What Does Curiosity Killed The Cat But Brought Her Back?

The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” is a proverb that warns about the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation. However, the full expression is “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” This means that being curious or asking too many questions can get you into trouble, but finding things out and getting answers ultimately leads to fulfillment. It’s a phrase used to express the idea that satisfying one’s curiosity is worth the risks involved.


The full proverb “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back” first appeared in print in 1901 in an issue of the “[North London Daily Chronicle](https://www.reddit.com/r/YouShouldKnow/comments/yp3ile/ysk_the_phrase_curiosity_killed_the_cat_is_only/){:rel=’nofollow’}” (1). The proverb refers to the danger of unnecessary investigation or experimentation, where being overly curious can lead to trouble. However, it also alludes to the rewards that may come even if you do take risks.

The truncated version without “satisfaction brought it back” emerged later. Using just “curiosity killed the cat” as a warning against nosiness became more prevalent in the mid-20th century (1).

Literal Meaning

The literal interpretation of the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” imagines a scenario where a curious cat’s inquisitiveness leads it to some kind of danger or misfortune resulting in its death. Taken word for word, the proverb suggests that being overly curious can lead to harm.

The phrase brings to mind the image of a cat investigating something unknown, despite the risks involved. Its inquisitive nature leads it into a perilous situation that proves fatal. This serves as a warning that unrestrained curiosity can lead one into trouble.

Some speculate the phrase may have origins in old superstitions about cats having nine lives. So curiosity may not have actually killed the cat, just cost it one of its lives. But the core message remains that curiosity can lead to unintended consequences if not kept in check.

Figurative Meaning

The full expression “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back” has a figurative meaning beyond the literal interpretation. This phrase is used as a cautionary warning about the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation, where “curiosity killed the cat.” However, the second part “but satisfaction brought it back” implies that despite potential risks, the rewards of discovery and knowledge can outweigh the harm, bringing the cat (metaphor for a curious person) back.

This phrase suggests that curiosity and a desire for exploration can lead people to take chances and push boundaries, sometimes leading to trouble or danger (“killing the cat”). But it also acknowledges that taking those risks, asking questions and seeking answers is fundamental to human nature. The “satisfaction” of solving a mystery or gaining new understanding can justify the perils inherent in being curious (“bringing the cat back”).

So in essence, this expression advises caution when pursuing curiosity, but also recognizes the thirst for knowledge itself can be worth the risks involved. It’s a metaphor for the idea that curiosity has its perils, but the fulfillment it provides can also revive or restore what was lost.

Source: https://www.quora.com/What-does-curiosity-killed-the-cat-and-satisfaction-brought-it-back-mean


Curiosity is a basic desire to know, see, or experience that motivates exploratory behavior according to psychologists. It is considered a vital and inherent trait that enhances intelligence and cognitive development. Research shows that curiosity activates the reward centers of the brain, leading to the release of dopamine, which induces pleasure and satisfaction. This creates an intrinsic motivation or ‘curiosity drive’ that compels humans to seek out new information and experiences.

According to an analysis by George Loewenstein, curiosity can be understood in terms of ‘information gaps’ – when someone lacks certain knowledge or information, it creates a feeling of deprivation that leads to curiosity. Curiosity helps fill those gaps and achieve a state of relative certainty or mastery over a topic. It is an appetite for exploration that leads to the acquisition of new knowledge and skills.

While curiosity is often perceived as a positive trait, psychologists have differentiated between diversive curiosity which is interest-driven, and epistemic curiosity, which is a desire for knowledge-driven understanding. Both serve necessary functions, but epistemic curiosity is a more profound driver of intellectual development and achievement. Studies show that stimulating epistemic curiosity tends to enhance learning and information retention compared to diversive curiosity stimuli.

Taking Risks

Curiosity can often lead people to engage in risky or dangerous behavior. Research has shown a link between curiosity and risk-taking tendencies. One study found that adolescents with a curious stance were less likely to take risks than those with a risk-seeking stance, but more likely than those with an avoidant stance (Gibson, 2014). This suggests curiosity increases risk-taking behavior compared to avoiding new experiences, but not to the same degree as thrill-seeking.

