Was Mark Twain Right?

Man vs. Cat

Right about what? Mark Twain once claimed: “If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.” Sounds pretty outrageous, but is it? Not in my half insane mind.

[Disclaimer – Twain only mentions man, but with a few differences, perhaps for the better by including woman, I think the statement stands. I will continue to use man or men given how the quote is stated by Twain.]

First let it be said that I adore cats. I practically worship them and would if I believed in any type of god. And, why not? If cats were gods, taking good care of them would bound to have its benefits. Taking care of cats does have its benefits. Not only cats, and as much as I hate to say it, other animals as well. Actually, taking care of any living being, including us human beings, has its benefits.

For one, it can enhance or help to create a flourishing life. What others call happiness, but incorporating much more. I think it encompasses all of well being. Aristotle called it eudemonia. He believed it was achieved through a life of reason. I feel a well lived life is about more than just proper reasoning; although, it certainly is a major component. I think that if you go through life and ignore the emotional side of it, your life will be less of a life. I am not just talking about the positive emotions, such as joy and satisfaction, but emotions like sadness and grief as well. I could write much more on a flourishing life, but it will have to wait until another blog.

Anyway, given my love of cats, I am tempted to say that Twain got it right. Although, comparing cats and men is like comparing apple and oranges, which are still both fruit. Cats and men are both animals, and more specifically, they are both mammals.

Except for size, volume of brain tissue, and differences in their cortexes, of which cats lack the most prominent feature of humans—the pre-frontal cortex, they are both similar in structure. Of course, there are large differences in thinking power between man and cat, but cats seem to get the job done. Baxter works well to get his needs, wants, and desires met. He is fed regularly and given attention most of the time when he calls for it—and not. He also knows his domain (the apartment). And, when he wants to play he figures this out too. Do not forget Baxter the bug catcher, and he does not need a fly swatter.

Okay, humans are smarter than cats in most things, so if the cross were made, the man would be less intelligent, and the cat would be smarter.

What about beauty? What is beauty? Not everyone agrees. In art I think it is the expression or elicitation of emotions, not necessarily positive. Although, maybe, it is the positive ones that are correlated with what leads someone to say something is beautiful.

What about beauty in human form? Again tastes can differ in time and culture, so there is not complete agreement for what makes a human beautiful. Can we even describe what we find beautiful most of the time. As a male I am attracted to to the female form in some manner of shapeliness, which I will not describe. What females or gay man find attractive in the male form I can not personally say. But, I can say of another man that he is handsome. I suppose handsome is a code word for beauty in a man.

Well, what of the cat? To me cats are indeed beautiful, not that I would assign that label to all cats. Again, I cannot fully describe what this beauty is in a cat, just like in humans. I know I am attracted to there faces, especially in the triangular shape. Their eyes are also beautiful. And, I find a lot of beauty in the pattern of fur on their coats. Finally, I find cats’ movements to be graceful (beauty in movement).

So, who wins out? Man or beast? When the beast is a cat, I declare for the cat. I am firmly in Twain’s corner as far as beauty is concern. Crossing a cat with a human would lessen the cat and improve the man.

Another factor for me involves the notion of cuteness. With humans, especially women, I am a sucker for a smile. Smile and you can tell me anything. Well, not really, but a smile brightens up someone’s face and personality, and so enhances that person’s cuteness.

Cats cannot smile that I am aware of, at least not like humans. However it is my not so humble opinion that as a general rule cats are cuter than humans, even if humans do smile better.

So, score another one for cats. If a cat were crossed with a man, the man would be bettered, and the cat would be lessened, despite the smiling issue.

What about behavior? Here it is more difficult to assess. One reason is that cats, along with most animals, do not have a sense of morality. You might yell at them, and they may appear guilty, but if you looked beyond appearance, I think you would find nothing there. Take away this sense of guilt, and going on behavior alone, it is difficult to tell overall, whose behavior is better or worse.

So, with some difficulty weighing guilt versus pure behavior it is somewhat of a toss up. The biggest merit on the part of the cat is when he or she kills or acts all hissy, his or hers behavior is in almost all circumstances less damaging. Man can hurt indiscriminately with much more passion than a cat. As for good behaviors, what is wrong with a cuddly, purring cat. Of course, who could deny the pleasure of a passionate embrace with another human. I will add, can you imagine a cat with a gun?

On behavior I will give this one to the cat. Cross a cat with a man, and you have a better human, but a worse cat. Throw in morals, and you have something that is truly not comparable.

