why does curiosity kill?

For some reason I was curious about the saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” Is it true? Is there really a cat on record that died because it was curious? Did it lick a light socket or crawl into a microwave? Why did curiosity kill the cat but not the dog, rabbit, mouse or orangutan?

I began my search on google and found that human curiosity is killing cats but that’s not the issue. The cat’s curiosity is what killed it, so I continued my search.

I found a site that discussed skinning cats (referring to the phrase “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”) but while it was entertaining, I didn’t learn much.

All of the search results simply quoted the phase without discussing its origin.

While searching for an answer to this question, I’ve met up with another that nearly caused my brain to explode. Why didn’t Curious George teach the dying felines how to avoid the cold fingers of death? A sinister plot by the man with the yellow hat to send them to an early grave? Now I’m curious.


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  1. It will be true if my cat doesn’t stop trying to go and sniff around my dogs house.

    Comment by Tammie on January 25, 2003 @ 5:53 pm
  2. Don’t know if you’re still interested, but here’s what I found in my quest for the origin of the phrase:

    Curiosity killed the cat – Be cautious when investigating situations.
    The saying originally was “care kills a cat,” and began in the 16th century. “Care” was a warning that worry is bad for your health and can lead to an early grave; the phrase was a recognition that cats seem to be very cautious and careful. Over time, the word “care” evolved into “curiosity.”

    * * *

    CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT – Anyone who has cats knows they tend to poke their feline noses everywhere. That could be dangerous. The “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” (1996) by Gregory Titelman states: “An overly inquisitive person is likely to get hurt. Children are usually warned against curiosity. The proverb was first attested in the United States in 1909. In 1921, it was used by (playwright) Eugene O’Neill…(A variation is) ‘Curiosity killed the cat: satisfaction brought him back…’”
    “Wise Words and Wives Tales” (1993, Avon Books) by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner has a more detailed explanation: “There is nothing new about the annoying tendency of some people to ask one question too many. Proverbial admonitions to the overly curious date back to ancient times, but ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ is apparently a recent invention. Of the earlier sayings, Saint Augustine recorded in ‘Confessions’ (397) the story of a curious soul who wondered what God did in the eons before creating heaven and earth. ‘He fashioned hell for the inquisitive,’ came the stern reply, and proverbial sayings of more recent times have been no less forgiving. The seventeenth-century saying, “He that pryeth into every cloud may be struck with a thunderbolt,’ appeared in John Clarke’s ‘Paroemiologia’ (1639), and in the nineteenth century, Lord Byron in ‘Don Juan’ (1818) roundly condemned the curious with ‘I loathe that low vice curiosity.’ An old saw, ‘Care (worry) killed the cat.,’ dated from Shakespeare’s time, but the connection between a cat and curiosity, however natural it may seem now, was not made until a reference to the current proverb appeared in 1909. The adaptation, ‘Curiosity can do more things than kill a cat,’ was recorded in O. Henry’s short story ‘Schools and Schools’ (1909), and the exact wording of the proverb appeared later in Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Diff’rent’ (1922).

    Comment by kei on April 7, 2003 @ 4:02 pm
  3. I’ve never been too curious as to where or when the phraise “Curiousity killed the cat” came from, however I have wondered about something else. What can help the curious not to be curious? What could save the cat? Perhaps this is silly but I think; curiousity is fine so long as you are polite and considerate with it. Can wisdom save the cat? Can knowing good ways of getting the information one wants, keep the cat out of trouble…

    Comment by Don't want to say on March 17, 2004 @ 2:18 pm
  4. I think is important not to confuse being curios with being nosy

    Comment by Grey on April 10, 2004 @ 6:25 pm
  5. I’ve always wondered about that saying. And now, I’m curious about the “skinning a cat” phrase. I looked at that linked site and it really doesn’t explain the origin of that saying. Tammie, if you could explain it, that would be great.

    Comment by Greg on August 22, 2004 @ 1:16 pm
  6. OK, here’s a better explanation of the “skinning a cat” phrase.

    Comment by Greg on August 22, 2004 @ 1:22 pm
  7. So no real cat got killed? This is just some proverb to scare little children?

    Comment by Tory on March 22, 2005 @ 2:58 pm
  8. Unbelievable. Curiosity killed the cat and there is no cat, except as an O. Henry reference. No children’s story; no exciting venture that ended precipitously or precariously…..just an idiom…..to lead the curious on to their predetermined destinations….

