Posted by Paul Syvret on October 03, 2001
I actually understood the origins of this to be from the British Navy in the 18th and 19th centuries. On warships, punishment was often meted out by flogging men with a cat 'o nine tails. The said whip was kept in a red velvet bag, and when the 'cat' was out of the bag, you knew the game was up for someone.
Anyone else heard this explanation?