To pretend to be quiet and subdued in order to give a good impression.
  • to wear, to cover

The literal meaning of ねこかぶる is “to wear a cat” , but it actually refers to a person that tries to hide their real personality and pretend they are a quiet person so that the one’s impression is better”.

ねこかぶる is not actually the original phrase, it evolved that way over time. Originally, the phrase ござをかぶる, where ござ referred to a “straw mat,” like the kind used for sleeping. However, the sound of ござ and ねこ were very similar - plus cats by nature fit the meaning of the actual phrase, as they often hide their hunter nature and pretend sometimes just act very relaxed and quiet. Thus, over time the phrase slowly turned into the one we use now, ねこかぶる.

ねこかぶる is quite similar to りてきたねこ as they both have a general meaning of “being quiet”. However, りてきたねこ has more of a connotation of naturally becoming quiet because of nervousness or fear, whereas ねこかぶる has a feeling of being quiet on purpose in order to give a good impression. ねこかぶる can also have a secondary meaning of “pretending not to know something.”

ねこかぶる itself is a verb. It’s also used in a way that just points out the action, so it has neither a negative nor a positive connotation. However, much like りてきたねこ, it’s a more casual type of word so be careful when using it with people in a higher social status from yourself.

Example Sentences
  • まゆみさんは、いいおとこまえではいつもねこかぶ

    Mayumi acts like she is a quiet, gentle person whenever she is with a cool guy.

  • いくらねこかぶっても、なかなかモテない。

    No matter how gentle or quiet I behave, no one is attracted to me.