What Does A Cat May Look At A King Mean?

A Cat May Look At a King Meaning

Definition: A person of lower status is still able to do certain things in the presence of a person of higher status.

There is some debate over the exact meaning of this proverb. Some people argue that it means that regardless of status, a person is always allowed to look at another.

Origin of A Cat May Look At a King

This proverb first appeared in the year 1562 in a book of proverbs written by John Heywood.

Some hear and see him whom he heareth nor seeth not

But fields have eyes and woods have ears, ye wot

And also on my maids he is ever tooting.

Can ye judge a man, (quoth I), by his looking?

What, a cat may look on a king, ye know!

My cat’s leering look, (quoth she), at first show,

Showeth me that my cat goeth a caterwauling;

And specially by his manner of drawing

To Madge, my fair maid.

Examples of A Cat May Look At a King

Meaning of cat look at kingThis example dialogue involves a couple that is out at a bar. A stranger keeps staring at the woman.

Bobby: That guy over there won’t stop looking at you. Is it bothering you?

Jennie: Well, of course, I find it sort of creepy.

Bobby: I can go tell him to stop if you want.

Jennie: No, that’s okay. It’s not worth it. After all, a cat can look at a king.

Define a cat can look at a kingOne friend is talking to another about his boss.   

Andrew: I need some advice. I’m having an issue with my manager.

Aaron: I guess I can give advice. What do you want to know?

Andrew: Well, my manager just happens to sit behind my computer. My computer is just below my eye level. This means that when I’m working on a spreadsheet, or checking my email, or doing anything at all on the computer, it looks like I am staring right at him.

Aaron: Oh, that’s a little awkward.

Andrew: So, today he asked me why I was always staring at him.

Aaron: Obviously, you explained that you were just looking at the computer, right?

Andrew: That’s what I should have done. I accidentally said that a cat can look at a king.

Aaron: Yeah, that makes it way more awkward.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article that ponders whether audiences can laugh at the British royal family.

  • On one level, in its sub-plot – following a Shakespearean model with brilliant bravura and cat-can-look-at-a-king presumption – it explores Prince Harry’s predicament, sketching out feelings of anguish about his royal function and lack of freedom (for all his playboy antics) that we can only guess at. –Telegraph

The second excerpt uses the proverb to mean that lower status and higher status news outlets can compete with each other.

  • Then, too, there’s the immeasurable influence of the Internet, and social media, which have leveled the playing field between actual and phony news outlets. The old saying “A cat can look at a king” can be recast: Thanks to technology, a Breitbart News can look at a New York Times, or a CNN, or a Time magazine. –Media Village


A cat can look at a king is a proverb which implies that no matter how high your status is, you can’t control everything. Others will always be your equals in some way.