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There is More Than One Way to Skin a Cat - Random Phrases and Idioms, A Dictionary of Ridiculous Thoughts

Updated on January 15, 2009

Is there more than one way to skin a cat?

I’m not a taxidermist or a butcher so the reality of this idiom has always baffled me. Could there be a definitive tool or method used when attempting to skin a cat? Not knowing much about this sort of thing I decided to shun all forms of research and embrace the absurd.

Cat Meets Fan....then Wall

Ways to Skin a Cat


With a Knife – sounds reasonable and effective.

With a Spoon – a blunt approach to the challenge.

Use a Firecracker – A well placed firecracker could loosen things up, could make the cat a little more meowable.

Acid – Combined with speed, it could be quite a trip to skin a cat like this.

Curiosity – Can’t skin a cat, but certainly can kill it.

Use a Fan - Yes, you can get a cat to jump out of it's skin by using a fan.

Let's Stop Being Silly

All right, all right... enough is enough. Even I'm getting tired of my juvenile responses. It’s time to get serious and interpret this idiom, to scratch out its true meaning. When you hear someone say “There is more than one way to skin a cat” that person is implying that there are many different ways to complete a task.

How did anyone ever come up with a correlation between skinning a cat and the number of different ways to complete a task? Some possible roots of this phrase could be the result of the following.

1) Skinning of a fish (a cat fish).

2) Mark Twain used the phrase in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" published in 1889, but the phrase was actually first recorded in "John Ray's Collection of English Proverbs" back in 1678. Some early phrases such as "there are more ways to kill a cat then by choking it by butter" seem to be related.

3) There does not seem to be a connection between "skinning the cat" in gymnastics and the idiom "more than one way to skin a cat."

Nevertheless, none of the above connections adequately explains the origins of the phrase, but in the end, it doesn't really matter because I think cats are cool with the whole thing. They may get the short end of the stick with all of the skinning, but remember it's not all bad, those lucky blokes get nine lives.


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    • profile image

      joe 5 years ago

      you guys are lokoe!

    • profile image

      English Dictionary 6 years ago

      Bloke is British slang term for 'man/guy', with perhaps slight connotations of masculinity - nothing to do with cats.. just in case anyone else is confused.

    • Cherish77 profile image

      Cherish77 6 years ago

      All I know is my cat could probably skin me before I skin it. she is a crazy cat.

    • profile image

      RLGW 7 years ago

      "it's not all bad, those lucky blokes get nine lives."

      Not once they're skinned, they don't!

    • profile image

      Ky.Diogenes 7 years ago

      I have no proof but I expect the phrase originally referred a cat-of-nine tails, the whiplash once used in the Royal and American navies for discipline,and usually simply called a "cat". Skinning a cat could refer to using different materials to braid a cat-of-nine tails, different sorts of braiding or something similar. The phrase "not enough room to swing a cat" likewise refers to the whip.

    • profile image

      Un-known 8 years ago

      De-claw the cat first always works

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      You've definitely proved there are many creative and effective ways to skin a cat -- but the underlying question is, "Why in the heck would you want to?"

      Seriously, on those rare occasions when it has been necessary to separate a feline from its derma, I have actually found that "chocking it with butter" is the preferred method.

      Thanks for the laugh. Now when someone crosses me I threaten them with "Don't mess with MM or I'll chock you with butter!"

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I may not have many talents, sschilke, but I'm an ace when it comes to wielding a hand potato peeler. My daughter in Maine, who provides lots of taters for our annual Thanksgiving dinner, can testify to that!

    • sschilke profile image

      sschilke 9 years ago

      William F. Torpey,

      I agree, a potato peeler would do a wonderful job. Now, just to clarify, are you talking about an electric potato peeler or just a hand potato peeler?


    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I read somewhere a long time ago, sschilke, that skinning a cat referred to skinning a catfish, and, despite CW's interesting link, I continue to believe that to be the true meaning. However, if you really have to skin a cat, I think a potato peeler would do the job nicely. By the way, I think I've had some of B.T. Evilpants' Chicken Chow Meow.

    • B.T. Evilpants profile image

      B.T. Evilpants 9 years ago from Hell, MI

      I prefer Chinese food. I'm thinking Chicken Chow Meow, or maybe some Cat Foo Yong.

    • sschilke profile image

      sschilke 9 years ago


      Thanks Constance, I will check out the site. You are definitely right, Idioms have a funny way of using the bizarre to make a point.

      B.T. Evilpants,

      If in the future I'm walking down the isle at my local grocery store and I see "B.T. Evilpants - Cat Noodle Soup" I will be definatley know that you have hit the jackpot.


    • B.T. Evilpants profile image

      B.T. Evilpants 9 years ago from Hell, MI

      My favorite cat skinning tool is a vegetable peeler, but a rasp or file would work in a pinch. I think the question that needs to be answered, is what you do with the cat after you have skinned it. I'll have to consult my recipe file.

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Funny. I have wondered the same thing; where does a gross saying like that come from? OR, have you ever really listened to the words in the lullaby, "The Cradle Will Rock"? It's totally sick!

      PS: I did a quick search for the origin of this phrase and came up with pretty much the same things you stated above, but also found this very cool and useful site, World Wide Words, which I bookmarked for future reference:

    • sschilke profile image

      sschilke 9 years ago

      Vladimir Uhri,

      If so, I think we could save a lot of money on the whole Iraq and Afghanistan thing:).


      The cat, the writing....or my profile picture?


    • foxility profile image

      foxility 9 years ago

      LOL! that was cute.

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 9 years ago from HubPages, FB

      Perhaps skinning of cat may scare of terrorists away.

      Thanks for laugh.

    • sschilke profile image

      sschilke 9 years ago


      The cat in the picture is well beyond his first life. He's probably a whole lot closer to nine (or seven) than to one.


      I've never had cat, but it couldn't be that bad. I'm sure cat is a delicacy somewhere:).

      Triplet Mom,

      I agree, skinnng a cat with a spoon would be test of one's patience. It would probably be a dull experience.


      I look forward to your response after you have sorted things out 48 years from now.


    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 9 years ago from Madrid

      The photo on top is just so...oh... never mind!  And here I was thinking that cats gort 7 lives?!  That's how the saying goes in Spain!  See how things are with cats, more than one way to skin them and different number of lives depending on location! 

      Good fun, thanks!!

    • profile image

      newsworthy 9 years ago

      Not only fun-eee but thought provoking. 

      Could this possibility have come from a farmer who set a trap to keep the pesty felines from eliminating his work?  I can picture back in the day skinning cats for climbing a delicate grape vine or maybe footing through the beans.  Maybe people eat cats if the crops are all gone! And a farmer has lots of farm tools!  lol

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 9 years ago from West Coast

      sschilke - I think that skinning a cat with a spoon would take a very very long time and by that time you would have cat scratch fever. Thanks for the laugh!

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 9 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      You made me think with this one. Hmmm give me 48 years to sort this out! LOL

    • sschilke profile image

      sschilke 9 years ago

      London Girl,

      That's a good point, something I will have to remember when I attempt to skin my first cat:)

      Thanks for dropping by.


    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      I've never met a cat I could skin without being shredded myself...