Depending on the apparent state of the person who expresses ‘Ich habe einen Kater’ they have either acquired a male cat or, more likely, an alcohol-induced illness featuring a pounding headache and a penchant for greasy foods. Also known as a hangover.
Der Kater is actually the German word for a tomcat, die Katze being the more widely-used noun which technically refers to a female cat but is used for cats of either gender.
The origins of the colloquial use of Kater for a hangover is not thought to be related to cats, but rather to the Greek word katarrh. Katarrh, or catarrh in English, is essentially the common cold, whose symptoms could also be conflated with those of a hangover.
If you have had a heavy night of drinking, you may seek a Katerfrühstuck as a cure. For Germans, this ‘hangover breakfast’ can often include bizarre ‘cures’ such as Rollmops and Konterbier.
SEE ALSO: Six German hangover cures
Another cat-related word for a hangover is der Katzenjammer; literally ‘cat’s wail.’ In this instance, the feline reference is believed to stem from the similarities between a cat’s screams and the laments of the hungover individual. It could also allude to how everyday noises may sound like a cat howling when you are suffering from a hangover.
Kater also features in one of the German language's numerous compound nouns- der Muskelkater. Literally meaning ‘muscle hangover,’ this refers to post-sport muscle ache, technically the painful build-up of lactic acid post-exercise.
‘Ich bin soooo verkatert’.
I am soooo hungover.
‘Ich habe im Zimmer einen Kater‘.
I have a tomcat in my room (rather than a reference to an abstract hangover which haunts the person)
Gestern bin ich ins Fitnessstudio gegangen und jetzt habe ich schrecklichen Muskelkater in Beinen.
I went to the gym yesterday and now my leg muscles ache so much.