in my upcoming novel where a French chef likes to translate French expressions literally. A few more that demonstrate that cats matter as much as dogs 🙂

Spoiled but oh, so adorable

Avoir un chat dans la gorge: To have a cat in the throat.

How would I have known that the Americans have a frog and not a cat in the throat when they have a cold?

Donner sa langue au chat: To give one’s tongue to the cat.

Expression used in situations when you cannot guess the answer or solution. You give up and say, “Je donne ma langue au chat.”

Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent: When the cat is away, the mice dance. Without supervision people act up.

Appeler un chat un chat: To call a cat a cat means saying things the way they are. The English equivalent is to call a spade a spade.

Il n’y a pas un chat: There is not a single cat is used when no one, or less people than expected, show up at a meeting or a party, for example.

C’est du pipi de chat: It’s cat pee means it’s not important.


Cats love windows, watching through the window, or simply resting on the windowsill, like Aly.


Finding missing cats, however, is not du pipi de chat and au contraire very important to the people who love them.

So these French sayings are for the missing “black and white fat cat” to wish him a safe way home.




  1. hilarymb says:

    Hi Evelyne … I was like you … loved cats, terrified of dogs – now thankfully can manage both. Cats are languorous as well as curious … and your books sound delightful – have you ever heard of the Mowzer cat ‘The Mousehole Cat’ after the village of Mousehole in Cornwall … it’s on my blog Dec 2014 … always takes me back to Cornwall. Delighted your daughter enjoys her cats and has rescued two – they look such fun … cheers Hilary

    • Thank you, Hilary for the book suggestion. I’ll browse your blog for your review. Glad you like both cats and dogs. I do too, although I will always favor cats 🙂
      My daughter’s ate adorable. Funny but well behaved too 🙂
      Have a great weekend!

  2. Oh, I do hope the cat comes home! We live in the country, where domestic cats are also easy prey if they get out. My mom had a very fat cat go out and not come back. He finally DID come back after days and days, but he was skinny! We never knew where he was or why he was gone so long. When we can’t get somebody to talk to us, we say, “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?” And we say, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” I love hearing your French expressions! Thank you for sharing them. I also enjoyed your cat-book recommendations. 🙂

  3. Merci Evelyne – I do like both cats and dogs 🙂 with a little more for cats 🙂
    Tu connais bien sûr : ” les chiens ne font pas de chats ” !

  4. I love them both – seventeen rescued dogs – three at a time, and adopted by one black cat who I adored… I honestly think I’d love an elephant if one turned up on my door step needing a home !!!
    Love the cat sayings as ever !!!

    • Seventeen! Wow! I’ve seen a dog taking care of a kitten while watching over her litter of puppies. Adorable. Our cat was afraid of our dog who was curious about her. I’m pretty sure that the dog wanted to start a relationship, but the cat remained cautious.
      I love elephants, but keeping one would definitely trigger major home remodeling.
      Thank you for stopping by, Valerie.

  5. I’ve had both cats and dogs and love both, but I wouldn’t want a cat in my throat!! I thought of you the other day while watching a quiz show – the question was which translation of a French phrase means when something is done and the answer was ‘the carrots are cooked’ – I got it right though it was only a guess!

    • I can ooh and aah when seeing some dogs:)
      Bravo for guessing the right answer! This is a common French expression. Les carottes sont cuites is used when all is lost and there is no more hope. Then we can add, c’est la fin des haricots or this is the end of the green beans 🙂
      These French sayings are quite funny. So many use either food or animals comparisons.
      See you on your blog, Andrea.

  6. I like the expressions. We ask “does the cat have your tongue?” when people have nothing to say – now I guess I know why.

    Our cats are not heroes, but they are very special to us. They are sisters and were adopted after having been abandoned. They were both sick, the little one was very ill. We are very happy to have them sharing the house with our dog.

    • We also have this expression in French! I should have remembered, since many adults asked me if the cat had swallowed my tongue when I was a kid. I was shy and didn’t easily talk, particularly to adults I didn’t know and intimidated me.
      I know that you and your family love all animals. Even squirrels:)
      I’ve seen pictures of your cats and they’re adorable. This is amazing to witness animals’ resilience when they’re offered a chance to live.
      And Maddy is my kind of dog. Big but so sweet…

  7. Great post! I love both cats and dogs, probably because I was born to a house with both. The dogs were my playmates, the cat, a soft creature I wished would love me. lol I have had cats all my life, and cannot imagine living without one. About dogs, I am more particular.
    I loved reading SkippyJon Jones to my kids, and my nephews, and when small children visit, those are my first choice. Also, Bad Kitty. Have you read Beverly Cleary’s Socks? That’s one of my all-time faves. I go back to it for comfort.
    I haven’t really noticed a heightened sense of dog love. Always been dogs. Lots of dogs. Lassie, Benji, Marmaduke, Clifford, Wishbone… The world loves dogs like they love extroverts 😉

    • Thank you, Joey. I forgot Beverly Cleary’s Socks! You’re right about the countless dogs in movies:)
      I think people love dogs because dogs seek human love, while cats remain more independent.
      I don’t want to appear anti dogs, though, because many dogs are sweet and friendly. One of my neighbors has two dogs, one being an old female with the kindest eyes and softest ears. I always joke that I’ll adopt her one day. However, cats will remain my weakness.

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