這個諺語原來的形式，現已較少使用，是「Care killed the cat」。在本句中，「care」被当作“烦恼（worry）”或“悲伤（sorrow）”。
...Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, up-tails all, and a pox on the hangman.
至少直到1898年以前，該諺語都維持不變。“care killed the cat”被埃比尼澤·科巴姆·布魯爾收錄到他的「片語與寓言字典（Dictionary of Phrase and Fable）」中，並定義為：
現代版本的起源未知。已知實際使用「Curiosity killed the cat」最早的是在1873年詹姆斯·艾倫·梅爾（James Allan Mair）的一本手冊「諺語手冊：英格蘭、蘇格蘭、愛爾蘭、美式、莎士比亞風格、聖經和家庭格言（A handbook of proverbs: English, Scottish, Irish, American, Shakesperean, and scriptural; and family mottoes）」，列在34頁的愛爾蘭諺語上。
約翰·亨德里克斯·柏克德（John Hendricks Bechtel）所著「諺語：警句與短語（Proverbs: Maxims and Phrases）」1902年的版本中，片語「Curiosity killed the cat」是100頁的專題「好奇心（Curiosity）」上的一個單獨條目。
歐·亨利1909年的短篇小說「Schools and Schools」中也有提到，這顯示了該諺語在當時廣為人知：
Thursday morning, just before noon, a plumber opened the rear wall back of the chimney. Blackie was taken out. His fall had injured his back. Ten minutes later Blackie died.
Four Departments of New York City Government Summoned to Rescue Feline.
From the New York World.
Curiosity, as you may recall—
On the fifth floor of the apartment house at 203 West 130th street lives Miss Mable Godfrey. When she came to the house about seven months ago she brought Blackie, a cat of several years' experience of life.
The cat seldom left the apartment. He was a hearth cat, not a fence cat, and did not dearly love to sing. In other respects he was normal and hence curious.
Last Tuesday afternoon when Miss Godfrey was out Blackie skipped into the grate fireplace in a rear room. He had done this many times before. But he had not climbed up the flue to the chimney. This he did Tuesday. Blackie there remained, perched on the top of the screen separating the apartment flue from the main chimney, crying for assistance. Miss Godfrey, returning, tried to induce her pet to come down. If you are experienced in felinity, you know that Blackie didn't come down.
On Wednesday the cat, curiosity unsatisfied, tried to climb higher—and fell to the first floor. His cries could still be heard by Miss Godfrey; who, to effect Blackie's rescue, communicated with the following departments:
1. Police department.
2. Fire department.
3. Health department.
4. Building department.
5. Washington Heights court.
Among them they lowered a rope to Blackie. But it availed neither the cat nor them anything.
儘管這諺語很早就公開亮相，它在尤金·奧尼爾1920年的劇作「Diff'rent」上還是被錯誤地引用成了「Curiosity killed a cat!」：
作家史蒂芬·金在一些他的中篇小說中，對此諺語做出延伸：「好奇害死貓，但滿足了就沒事（Curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought him back）」。