play cat and mouse


play cat and mouse (game)


  • to play with or tease someone
  • trifle or toy with someone
  • to confuse someone
  • used to define the suspenseful relationship between one being chased and the chaser
  • to try to defeat someone by misleading that person into making a mistake so that you have a benefit over them
  • a contrived act involving continuous pursuit, near captures, and repeated escapes
  • a contest or challenge in which members try to confuse or cheat each other in a cruel or teasing way, especially before the last act of brutality or cruelty
  • (literally) a game in which kids stand in a circle and raise their arms to let one player into the middle. Then, they lower their arms to keep out a second player, who is chasing the first

Example Sentences

  1. The cops do not like playing cat and mouse games with the culprits before catching them.
  2. The lawyers are playing a deliberate game of cat and mouse to reach sentencing.
  3. Watch carefully, they are playing cat and mouse game.
  4. It’s just the newest trap in the everlasting cat and mouse game between the guards and thieves.
  5. Don’t play cat and mouse with the innocent child.
  6. It feels like we’re in a constant cat and mouse game.
  7. I know that he has been playing cat and mouse with the cops for months.


The phrase “cat and mouse” has a brief history. The term derives from domesticated cats and their hunting behaviors. Domestic cats will “play” with their captured prey by continually releasing it to tire and weaken it. This allows for small cats to make a successful kill without getting hurt in the process. The main factors that make a situation a “cat and mouse” one involve a pursuer and pursued, and teasing or tormenting before a finale. This phrase has been around for hundreds of years, tracing back to 1675 and even being used in the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale “Cat and Mouse in Partnership.”

“Cat and mouse” is defined as chasing, captures, and escapes and involves deliberate planning. In other words, “cat and mouse” is literally translated to mean acting like that of a cat and a mouse in a contest. When either side of any given situation (respectively the “cat” and the “mouse”) is not able to gain leverage over the other, the game seems never-ending. An excellent example of this is the television show “Tom and Jerry.” Tom, the cat, and Jerry, the mouse, never manage to destroy each other despite that being each of their goals.

Share your opinions2 Opinions

I have recently heard friends from Southeast Asia use the term Tom and Jerry as a synonym for cat and mouse. So instead of saying someone was playing cat and mouse, they said they were playing Tom and Jerry. Is this widespread, and is it typically used in other languages?

‒ Todd February 19, 2023

Don’t play cat and mouse with my bestie

‒ Anonymous June 22, 2020

What's on your mind?

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