How to Say Cat in Russian

Close-Up Of Cat Sleeping

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The word "cat" in Russian is кошка (KOSHka), which means a female cat, but it is used in relation to any cats unless the speaker wants to specify the cat's gender. However, there are several other ways to say cat in Russian. Some of them are more neutral while others carry a specific meaning or characteristic. For example, котяра (kaTYAruh) means a giant, well-fed male cat, while кошечка (KOshychka) is a cute female cat.

Cats are very important in Russian culture and appear in many Russian works of art, including books (for example, Behemoth, an enormous cat from the novel "The Master and Margarita" by the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov), films, songs, and visual art.

Superstitions about cats are popular in Russia, too, such as the belief that a black cat crossing the road in front of you can bring bad luck, or that a cat with three-colored fur protects the house and brings good fortune. If a cat is using its paw to clean its face, many Russians would say that a guest is on the way.

Some of the superstitions trace their origin to the Russian pagan believes that pre-date Christianity in Russia. One of them is the connection between a cat and the Russian house spirit called the Domovoi. It is said that the Domovoi would dislike the cat and try to get rid of it if the cat's coat is not the same color as the house owner's hair.

The Russian Baba Yaga is also connected to cats and is always accompanied by a wise black cat.

Idioms and expressions that reference cats are fun and important to learn if you want to speak and understand Russian. Here is a list of the most common ones.

01
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Жить как кошка с собакой

Pronunciation: ZHIT' kak KOSHka s saBAkay

Translation: to not get along, to dislike each other

Meaning: to live like cats and dogs

This expression is used to describe someone's relationship.

Example:

- Они живут как кошка с собакой, все время ссорятся. (aNEE zhiVOOT kak KOSHka s saBAkay.)
- They don't get along and constantly argue.

02
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Тянуть кота за хвост

Pronunciation: tyNOOT' kaTAH za HVOST

Translation: to delay, to put something off

Meaning: to pull a cat's tail

Often used to mean bureaucratic delays, this expression can also be heard when someone is taking a long time to get to the important point in a conversation, or when a person is putting something off.

Example:

- Ну не тяни кота за хвост, рассказывай главное. (noo nye tyNEE kaTA za KHVOST, rassKAzyvay GLAVnaye.)
- Hurry up and get to the point already.

03
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Играть в кошки-мышки

Pronunciation: eegRAT' f KOSHki MYSHki

Translation: to avoid someone, to play cat and mouse

Meaning: to play cats and mice

Example:

- Давай не будем играть в кошки-мышки и встретимся прямо сейчас. (daVAY nye BOOdem igRAT' fKOSHki-MYSHki i VSTREtimsya PRYAma syCHAS.)
- Let's not play cat and mouse and meet straight away.

04
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Коту под хвост

Pronunciation: kaTOO pad HVOST

Translation: wasted efforts, to be a waste of time

Meaning: to be directed under the cat's tail

Example:

- Всё, вся наша работа, всё это коту под хвост. (VSYO, vsya NAsha raBOta, VSYO EHta kaTOO pat KHVOST.)
- Everything we have done, all our work has been a waste of time.

05
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Как кот наплакал

Pronunciation: kak COT naPLAkal

Translation: very little, a disappointingly small amount

Meaning: as if a cat had cried (in relation to the amount of cat tears)

Example:

- Заплатили мне как кот наплакал. (zaplaTEEli mnye kak KOT napLAkal.)
- I got paid barely anything.

06
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Кот в мешке

Pronunciation: COT vmyshKYE

Translation: (to buy) a pig in the poke / a cat in the sack

Meaning: a cat in a bag

This popular Russian idiom is used when talking about having insufficient information about a purchase or a decision.

Example:

- Нет, на кота в мешке я не согласна. (NYET, na kaTA vMESHkye ya nye sagLASna.)
- No, I'm not buying a cat in the sack.

07
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На душе скребут кошки

Pronunciation: na dooSHYE skryBOOT KOSHki

Translation: to have a heavy heart, to feel blue

Meaning: cats are scratching inside one's soul

Example:

- У меня всю неделю на душе кошки скребли, всё думал о том, что случилось. (oo myeNYA vsyu nyDYElyu na dooSHE KOSHki skrybLEE, VSYO DOOmal a TOM, shto slooCHEElas'.)
- All week I had a bad feeling, I kept thinking about what had happened.

08
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Кошка, которая гуляет сама по себе

Pronunciation: KOSHka kaTOraya gooLYAyet saMA pa syeBYE

Translation: a loner, an independent and mysterious person

Meaning: a cat who walks alone / by itself

Example:

- Она - кошка, которая гуляет сама по себе. (aNAA - KOSHka, kaTOraya gooLYAyet saMA pa syeBYE.)
- She is a loner.

09
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Мартовский кот

Pronunciation: MARtavsky COT

Translation: unexpected / sudden activity, a person who is suddenly and unexpectedly active / enthusiastic

Meaning: a March cat

Example:

- Он прям как мартовский кот в эти дни. (on PRYAM kak MARtavsky KOT v EHti DNEE.)
- He is being strangely active these days.

10
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Между ними кошка пробежала

Pronunciation: MYEZHdoo NEEmi KOSHka prabyZHAla

Translation: to be at odds with someone, a friendship that has suddenly gone sour

Meaning: a cat ran between them

Example:

- Они долго дружили, а потом как будто между ними кошка пробежала. (aNEE DOLga drooZHEEli, a paTOM kak BOOTta MYEZHdoo NEEmi KOSHka prabyZHAla.)
- They were friends for a long time and then all of a sudden it went sour.

11
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Most Popular Breeds of Cats

Russian cat owners can be very strict about particular cat breeds, although many cat lovers don't care if their cat is a purebred or a mixed-breed. Here are some of the most popular cat breeds in Russia:

  • Persian cat: Персидская кошка (pyrSEETskaya KOSHka)
  • Siamese cat: Сиамская кошка (seeAMSkaya KOSHka)
  • Siberian cat: Сибирская кошка (seeBEERskaya KOSHka)
  • Canadian sphynx: Канадский сфинкс (kaNATsky SFINKS)
  • Abyssinian cat: Абиссинская кошка (abisSINSkaya KOSHka)