play cat and mouse

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play cat and mouse

1. A phrase used to describe the suspenseful relationship between one being pursued and the pursuer. We've been hiding out here for days, and I can't handle this cat and mouse game any longer—I'm calling the police!
2. A phrase that describes how one plays with or teases someone before turning violent or vicious, likened to the way in which a cat toys with a mouse before killing it. If we have any hopes of getting the prisoner to crack, we need to play a cat and mouse game now, in the early stages of the interrogation.
3. To play a game in which children stand in a circle and raise their arms to let one player into the middle. Then, they lower their arms to keep out a second player, who is chasing the first. Let's play cat and mouse! I'll go first—everybody else, circle up!
See also: and, cat, mouse, play

play cat and mouse

Amuse oneself or trifle with, toy with, as in She loved to play cat and mouse with an admirer, acting by turns friendly, indifferent, and jealous . The analogy of a cat toying with a helpless mouse was drawn centuries earlier, but the precise term dates only from the early 1900s.
See also: and, cat, mouse, play

play cat and mouse

or

play a game of cat and mouse

COMMON In a contest or dispute, if one person or side plays cat and mouse or plays a game of cat and mouse with another, the first person or side tries to confuse or deceive the second in order to defeat them. He would play cat and mouse with other riders, sometimes waiting until the fourth lap to come from behind and win. A diplomatic game of cat and mouse is being played between the United Nations and the warring factions in the region. Note: You can also talk about a cat and mouse game or a cat and mouse chase or use other nouns in this way. Amos played a cat and mouse game with officers for several hours. They were arrested after a cat-and-mouse chase through the fields. Note: The reference here is to a cat playing with a mouse before killing it.
See also: and, cat, mouse, play