This phrase is an abbreviation of the phrase,"No more chance than a cat in hell without claws". This referred to the hopeless situation of being without weapons (claws) when needed.
This turns my mind to the hideous (for me) practice of declawing. About 20 million cats are declawed in the United States and each one is wrong. It is big bucks though for the vets. Sorry but true. Some cats haven't got a cat in hell's chance of keeping the top of their toe. Declawing is a misdescription to assuage the guilt of those involved in it. A lot more than the claw is amputated. Please read these:
- Declaw cats - two stories based on fact in which cats were killed because they were declawed.
- Helmi Flick on declawing
- Psychology of declawing
Cat in Hell's Chance to Home Page