“Bowed up like a Halloween cat!”
An interesting turn of phrase, “Bowed up like a Halloween cat” refers to the arching of the back of a cat.
The cat’s back is very flexible, making it capable of curving it into a fairly tight arch, especially when compared with dogs. There are a number of reasons cats arch their backs, the main one being the fear of an aggressor. In this classic Halloween pose, a cat arches his back and shows piloerection (i.e., his hair stands straight up) as a way of making himself look bigger when confronted with danger. The cat may also make it clear that he’s ready to defend himself by doing things like growling, hissing, spitting and showing his teeth. If you encounter a cat giving this display, the best response is to slowly back away and give the cat his space.
Likewise, the delivery of bad news may elicit the figurative same response. For example, you tell your Father that you broke his brand new John Deere tractor showing off for your girlfriend. His immediate and angry reaction would be termed, “Bowing up like a Halloween cat.” In this case, the best response is to back slowly away and give the Father his space.
Interestingly, the term “bowed up” has an entirely different meaning in the Midwest. There they drop the “Halloween cat” reference and just use “bowed up” There it means to be
very, very busy. For example, an Iowa farm boy might say, “I’m bowed up like a cutworm!” This refers the the busy action a cutworm moth makes when flying around, say, a porch lamp.
Finally, “bowed up” can mean very physically fit or muscular. For example, “Since Johnny started power lifting 6 years ago, he’s got all bowed up like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 70s.” I have only heard this phrase used thusly when on the West coast, near Los Angeles.