Originally Posted by Guy
Those of us who are Mericans are supposed to call them "wildcats" for some reason.
First use I found in written English
of "wildcat" for a shaped chain wheel
was in 1844. "Wildcat" was common in US English
in the 19th century for other uses, including: wild cat oil
drilling (wild-catter, wild catting), wild cat banks, wild cat whisky, and wild cats (both people and animals).
But the core
is the use of "cat", used since at least 1626 as a qualifier for things and activities associated with an anchor
, stowing an anchor
, and recovering an anchor, e.g.
cathead, catshead, catshole (1626)
cat and fish
(an anchor) (1808)
cat block (1769)