Pas de chat is a classical ballet term meaning “cat’s step.” It gets its name because the step resembles how a cat jumps.
A dancer does a pas de chat by starting in fifth position with the right foot in back. The dancer pliés then jumps with the right leg going into a passé (also known as retiré) quickly followed by the left leg moving into passé. For a moment, the dancer is in the air with both legs in high passés (looking like a grande plié in fifth position but with pointed feet). The dancer then places their right foot on the floor first followed by the left back in front to fifth position. Pas de chat has variations including starting and ending from a fourth position.
Really, the idea that the step resembles a cat’s jump is sort of silly. It is said the name pas de chat came about because a cat would jump by lifting its front legs then its back legs and landing in that same order. While that’s true for a pas de chat in ballet technique, a dancer never really looks like a cat doing it. Nevertheless, the name has stuck!
Pas de chats might be considered a beginner to intermediate level jump. They are practiced commonly in ballet class in petite and grande allegros and will sometimes be seen in some female classical variations.