The Cat and Venus

In a test a Cat was turned into a young maiden. She found a young man and were to be wed. At the wedding Venus released a Mouse and the maiden chased it.

Nature exceeds nurture.

[The Eliot/Jacobs version of this fable is similar enough to be included here.]

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

The gods were once disputing whether it was possible for a living being to change its nature. Jupiter said “Yes,” but Venus said “No.” So, to try the question, Jupiter turned a Cat into a Maiden, and gave her to a young man for a wife. The wedding was duly performed and the young couple sat down to the wedding-feast. “See,” said Jupiter, to Venus, “how becomingly she behaves. Who could tell that yesterday she was but a Cat? Surely her nature is changed?”

“Wait a minute,” replied Venus, and let loose a mouse into the room. No sooner did the bride see this than she jumped up from her seat and tried to pounce upon the mouse. “Ah, you see,” said Venus, “Nature will out.”

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

A Young Man became so fond of his Cat, that he made her his constant companion, and used to declare that if she were a woman he would marry her. Venus at length, seeing how sincere was his affection, gratified his wishes, and changed the Cat into a young and blooming woman. They were accordingly married; but at night, hearing a Mouse in the room, the young bride sprang from the arms of her husband, caught the Mouse, and killed it. Venus, angry at this behaviour, and seeing that under the form of a Woman there was still hidden the nature of a Cat, determined that form and nature should no longer disagree, and changed her back again to a Cat.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (The Young Man and his Cat)

Croxall - Young Man and CatA CERTAIN young Man used to play with a Cat; of which he grew so fond, that at last he fell in love with it, and to such a degree, that he could rest neither night nor day for the excess of his passion. At last he prayed to Venus, the goddess of beauty, to pity him, and relieve his pain. The good-natured goddess was propitious, and heard his prayers; before he rose up from kneeling, the Cat, which he held in his arms, was transformed into a beautiful girl. The youth was transported with joy, and married her that very day. At night they went to bed, and as the new bride lay encircled in the embraces of her amorous husband, she unfortunately heard a mouse behind the hangings, and sprung from his arms to pursue it. Venus, offended to see her sacred rites profaned by such an indecent behaviour; and perceiving that her new convert, though a woman in outward appearance, was a Cat in her heart, she made her return to her old form again, that her manners and person might be agreeable to each other.


Whittingham - Young Man and Cat

C. Whittingham (1814)

People, as to their manners and behaviour, take a strong bias from custom and education, but a much stronger from nature. Her laws are so strong, that it is in vain for us to go to oppose them: we may refine and improve, but can never totally alter her works.

Upon this account it is, that we oftentimes see silly, awkward blockheads displaying their idiotism and folly through all their ensigns of dignity; for some natures are so coarse and rustic, that all the embroidery of a court cannot conceal them. Doubtless such people were intended by nature for nothing above driving hogs to a fair, and laughing at the jokes of a country merry andrew [clown]. Fortune has found them worthy of her favours, and given them a lift out of the mire: but they do not fail to give frequent indications of their true composition, by a thousand little dirty actions. A fine equipage and a great estate may raise a man to an exalted station, and procure a respect to his outward person; notwithstanding which, it may so happen, that every time he speaks and acts, he cannot help playing the fool for the blood of him.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A cat fell in love with a handsome young man, and entreated Venus to change her into the form of a woman. Venus consented to her request and transformed her into a beautiful damsel, so that the youth saw her and loved her, and took her home as his bride. While the two were reclining in their chamber, Venus wishing to discover if the Cat in her change of shape had also altered her habits of life, let down a mouse in the middle of the room. The Cat, quite forgetting her present condition, started up from the couch and pursued the mouse, wishing to eat it. Venus was much disappointed and again caused her to return to her former shape.


Nature exceeds nurture.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

A young fellow that was passionately in love with a cat made it his humble suit to Venus to turn puss into a woman. The transformation was wrought in the twinkling of an eye, and out she comes, a very bucksome lass. The doting sot took her home to his bed; and bad fair for a litter of kittens by her that night: but as the loving couple lay snugging together, a toy took Venus in the head, to try if the cat had chang’d her manners with her shape; and so for experiment, turn’d a mouse loose into the chamber. The cat, upon this temptation, started out of the bed, and without any regard to the marriage-joys, made a leap at the mouse, which Venus took for so high an affront, that she turned the madam into a puss again.


The extravagant transports of lore, and the wonderful force of nature, are unaccountable; the one carries us out of our selves, and the other brings us back again.

1001Feles et Venus

Feles quaedam delicium erat formosi cuiusdam adolescentis, Veneremque oravit ut in feminam mutaret. Dea, miserta cupiditatis adolescentuli, convertit felem in puellam. Quam, cum longe speciosa esset, amator domum abduxit. Venus, experiri cupiens si, mutata facie, mutasset et mores, in medium constituit murem. Quem cum illa aspexit, oblita formae, murem ut caperet persecuta est. Qua super re indignata, Venus denuo eam in priorem felis formam mutavit.


Fabula innuit quod homo nequam, licet personam mutet, mores tamen retinet eosdem.

Perry #050