A cat may go to the monastery...

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Latvia, latvian
A cat may go to a monastery, but she still remains a cat.

Can anyone explain me what is meant by this proverb? Why cat and monastery?


  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I suspect this means that you "can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink." You can "put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

    In other words, you can't change the cat no matter where you put him; he's still a cat, not a scholar or a monk.

    The lesson is probably, then, that you can't change a person's or a thing's inherent nature.


    Senior Member
    A few more similar expressions, besides the excellent ones provided by bibliolept, are "a leopard never changes its spots" and "you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy."

    I agree with bibliolept about your proverb's meaning, although I'd never heard this cat and monestary variation before.


    Senior Member
    USA, English
    All I could find online was that this is a traditional Ethiopian saying.
    I looked at a few sources and one said Ethiopian, and the others said Congolese.

    I suspect the meaning is you can bring a cat to a monastery but you cannot make a holy man of him.


    Senior Member
    This is very similar to a Chinese one "A cow taken to Beijing is still a cow".
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