    Comment by Carla on June 11, 2005 @ 11:14 pm
  9. As the number 2 said, if you own a cat you know they will check everything nook and cranny in the home and any place else. I can tell you how many times my cat has been locked in the closet just to hear meow-meow.
    I would think there are or were curios cat, but dead cats tell no tail.
    I had the unfortunate to see a video a friend showed me of a curios cat, a BMW, and a sun roof. There was no cat to tell a tail.
    I would say many cats have bit the bullet looking for food or a place to sleep in all the nooks and cranny inside and outside.

    Comment by Rich on May 15, 2006 @ 12:04 pm
  10. there was some bloke doin experiments wi radiation long long time ago.he fired different sources of radiation thro different plates ie copper silver aluminium into a sealed lead container containing a cat to see wot the outcome wud be.as nobody new how the lively little cat had faired he peered into the box to find a dead cat.his curiosity killed the cat.its wot my physics teacher told me.

    Comment by andy on November 26, 2006 @ 10:47 pm
  11. andy: That has the stench of urban legend all over it.

    Comment by dan on November 27, 2006 @ 6:23 am
  12. But then again the cat has got 9 lives…. Right

    Comment by David on December 4, 2006 @ 4:59 am
  13. For entrepreneurs and marketers who use curiosity in our marketing, it’s a good thing the warning doesn’t often work. However, the old phrase may be wisdom(think about every toddler you’ve ever seen wandering repeatedly towards the electric outlet). In any case, we’d all be pretty safe if we restricted our curiosity to the intellectual, and restrict our intellectual curiosity from all things mafia.

    Comment by Gogo on December 12, 2006 @ 3:34 pm
  14. Andy —
    It sounds like your physics teacher might have been describing a garbled version of the “Schrodinger’s Cat” idea…but rest assured that Schrodinger’s Cat is a thought experiment. No actual cats were harmed in the invention of this quantum mechanical conundrum…

    Comment by Paul on January 9, 2007 @ 5:59 pm
  15. the quote actually reads:
    “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back”
    -Eugene O’Neill

    Comment by ella on May 31, 2007 @ 3:39 pm
  16. Actual ditty is:
    Curiosity killed the cat
    Satisfaction brought it back
    Safe and sound
    From head to ground
    From head to ground
    It was safe and sound

    Comment by Sandi Graux on August 18, 2007 @ 4:07 am
  17. Curious George over here, found the info helpful.
    Im curious about the phrase ‘curiosity killed the cat’
    does this mean im going to get killed?
    As im curious, thus my name is curious geoge?
    Please post back
    Love CG.

    Comment by EMAL on May 23, 2008 @ 2:06 pm
  18. I think you’re going to be okay there George. It killed the cat, not the monkey ;)

    Comment by Dan on May 23, 2008 @ 2:36 pm
  19. I first read the full ‘curiosity killed the cat’ rhyme in a Stephen King book. I think it was ‘Tommyknockers’ (sorry if I spelled incorrectly the name of the book).

    Comment by Claire on July 25, 2008 @ 3:08 am
  20. Hey, I’m a cat and I am VERY curious, how come I didn’t get killed?

    Comment by Catwomen on October 2, 2008 @ 1:52 pm
  21. Just lucky I guess ;)

    Comment by Dan on October 2, 2008 @ 3:04 pm
  22. Curiosity killed the cat

    but satisfaction brought it back

    Comment by Amber on November 28, 2008 @ 9:41 pm
  23. What cat ?

    Comment by Rob on January 8, 2009 @ 1:47 pm
  24. Devil Driver says “I had to skin a cat for curiosity” In they song ‘I could care less”.

    Comment by Glomea on October 17, 2010 @ 8:48 am
  25. cats are always moving around because they have super hearing so they hear even the faintest sound. and they become curious so they try to find what made the noise. that’s it.

    Comment by paulo on September 8, 2011 @ 5:42 am
  26. @paulo Plenty of animals are curious, but why does it kill cats?

    Comment by Dan on September 8, 2011 @ 10:15 am
  27. curiosity killed the cat. what if i told you that curiosity was the name of my dog?

    Comment by michael on December 24, 2014 @ 4:03 am

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