when the cat's away (the mice will play)

when the cat's away (the mice will play)

When the authorities are absent, people will break rules and do as they please. This proverb, which exists in numerous languages, appeared in several different forms in English in the seventeenth century. Thomas Heywood used it in A Woman Kill’d with Kindness (1607): “There’s an old proverb—when the cat’s away, the mouse may play.” Today it is often shortened.
See also: away, mice, will
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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