How to Say “Cat” in Italian – Gatto

Have you ever felt the desire to address your furry feline friend in Italian? Well, you’ve come to the right place! 😺

The word for cat in Italian is gatto (plural: gatti). Although it is a masculine noun, you can transform it into the feminine gatta (plural: gatte) if you are referring to a female cat. A kitten is simply known as a gattino (masculine) or gattina (feminine) which translates as “little cat”.

IPA: /ˈɡatto/
La gattina della nostra vicina di casa = Our neighbour’s kitten

If you are specifically talking about a tom cat, you can use the term gatto maschio, whereas the big cats such as lions (leoni), leopards (leopardi) and tigers (tigri) are known as felini (singular: felino). This is where we get the word feline in English.

Cat body parts in Italian. Gli artigli = claws. Le striature = stripes. La coda = tail. Il pelo = fur. La zampa = paw. La bocca = mouth. Il naso = nose. Gli occhi = eyes. Le orecchie = ears. I baffi = whiskers.

A house cat that rarely ventures outdoors is called a gatto domestico whereas a stray cat is referred to as a gatto randagio. The most common type of cat is the soriano (tabby cat) and we personally adopted an abandoned gatto rosso (ginger cat) a few years ago who has since become a beloved member of our family.

Gatto rosso = Ginger cat

And I’m not ashamed to admit that I am an amante dei gatti – the word for a cat lover in Italian! 🙂

Another useful term is gattara which refers to a woman who takes care of stray cats. You can also use the masculine gattaro but the feminine version is more common.

If you’re about to adopt a cat or already own one, below is a list of Italian words you will need to know before their arrival:

  • litter box / litter = lettiera
  • cat flap = gattaiola
  • cat food = cibo per gatti
  • cat kennel = pensione per gatti
  • catnip = erba gatta
  • cat sitter = cat sitter (pronounced with an Italian accent)
  • cat toy = giocattolo per il gatto
  • scratching post = tiragraffi per gatti
  • to purr = fare le fusa
  • collar = collare
  • paw = zampa
  • claw = unghia
  • whiskers = baffi
  • to hiss = soffiare

Useful phrases:

Mamma, io voglio un gatto!

Mum, I want a cat!


Il gatto ha fatto la pipì sul divano.

The cat peed on the sofa.


Stavo accarezzando il gatto e ha cominciato a fare le fusa.

I was stroking the cat and it started purring.



Idioms featuring “gatto”:

Quando il gatto manca i topi ballano.

Translation: When the cat is away the mice dance.
Meaning: When the cat is away, the mice will play.

Non dire gatto se non ce l’hai nel sacco.

Translation: Don’t say cat before you have it in the bag.
Meaning: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Durare come un gatto sull’Aurelia*.

Translation: To last like a cat on the Aurelia.
Meaning: To last for a very short period of time.

*Trivia: the Aurelia is a 697km long highway that runs along the coast, connecting Rome to Ventimiglia (on the border of the south of France). It was first built by the Roman Empire in approximately 241 BC.

Essere come cane e gatto.

Translation: To be like dog and cat.
Meaning: To fight like cats and dogs.

Avere sette vite come i gatti.

Translation: to have seven* lives like cats.
Meaning: To survive danger or illness, to be resistant.

*Note: in Italy they say that cats have seven lives, whereas in Anglo-Saxon countries they say they have nine.

Un gatto / cane / serpente che si morde la coda.

Translation: A cat / dog / snake that bites its own tail.
Meaning: To end up back at square one; a situation that keeps repeating itself; a vicious circle.

Quando il gatto non arriva al lardo dice che puzza.

Translation: When the cat does not reach the fat it says it stinks.
Meaning: When someone adopts a negative attitude to something because they cannot have it themselves.


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