Can anyone tell me the origin of the phrase "alles für die Katz" ("All for the cat"), and when it first came to be used?


2 Answers 2


Some authors (like Dr. Rolf-Bernhard Essig or Rolf Waldvogel) explain that in former times cats' only task was to hunt mice. To ensure the cats are hungry, greedy and therefore succesful at hunting they seldom got food from their owners. And if so, it was some leftovers, some inferior, worthless things that nobody else wanted.

Then later this idiom became popular in some fables as fanlim mentioned in his answer but there are some more. The themes vary from "nobody gives voluntarily with pleasure" to the "promises of the aristorcrats".

So it's hard to say when this idiom was first used.

  • 2
    Though my understanding is that well-fed cats tend to hunt better.
    – JAB
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 18:06
  • 3
    Family members who live on farms explain to me that well-fed barn cats don't hunt as much, as they have no need to do so. The trick is apparently to feed the cats just enough that they stay, but not so much that they stop going after the mice and rats. Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 18:12

Different sources refer to „Der Schmied und die Katze“ from Burkard Waldis (1490-1556)

See Wikiquote Burkas Waldis

Und jedes Mal, wenn ihn ein Kunde mit einem "Danke" abspeiste, sagte er zur Katze: "Katz, das gebe ich dir." Das Dumme für die Katze war, dass sie von den leeren Worten nicht leben konnte und deswegen verhungern musste. Source: Geolino

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