We use this expression to encourage someone going through a tough time. It became popular in the 1970s due to a popular poster that bore the phrase. The poster featured a Siamese cat hanging from a bamboo pole, looking determined to stay there.
The original photograph was published in a book. It was so popular that the book author, Victor Baldwin, decided to turn it into a poster. Many copies featuring different cats have been made and variations still appear in various forms throughout pop culture.
Originally, the phrase may have been a boxing term for a fighter getting the worst of it, who clings “to the ropes or the arms of his opponent for a respite.” A 1972 article about President Nixon in The Atlantic said: “…it would be in his nature to hang in there and fight.”
It’s definitely an encouraging sign. As a cat lover, I know that cat will haul itself up until it has all four feet on the pole. And that it will probably give the pole a good clawing on its way to a more secure perch.
I wanted to use the graphic showing a cat hanging onto a branch, but copyright prevented me from doing that. So, just pretend that’s a cat hanging from the glider over the mountains.