According to psychologists, curiosity creates a strong urge to seek out information and experiences. This need to know can motivate risky actions to satisfy one’s curiosity (Psychology Today, 2020). While risky, some satisfaction often comes from fulfilling one’s curiosity through first-hand experience and discovery.


Curiosity and satisfaction are closely linked. When we’re curious about something, satisfying that curiosity can lead to a feeling of fulfillment and contentment. As the well-known quote goes, “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” This speaks to the motivating power of curiosity and the satisfaction we feel when that curiosity is resolved.

Psychologists have studied the concept of life satisfaction extensively. Life satisfaction refers to a person’s overall appraisal of their life and whether it measures up to their expectations and ideals (https://positivepsychology.com/life-satisfaction/). Research shows that satisfied people tend to have better physical health, job performance, and social relationships. This is because resolving our curiosity and questions leads to cognitive closure, which is pleasurable and rewarding for the brain.

When we satisfy our curiosity, we experience the pleasure of intellectual resolution. Learning new information and filling gaps in our knowledge is inherently satisfying, as our brains crave pattern completion. Resolving the unknown provides a sense of mastery and competence. This is why mysteries and cliffhangers capture our attention – we feel compelled to find the answers. As psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne notes, “Solving problems, finding answers, and expanding knowledge define some of [our] major motivations in life” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201307/the-power-curiosity). Satisfying our curiosity allows us to fulfill these deep motivations.

Overall, curiosity creates desire and interest, while satisfaction is the fulfillment of that desire. The two work hand-in-hand to provide us with purpose, engagement, and wellbeing. As the old adage says, curiosity provides the spark, and satisfaction fans the flame.


The idiom “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back” can apply in various situations where taking a risk leads to a negative outcome at first, but then results in a positive or rewarding outcome in the end. Here are some examples:

A student decides to take a challenging elective course out of curiosity, even though it may lower their GPA. They struggle at first and get a poor grade on the midterm, but all that challenging work (the “death” of the cat) makes them learn the material more deeply. By the end of the course, the satisfaction of mastering hard concepts brings their grade back up (brings the cat “back to life”).

A scientist conducts an ambitious experiment, driven by curiosity about an unproven theory. The experiment fails initially and their research hits a dead end (killing the cat). But in analyzing the results, they gain new insights that lead them in a different direction. Going down this new path results in a major discovery, bringing satisfaction and renewed curiosity (bringing the cat back).

A traveler decides to wander off the main tourist route out of curiosity to explore a city authentically. They get lost down confusing alleyways, unable to speak the local language (leading to the cat’s “death”). But this challenging situation leads them to stumble upon hidden gems and have meaningful interactions with locals. The satisfaction of discovery ultimately rewards their curiosity.


The phrase “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back” is commonly used to warn about the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation, but also to acknowledge that taking risks can sometimes lead to valuable knowledge and rewarding outcomes. It’s often used when someone is poking their nose where it may not belong, asking too many questions, or trying something risky or dangerous just to satisfy their curiosity. However, the full phrase implies that even if initial curiosity leads to trouble, the knowledge gained may ultimately prove worthwhile. For example:

“I know you’re curious about what happened between your brother and his girlfriend, but don’t go snooping through his phone. Curiosity killed the cat, remember?”

In this case, the phrase cautions against being too nosy even though you’re curious, because it could lead to trouble. However, sometimes risk-taking born of curiosity does pay off:

“I know you’re curious about whether you’d enjoy skydiving. I say go for it! Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. The thrill could make it worthwhile.”

Here, the full phrase acknowledges curiosity-driven adventures may be rewarding despite potential risks. In both cases, the saying implies curiosity can be dangerous but sometimes leads to gratifying results.


The phrase “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back” refers to how curiosity can lead one to take risks or get into trouble, but the satisfaction and rewards of following one’s curiosity can outweigh the risks. Though curiosity may have its perils, it often leads to growth, discovery, and fulfillment.

The phrase warns that unchecked curiosity can lead to harm, but also acknowledges that curiosity is a fundamental human drive that can have many positives. While satisfying one’s curiosity may be risky at times, the phrase implies that the rewards make it worthwhile. Overall, the saying advocates pursuing curiosity and intellectual interests while being mindful of potential dangers. It captures the dual-edged nature of curiosity – how it can lead to mistakes but also personal betterment.

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