I grew up with a knife in my pocket and probably haven’t gone more than two consecutive days without a blade in the last decade. This posed a problem when I recently had to spend time in a federal building that has a strictly enforced “no knives over 2½ inches” rule. I haven’t carried a knife that small since high school, when I carried a little folding stockman Old Timer.
Looking around for a “serious” folder that would make the 2.5 limit showed a dearth of prospects. Serious seems to get traction on the market at about 3.25 and gain momentum as you go up. After a few false starts, luckily I happened upon the Spyderco Cat.
The Cat seems to have been designed for the unique requirements I had. It is 2.5 inches on the nose, less if you measure only the cutting edge, for a legitimate locking folder with a substantial feel. The materials are what you would expect in the tactical folder class, with G10, stainless and 440C.
The Cat trims out at 2.6 ounces. It’s light enough that whether you clip it to or carry it inside a pocket, it’s easily forgotten. But it is sturdy.
The G10 scales and stainless liners are rigid in the grasp. (One of the few alternative knives I tried in the size range was so thin that the sides of the handle could be easily compressed under a firm grip.)
The handle is just over 3.5 inches long and, when the Cat is open, an integral finger groove at the choil adds a little more to get all four fingers onboard. This arrangement has the added benefit of the finger being placed to prevent the knife from folding in the unlikely event that the liner lock fails.
The “hilt” has a pronounced finger groove that locks in the grasp with a full grip or acts as a guard if the user chokes down and cups the little finger under the butt of the knife. Either grasp works well and provides options based on the user’s style of kung fu. All edges and corners are nicely contoured and radiused. The knife is comfortable in the hand and pocket.
Being a Spyderco, the Cat naturally has the pocket clip feature that the brand brought to market back in 1981. This one is a stainless steel wire that doesn’t scream “tactical” and could pass for a pen clip. It is reversible to either side but dedicated to tip-up carry. The clip can be removed for those who want to use the Cat as a true pocketknife.
The leaf-shaped 440C blade is fully flat ground and 1/10th of an inch thick at the widest point. In profile, it recalls antique archery hunting broadheads. The opening hole— another Spyderco trademark—is well placed and the blade opens smoothly and easily under light intentional pressure. Flicking the wrist won’t budge the blade, a good feature in a tip-up knife.
If you’ve never cut with a well-sharpened, fully flat-ground knife, you’re missing out. This thing is wicked sharp and the fairly thin blade combined with a flat grind slices incredibly well. The short length proved to be an unexpected multiplier in this regard. It’s been so long since I’ve used a “little” knife that I’d forgotten how precise the cuts are and how much more control the user has compared to longer blades. It out cut a lot of knives I’m attached to from long use.
The tip is splinter-picking sharp and fine. The knife penetrates well with very little drag or drift.
The market has trended toward overly thick blades for some years, and the 2½ inches of steel on the Cat are just thick enough to provide rigidity and strength for the intended use. Prying, hacking or other non-knifelike chores might be ill advised at this thickness. I suppose you could find yourself in a survival situation and baton fire or shelter wood with the little knife if you had to, but this is a cut-and-thrust tool.
The liner lock moves precisely into place and is well fitted, leaving absolutely no play in any direction. The old “whack the back of the blade” test that bedevils some liners and exposes their susceptibility to failure did nothing here.
Spyderco’s Cat is an attractive knife that borders on, well, cute. There is minimal risk of offending little old ladies or pantywaists when using it for random tasks in the workplace or out in the ‘ville.
The flip side is that some want their fighting knife to look the part and project a certain image. All good and, if a mankilling appearance forestalls hostilities, then chalk one up for the home team. Unfortunately the Spyderco falls somewhere between a menacing glare and a crescent wrench in the intimidation department.
I like the feel of the knife and its quality of build. While small for a folder, it’s every bit as big as the clinch pick, SOCP dagger, and other in close combative designs. Whether the user is a slice, precision thrust, or pumping thrust type, the Cat can offer something.
I’m pretty excited to have found it and see it as a viable tool in general. Best, the real comparison for me is not the Cat vs. a fixed or large folding blade but rather the Cat vs. a weapon of opportunity or pen, so the Cat easily wins. Those in a restrictive area might give it a try.