Depending on where you're from, this phrase either means that you're smug and pretty darned self-satisfied ... or it means that you may look a bit guilty (yet pretty pleased with yourself).
It's been around for ages, or has it?
The earliest published version of the phrase seems to date back to the late 1800's. Several newspapers in Australia, the UK and America made reference to the cat and the canary in a joke that was popular in humor columns at the time:
"Father: That cat made an awful noise in the back garden last night.
Son: Yes, sir. I guess that since he ate the canary, he thinks he can sing."
|Nope, no canaries here.|
In this op-ed piece, the author made mention of a man who "talked freely and carried the smile of the cat that swallowed the canary."
|"Smug? Why yes, that's my default expression!"|
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Gilded Japanese bird cage, edo period. Courtesy Claire H, via Creative Commons 2.0
Cat Hunting, courtesy Jennifer Barnard, via Creative Commons 2.0
Canaries courtesy Wikimedia user 3628zauber, via GNU Free Documentation License
Abyssinian courtesy Wikimedia user Lilliinda, via GNU Free Documentation License
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