E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
To be made a cats paw of, i.e. the tool of another, the medium of doing anothers dirty work. The allusion is to the fable of the monkey who wanted to get from the fire some roasted chestnuts, and took the paw of the cat to get them from the hot ashes.
I had no intention of becoming a cats paw to draw European chestnuts out of the fire.Com. Rodgers.
At sea, light air during a calm causing a ripple on the water, and indicating a storm, is called by sailors a cats paw, and seamen affirm that the frolics of a cat indicate a gale. These are relics of a superstition that cats are witches or demons in disguise.