Raining Cats And Blogs: More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat


I was ten years old the day I first heard that phrase. It was a hot summer afternoon, and my mom was in the hospital for some minor surgery, leaving my dad and me to fend for ourselves for a few days. I walked into the laundry room to find my dad putting blue jeans and t-shirts together in the washer. This didn’t look right to me, so I spoke up and said, “Dad, that’s not how mom does it…I think you’re doing it wrong.” My dad looked over at me and smiled and said, “This way’s fine baby…you know there’s more than one way to skin a cat!”

Well, I was mortified by this response, and I let him know it. “DAD! That is AWFUL! Why would you say such a thing???” But he simply replied, chuckling, “Because it’s true.” He didn’t bother to explain to me what that meant, so for years to come, I thought it meant removing the hide off a feline – skin a cat! And I wasn’t the only one who thought this – my group of friends thought the same thing.

Years later, I was dating a boy in high school and I heard him use that same phrase. Still appalled, I quizzed him…”Why do people SAY that? It is the most cruel and inhumane thing I have ever heard! And how would you KNOW what it’s like to skin a cat???”

With a half puzzled look, he responded, “I do it all the time…you have to before you cook ‘em.”

“WHAT??? Is this some kind of joke to you??”

“Sheila, Sheila…calm down. Do you even know what “skinning a cat” means?”

“YES I know what it means, and I think it is sick and twisted. And I know you are just saying that to get to me…nobody COOKS cats! It’s a stupid joke!”

“It means to take the skin off a catfish…you don’t eat the skin, so you have to skin it before you cook it. And “more than one way to skin a cat” means just that…there are different ways to do it, and everybody has their own way. It doesn’t mean CATS!”

I remember feeling embarassed upon learning this news, but I was totally relieved that nobody was ripping the hide off of cats. After I had a minute to process it all, after eight years of embracing a different interpretation, I was finally able to exhale and laugh at the whole thing. And my boyfriend was kind enough not to tell everybody in school what I had been thinking all that time.

I told my girlfriends who were also glad to hear it, and a couple of them already knew but had not told the rest of us. In the end, I didn’t particularly like the idea of skinning a catfish either, but it sure beat the image of all those hundreds of felines being skinned that had been ruminating in my head all this time.

One more childhood misconception righted…thousands to go before I'm done.  


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Sheila Newton   
Sheila Newton Team 
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Funny, I have heard that phrase my whole life and never knew that it was about catfish!  I am not sure I ever even thought much about it, but it sure makes a lot more sense now!  Thanks for the post!

Bridget "Maryland Mortgage Mama" McGee

Posted by Bridget "Mortgage Mama" McGee, Maryland Mortgage Mama NMLS#196068 (SWBC Mortgage 410-960-2061) over 7 years ago

Sheila...I hate to admit this but I've always thought the same thing you did.  I had no idea that was referring to a fish not a cat.

Posted by Kim Inman, CRS, Broker/Owner (Mountains to Lakes Real Estate, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Shelia, and I am like Bridget, I had no idea that it was about a catfish..I never really gave it much thought...I just always knew it meant theres more than one way to do something.  Thanks for clarifying!

Posted by Shawna Green, The key to your real estate needs! (Keller Williams Realty-Fayetteville) over 7 years ago

Oh my gosh, thanks for enlightening me - I thought the same thing that you did - Cat, not catfish.

Posted by Carla Harbert, RE/MAX Omega: Lorain-Medina County Area (www.LorainCountyHomeSales.com) over 7 years ago

I grew up hearing my parents say that phrase all the time.  I never really knew what it meant; but my very own interpertation was:


There are different ways of doing a particular thing.  If one way doesn't work then another will.

It kinda motivated me to keep trying until whatever I did, worked.

Posted by Elaine Koecher (Prudential Florida WCI Realty) over 7 years ago

Hi Ladies...thanks for your responses! Isn't it funny that none of us knew where that saying originated? I wonder if the guys are any more enlightened than we were? It kinda seems like more of a guy thing.

Posted by Sheila Newton Team Anderson & Greenville SC, Selling the Upstate since 1989 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - C. Dan Joyner) over 7 years ago

Sheila, that is one interpretation of the meaning of the phrase... There are others. I refer you to http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_does_there_is_more_than_one_way_to_skin_a_cat_mean

Posted by Ted Tyrrell, Selling Homes in Beautiful Victoria (RE/MAXCamosun (Chatterton)) over 7 years ago

Hi Ted...Yes, I read that before I wrote the article. If you Google "more than one way to skin a cat," you get a long list of sites that address the origin, and virtually all of them say exactly the same as the one you have cited -- exactly the same verbiage, This suggests to me that someone wrote the material once, and everyone else is simply copying it. But I can say this...in Upstate SC, the phrase has nothing to do with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, or the old British concept of choking a cat with cream or butter...where we hail from, it references a catfish. I started to mention that there were other interpretations, but it seemed more fitting to keep the perspective from whence the experience came.

Thanks for the link!  : )

From the site: http://hubpages.com/hub/There-is-More-Than-One-Way-to-Skin-a-Cat---Random-Phrases-and-Idioms---A-Dictionary-of-Ridiculous-Thoughts :

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 chocking it by butter" seem to be related.

(there is a number 3, but it is about a gymnastics move that is ruled out as an interpretation)

Posted by Sheila Newton Team Anderson & Greenville SC, Selling the Upstate since 1989 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - C. Dan Joyner) over 7 years ago