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A person who is used by another to achieve some end, especially in a duplicitous or cynical manner. Taken from a fable about a monkey who tricks a cat into using his a paw to retrieve chestnuts from a fire. The phrase is sometimes spelled without a hyphen. I thought that Jake really loved me, but in the end, I was just a cat's-paw so he could stir up jealousy in his ex-boyfriend.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
A dupe or tool for another, a sucker, as in You always try to make a cat's paw of me, but I refuse to do any more of your work. This term alludes to a very old tale about a monkey that persuades a cat to pull chestnuts out of the fire so as to avoid burning its own paws. The story dates from the 16th century and versions of it (some with a dog) exist in many languages.
See also: paw
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
cat's paw, (be made) a
A dupe, a sucker who does another person’s dirty work. The term comes from an ancient tale about a monkey who wanted to get some roasted chestnuts out of the fire and, not wanting to burn his own fingers, got his friend the cat to use his paws for this purpose. There are numerous versions of the story in various languages; often it is a dog that is made the dupe, but in English it is the cat’s paw that has stuck over the years. Also see pull the chestnuts.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer