Posted by Jon on September 05, 2002
This is actually an old naval term. The cat refers to the cat-o-nine tails, which was a braided whip, that was used to whip sailors for various infractions. It was called the cat because of the scratches it would leave behind. The "cat" was kept in a bag and when it came out, of course, bad things happened. The source for this was a recent article in the New Yorker, about the retracing of the route James Cook took in his attempt to find the new world.