CATGUT, the name applied to cord of great toughness and tenacity prepared from the intestines of sheep, or occasionally from those of the horse, mule and ass. Those of the cat are not employed, and therefore it is supposed that the word is properly kitgut, kit meaning "fiddle," and that the present form has arisen through confusion with kit = cat. The substance is used for the strings of harps and violins, as well as other stringed musical instruments, for hanging the weights of clocks, for bow-strings, and for suturing wounds in surgery. To prepare it the intestines are cleaned, freed from fat, and steeped for some time in water, after which their external membrane is scraped off with a blunt knife. They are then steeped for some time in an alkaline ley, smoothed and equalized by drawing out, subjected to the antiseptic action of the fumes of burning sulphur, if necessary dyed, sorted into sizes, and twisted together into cords of various numbers of strands according to their uses. The best strings for musical instruments are imported from Italy ("Roman strings"); and it is found that lean and ill-fed animals yield the toughest gut.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)