Finally, lets me compare man and cat in relationship to companionship. Well, a cat on a lap is certainly nice, but is it nice enough? After all, you can actually carry on a conversation with a human. With a cat you can talk to it easy enough, but see if the cat will understand you. And, what in the heck does “meow” mean, despite its variations. Human touch is nothing to sneeze at either.

What is the verdict on companionship? I will a will score one for man (especially if she is a woman). So, the cross between cat and man will give a cat who is a better companion, and the man will not be so good.

So, were do we stand?

Here is the score card:

Intelligence: Point  man-stick

Beauty: Point cat-stick

Cuteness: Point cat-stick

Behavior: Point cat-stick

Companionship: Point man-stick

Well, it looks like the cat comes out on top—three to two. But, are all five categories equal? Maybe not, but how is one to decide how to rank them in importance. Because I cannot seem to come up with a scheme of ranking, I am going to agree with Mark Twain – “If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.”

Buster and Baxter – Winners


7 thoughts on “Was Mark Twain Right?

  1. A highly enjoyable and refreshingly lighthearted post, Steven, thank you. I agree that a human/cat hybrid would tend to produce an improved human and a degraded cat. Like Twain, though, I have grown less generous toward my fellow humans as i’ve aged. Edgar Allan Poe has a really good quote about man vs. animal in his story “The Black Cat”: “There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.” If you’re interested, you can read the story online at this URL: http://poestories.com/read/blackcat

    Although I have to warn you the story does involve human cruelty to and abuse of animals, so if reading about it bothers you, don’t read it!

    I also published a couple of new posts on my blog recently, I hope you’ll check them out when you have time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments.

      My writer’s moral always gets a boast upon reading your comments.

      Thank you for the link. I do not know if I will read it or not. I already have Poe’s Complete Works, so the story is probably in it as well.

      I posted a comment to your “21st-Century Character” post. Here is a link to the post for anyone interested – https://theceaselessreaderwrites.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/21st-century-character/.

      I am not sure what the other post you are referring to.


  2. This awesome blog is without a doubt cool additionally amusing. I have chosen a bunch of interesting stuff out of this amazing blog. I’d love to visit it over and over again. Thanks!


    1. Thank you for your compliments. I am glad you enjoyed it.

      However, I do not know what you mean by chosen. I hope if you intend to use it in any public manner (e.g. another webpage) that you will properly reference it. My published writing carries an implied copyright. Besides this it is the ethical thing to do.


  3. I loved your post! Awesome. Felines are the most beautiful animals on Earth. Nothing can surpass the combined power, grace and majestic beauty of tigers, for example.
    I used to have both a cat and a dog as “pets”, and while dogs are very easy to “read”, there is always something enigmatic and fascinatingly individualistic and unpredictable about cats.
    They say that dogs have owners, while cats have staff – I think that there is some truth in this.
    And cats are the boss! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZ_vmimoboE


    1. Thank you Rick for the comment and nice compliment. It means a lot to me when someone says so, as oppose to just clicking the like button.

      I am not so sure cats are that hard to read. Maybe, because I have been living with cats since I was eleven. Or, maybe Baxter is just an easy read. There are times when I wish I could tell what is going on inside his little brain. I am pretty certain he thinks, but I do not think he is aware of his thoughts like us human beings. That I think is a reason we have language, so we can be aware of our thoughts in addition to communicating them to others. I have to provide meaning for him, since it takes language to provide meaning, but he does not seem to mind.

      Yes, tigers are magnificent animals. It will be a sad day if they go extinct.

      Thanks also for the video link. This remains me of two episodes in my life with cats. The first involved my first cat Heather. One day this mean old German shepherd, who was usual chained up at a local gas station came rambling up the street and came to the bottom of our driveway. Heather just arch her back stuck out her claws and started to stalk down the driveway. When she was halfway down the dog started to back up and go back down the street with Heather in pursuit for a couple of front yards. The second involves a cat we had named Spoonful. In the house in back of ours there was another mean German shepherd chained up in the backyard. These neighbors put up a retaining wall to give themselves a little more backyard. So, one day Spoonful decides she would take a walk across the wall with the dog in the backyard. The dog started down the hill and was jerked back by its chain. Meanwhile, Spoonful just calmly continued her walk.

      I often feel that Baxter and I think of each other as gods. After all we both appear to want to placate each other.

      Thanks again,



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