A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Words with Webster: To Have Kittens

We have two fun Friday features for you today. First up is Real Cat Webster, who has a slang phrase to share. After that, it’s on to Friendly Fill-Ins!

Words with Webster

Words with Webster
Hi, everybody! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Today’s word is a phrase: “to have kittens.” This is a slang term meaning “to be in an agitated mood : become perturbed or upset” (according to my favorite dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s). The Oxford English Dictionary has the first known appearance in print in 1900:
Kitten. In phrases ‘get kittens’, ‘have kittens’. 1. To get angry. 2. To be in great anxiety, or to be afraid. (Dialect Notes 2:44)
But, if it was well known enough to be put in a book in 1900, it must have been in fairly common use before that.

We found one interesting idea of the phrase’s origins from The Phrase Finder site. A post from February 11, 2000, claims that “to have kittens” has much deeper origins, going back to when women actually worried that they might give birth to kittens. An old Scottish superstition said that a woman could have kittens if she ate food that had a cat’s semen on it. (I have to wonder about the conditions that would make that particular scenario believable.) In medieval times, women who felt pain while they were pregnant might believe that it was from kittens inside them trying to get out. Sometimes there’d be a helpful witch around who would provide (or “sell,” more likely) a potion to fix the problem. In 1654 in Scotland, a woman on trial for trying to get an abortion pleaded that she’d done it because she had “cats in her bellie.” (From a post by Joel citing How Did It Begin?, by R. Brasch [1966].)

Photo via Adobe Stock.
Photo via Adobe Stock.
A post by Elyse Bruce on Historically Speaking (January 2, 2014) says that the expression is recognized in all English-speaking countries, although it isn’t often heard. P. G. Wodehouse used it in chapter 7 of his 1960 book titled Jeeves in the Offing:
“Your uncle will be most upset.”
“He’ll have kittens.”
“That’s right.”
“Why kittens?”
“Why not?”
Bruce also repeats the “cats in her bellie” story, but she adds, “Have kittens is difficult to find in newspapers, magazines and books with the trail going cold right before the turn of the century, in the late 1890s.” She puts the term at about 1900.

How accurate is this saying? Well, a long, long time before I was born, Mommy saw some kittens being born, and she remembers the mother being sort of matter-of-fact about finding a safe, comfy place and just getting down to the business of giving birth and taking care of her babies. She says the mother cat was panting and seemed in pain but she (the cat) was calm. This makes me think that this saying doesn’t come from cats actually having kittens. Then again, some mother cats probably get in a bit of a state when they’re about to have kittens. But I’m a boy, so I don’t really know. If you know, please tell me in the comments, because I am trying to learn more about girls!

Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-InsAnd now it’s time for Friendly Fill-Ins, from 15andmeowing and McGuffy’s Reader. They are a fun way to learn a little bit about the authors of the blogs you read. The first two questions, answered by old SoLT this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by Real Cat Webster, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Old SoLT’s answers:
1. I am the cook in my family.  

2. I have no siblings.

Real Cat Webster’ answers:
3. I am looking forward to window whiffies this Spring.

4. The first sign of Spring this year was snow and sleet. Is that a sign of spring? No? Well, that’s what we got. Mommy says the crocuses started blooming before that, so I guess that is a better sign.


  1. How interesting! And kinda crazy dat any person could think dey'd have kittens!

  2. Didn't know you were so talented and a COOK too! Hahaha window whiffles!

  3. I thought the term was a more recent invention! That's a really ... erm ... fascinating history! I had no idea people used to think they could actually have kittens!

  4. Thank you for the lesson, I had never even heard that saying before. And thank you both for participating in the fill-ins, great answers. You are lucky to be an only child, I rarely meet anyone that gets along with their sibling(s), myself included. Have a nice weekend! XO

  5. dood....comin frum me ....tuna......what waz eye gonna say....oh yea.....all that girl talk
    had me mind trapped fora breef moe mint...any way...round heer de food servizz gurl is all wayz
    sayin..... peepulz R havin a herd oh cattle.... ??? ☺☺☺♥♥

  6. I've heard that expression, but never used it myself, nor do I recall hearing many people using it. "Have a cow" is more common around here, and has similar meaning - to get upset.
    Our only sign of spring around here has been the robins - who showed up in the middle of a snowstorm! MOL
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  7. Meowza! There are a lot of us felines still suffering through winter. We're putting our paws together and praying that the "precipitation" the humans are forecasting is rain and not snow. We need something to melt all that white stuff in the yard!
    Purrs & Head Bonks,
    Oliver and The Tribe of Five

  8. I've always loved that phrase but what a fascinating history! Webster, Mudpie's answers are much like yours :)

  9. I'm ready for spring too. We're having one storm after another storm. Wet, cold and windy. Winter go away.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. ♥