What is the deal with mandb and stray cats?

The man page for mandb refers to stray cats:

-s, --no-straycats
       Do not spend time looking  for  or  adding  information  to  the
       databases regarding stray cats.

There is no explanation of what a stray cat is. What’s up?

Asked By: tbodt

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From the Glossary in /usr/share/doc/man-db/man-db-manual.txt (source is manual/glossary.me):

cat page
A formatted manual page suitable for viewing on a vt100-type terminal.

stray cat page
A cat page that does not have a relative manual page on the system, i.e.
only the cat page was supplied or the manual page was removed after the
cat page had been created.

Answered By: jasonwryan

A cat page is a particular type of man page. It is faster to display than a normal man page, but requires more hard drive space. They are created by using the catman command. This reads the ‘regular’ man pages and produces new pages with a different internal structure, called cat pages. If you create cat page(s) and then remove the original man page(s), you’ll have “stray” cat page(s).

Answered By: TheGurkha
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