From an 1823 slang dictionary, thanks to GoogleBooks.
“You think you’re so strong? I bet a cat can pull you across the pond.”
“Shut the front door.”
“No, really. Tie this rope around your waist. Here’s the cat that will pull you across.”
“Yeah, cat. Bring. it.”
Sturdy fellows pull the fool into the pond.
“Ha ha ha ha! Stupidhead!”
I can’t quite understand how “cat whipping” (being “catted”!) would ever work more than once—that enough of a critical mass of people actually fell for this trick, such that it became an actual slang term.