If you’ve ever taken a basic Spanish lesson or traveled to one of the dreamy destinations Latin America has to offer, you probably know enough of the language to order food, get directions, or even know the word for cat in Spanish.
Sure, you know those little furry felines are called “gato” by the locals, but what if I told you there’s actually many more ways in which to refer to a cat in Spanish?
Now, before we go further and start exploring the different names these curious animals receive throughout the Spanish-speaking world, there are some things I want you to notice.
It’s important to highlight that, contrary to English, male and female cats have different names, for example:
- Gato: Male cat
- Gata: Female cat
Having covered that, let’s begin learning about the multiple ways to call a cat in Spanish, be it your beloved pet, or a poor little stray you stumble upon on a night walk.
#1 Gato – Gatito
Pretty self-explanatory, right?
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably familiar with the basic words of the Spanish language, so “gato” is definitely not a challenge for you.
But what about, “gatito”?
This word is normally used in either one of two ways, “gatito” may refer to:
- A baby cat (there is no real equivalent for “kitten” in Spanish)
- A diminutive expression, normally used as a term of endearment or pity
- ¡Qué lindo gatito! : Such a lovely little cat!
- ¡Pobre gatito callejero, está empapado por la lluvia!: Poor little stray cat, it’s soaked by the rain!
Have you ever watched any cute cat videos on the internet that Mexicans make?
If you haven’t, go watch some, but you have, then you’ve probably heard this expression more than once.
This term has grown in popularity across the Latin American youth over the past few years to refer to a cat in Spanish.
I know it’s tempting to assume it’s just a millennial expression but think again.
This word comes from ancient mayan, otomí, and náhuatl cultures in America.
These civilizations coined the term “mixi”, or “miztli” to refer to their cats.
So when you think about it, this expression is probably older than the United States itself!
Ever been to your aunt’s house, and noticed how sometimes it would seem like she treats them more like children than pets?
(You know, the one with 10 cats she has rescued from the streets over the years?)
Well, here’s a word you can use for when you go see her.
“Gathijo” is a very popular word nowadays native speakers use to describe cats that are given anthropomorphic traits by their owners, who treat them as their offspring and spoil them at every chance they get.
It comes from the mixture of the Spanish words “gato” (cat) + “hijo” (son).
This expression was coined as a result of the modern trend younger couples are following of not having children due to the expense it represents, and instead choosing to have a pet they can care for.
A very popular expression in Colombia. If you’re ever visiting this beautiful country and wish to refer to someone’s cat in Spanish, probably your best bet at getting it right will be this word (other than gato, of course).
“Minino”, just like “Michi”, has a very interesting ancient etymological background.
This word derives from the Latin “mussio”, which denominates cats as mice hunters.
This isn’t very common to hear, and it’s actually hard to pronounce.
Especially if your native language is English or any other that does not involve the infamous Spanish “erre”, or “rr” sound.
Related: How to roll your Rs in Spanish.
“Morrongo” is a replacement people use in some countries instead of the adjectives “lazy” or “slow”.
For cats, people use this adjective as a nickname.
And you know… cats are lazy and sleepy during the day, so this description fits them perfectly.
- Hola morrongo, ¿cómo estuvo tu día sin mi?: Hi kitty, how was your day without me?
- ¿No haces nada más que comer y dormir Morrongo?: So you don’t do anything more than eating and sleeping kitty?
Latin American cats are not too different from their counterparts in the rest of the world.
They all have 4 legs, padded paws, and furry bodies, but try to call one a “Michi” in Costa Rica, Colombia, or other countries in southern America, and you’ll probably find yourself among confused looks.
The people in these aforementioned countries sometimes switch the letter “t”, for a “c”.
- Gatito: gatico
- Tomatito (small tomato) : tomatico
Once you know about this slight language modification, you’ll avoid confusion when you travel to these countries.
Have fun, and remember ¡pura vida!
This is the first word on our list that is not an actual way to refer to a cat in Spanish, but rather an expression to get the animal’s attention, a summoning call if you will.
- ¡Cuchito, cuchito, ven a comer tu comida! : Here, little cat, come eat your food!
We had to have an expression to get your cat’s attention, right?
Especially since, as opposed to dogs, they are more independent and more likely to be out of sight often.
While not a common way to call your cat in countries like Mexico, for example, you’ll probably hear it quite often in Chile and Colombia.
As a kid, my mother would always say to me: “¡Bájate de esa barda, no eres un felino, ¡te vas a caer!” : “Get off that fence, you’re not a feline, you fall over!”, and unfortunately, she was always right.
Learning that, in places like Chile, this word is not only used to refer to all cat-like animals, but to domestic cats as well, was a pleasant surprise.
Chileans use this expression very loosely, it’s not normally employed to refer to one’s pet, but rather to cats in general.
- ¡Mira ese felino negro, dicen que son de mala suerte! : Look at that black cat, people say they’re bad omens!
#9 Mau – Miau
A common Colombian way to call a cat in Spanish. Sometimes people pronounce it as “Miau”, they use it widely throughout the country and may apply to both pets and strays.
As you probably guessed, this word comes from the noise cats make. You can think of it as the Spanish version of “Meow”.
Among children, this word is very popular, especially because it’s so simple and intuitive to call a cat this way.
- Mamá, mira ese miau/mau que se metió por la ventana, ¡es muy hermoso! : Mom, look at that cat that just climbed in through the window, it’s beautiful!
Last, but not least, we have “niño/niña”. This expression is probably the cutest and most representative display of affection when addressing one’s cat.
Many cat owners in Latin America refer to their little furry friends this way as a term of endearment.
This is something like similar to “Gathijo” and reinforces yet again the strong feelings of attachment pet owners use to call their cat in Spanish.
- Ay, mi niño, ¿por qué no quieres comer? Si sigues así, tendré que llevarte al veterinario. : Oh, my darling, why won’t you eat? If you keep acting this way, I’ll have to take you to the vet.
You may be thinking native Spanish speakers must have some sort of special talent to be able to speak the language so fast, and use vocabulary like this easily.
However, thanks to reading this, you’re now one step closer to mastering it.
Whether you’re a dog or a cat person, you can now use these words to fit in during your next trip to Latinamerica.
Now you’ll be able to:
- Go to the Angel of Independence in Mexico City and pet some stray “Michis”, they sure love getting back rubs and attention.
- Explore the forest zip lines of Costa Rica and see if you can spot any “gaticos” in the jungle as you traverse through the green foliage.
- Go pay your aunt a visit and ask her about the name of her “gathijos” and how she adopted them.
Even if you don’t feel like doing any of those things in the near future, the beauty of the Spanish vocabulary is that you can use it anywhere!
You can practice your newly acquired words with your own cat, and maybe start calling it “niño”, or “niña” if she’s a female.
This way, the next time you travel abroad to any of these destinations, you’ll impress your travel companions and the locals.
I’m sure that you’ll have a great time!
All you need is 10 minutes to learn these 10 ways to say “cat” in Spanish like a native speaker!