when the cat's away, the mice will play

Cultural Dictionary

When the cat's away, the mice will play definition


When a person in authority is away, those under the person's rule will enjoy their freedom.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

when the cat's away, the mice will play

Without supervision, people will do as they please, especially in disregarding or breaking rules. For example, As soon as their parents left, the children invited all their friends overwhen the cat's away, you know. This expression has been a proverb since about 1600 and is so well known it is often shortened, as in the example.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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