Cat Burglar – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you ever seen someone who lived in an apartment building get robbed? Maybe you have heard of an office in a tall building get burglarized? If so, chances are they were struck by a cat burglar. A cat burglar is a person who commits burglary but does so stealthily, often by scaling the walls of buildings.

Read on to learn more about the meaning of this term. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The phrase “cat burglar” describes someone who breaks into homes or buildings to steal valuables. This type of thief is often stealthy and agile, making them difficult to catch. Specifically, the idiom refers to a thief or burglar who scales the outside of a building in order to complete their crimes.

A cat has the ability to climb in uncanny ways, and a cat burglar often mimics those movements, hence the name.

This term is also used for someone who steals from another person, often by breaking into or hacking the systems. It is often used about computer hackers but can also describe thieves who rob people or businesses at night.

Example Usage

“The cat burglar was caught on camera climbing through a window.”

“Police are searching for a cat burglar who has been targeting homes in the area.”

“I can’t believe someone broke into our house! We must have had a cat burglar.”

“Don’t worry; the alarm system will deter any cat burglars.”

“Midnight, I heard a noise. I think we had a cat burglar!”


The phrase ‘cat burglar’ is thought to have originated in the early 1900s, when a burglar who operated in Streatham, London, was given the nickname by the local press. The term doesn’t appear to have been used widely before 1907; there are many early references to it in stories about people stealing cats or finding cats to be the culprit in mysterious disappearances.

It’s not clear how the burglar in Streatham came to be associated with cats, but it may have been because he was particularly stealthy and agile. Since then, the phrase ‘cat burglar’ has been used to refer to any thief skilled in breaking into houses without being noticed. This type of burglar is often associated with Hollywood movies and TV shows, where they are often portrayed as daring criminals who scale walls and rooftops to gain entry to their target.

Phrases Similar to Cat Burglar

  • “Burglar” – a person who illegally enters a building
  • “Robber” – a person who uses force or threats of violence to take something from someone else.
  • “Thief” – a person who steals something.
  • “Sneak theif.”
  • “Stealthy stealer” is a person who is quiet and secretive in his actions.
  • “Second story worker” means the same as a burglar.
  • “Hacker” is someone who illegally gains access to computer systems to steal data or cause damage.

Phrases Opposite to Cat Burglar

  • “Gendarme” term used to refer to a police officer.
  • “Law-abiding citizen” – a person who obeys the law.
  • “Good Samaritan” means someone who helps others, especially strangers, without being asked and expecting anything in return.
  • “Upstanding citizen” – a law-abiding, respectable member of the community.

What is The Correct Saying?

The correct phrase is “cat burglar.”

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Cat Burglar

Some people may incorrectly say “cat burglar” as “cat burglary.” However, the word “burglary” is a noun meaning “the crime of illegally entering a building to commit a crime, such as theft.”

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Cat Burglar

  • Last night on the news I heard that there was a cat burglar on the loose.
  • My apartment building was hit by a cat burglar, in all 8 units were stolen from.
  • You move around at night just like a cat burglar, it makes me really uncomfortable.
  • I am as light on my feet as a cat burglar, regardless of how big I appear to be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *