"the scratching cat"
The Cat-O-Nine Tails
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Cat o' Nine Tails - Credit: OwenX

The infamous cat o' nine tails, simply called the Cat, was a whip with nine separate cords attached to a single handle. Kept in a red baize bag, it was used to dispense discipline in both maritime and judicial spheres. Each tail, plaited out of cotton cord, measured around 2 1/2 feet in length. Its purpose was simple and effective: to lacerate the skin and inflict maximum pain.

Cat o' nine tails, Dumbleton Church, near to Dumbleton, Gloucestershire, Great Britain, located above the north door to Dumbleton church
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCat o' nine tails, Dumbleton Church, near to Dumbleton, Gloucestershire, Great Britain, located above the north door to Dumbleton church - Credit: Philip Halling

 The expressions, "not enough room to swing a cat" and "let the cat out of the bag," have both been attributed to the Cat, although Paul Huxen offers an entertaining alternative origin in "Cat Swinging, Principles and Mechanics".

The cat o' nine tails was used in Australia until 1957, and was not banned in Egypt until 2001. Trinidad & Tobago have never banned the Cat, although its use is now restricted to male offenders over the age of eighteen. In 2005, the Trinidad & Tobago government was ordered to pay $50,000 in moral damages by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for giving Mr. Winston Caesar 15 strokes of the Cat. The government has refused to accept the court's jurisdiction and judgment.