Cats in Art

August 07, 2019 3 min read

Cats in Art

Cats in Art

By Alyn Pin

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece,” Leonardo da Vinci

     Today, cats are one of the most popular pets that have become the primary subject of artists and photographers around the world. What’s the basis? The number of likes and shares of a cat art photo on social media and art platforms,  and how many people love to shop for cat arts. Are you a cat lover and an art enthusiast? Here are some facts that you should know about cats in arts!

British Museum Picture

     In ancient Egyptian history, cats are revered and feared during that time for they had feline goddesses such as Bastet and Mafdet. If one injures or kills a cat, severe punishment is given to the person held responsible. Moreover, these feline cats have small sculptures and paintings dedicated to them because most of Egyptian art is related to religion. In the city of Bubastis –known for its greatest temple –thousands of small cat sculptures and mummified cats have been recovered.

     How about in Asia? Cats are found in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese arts. They are typically depicted as pampered pets, hunters, ghosts, monsters and spirits by Asian artists.

Cats Suggested As The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, (1850), woodblock print

The Ukiyo-e (woodblock print and paintings) of Japanese illustrator Utagawa Kuniyoshi contains 55 cats and is displayed in museums.  In addition, Kuniyoshi gave Kabuki actors cat faces. 

InkDance Chinese Painting

Meanwhile, cats in Chinese art are favored by Chinese painters and calligraphy artists for their rounded and contour bodies. 

Byeon Sang-byeok’s Myojakdo

Korean painter Byeon Sang-byeok was known for his detailed brushwork and affections for animals, and an example is his work Myojakdo (Paintings of Cats and Sparrows).

    If you have watched films or seen arts with witches and their familiar cats, some of you must have thought that it is cool or you admired it. Sadly, some of the people in the past had a negative opinion of cats. During the early 1800s in France, these adorable and innocent cats suffered due to an assumption that they are a part of witchcraft and are a demonic symbolism. Later on, it ended and cats became the favorite subjects of artists in the 19th-century. An example is Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen’s prominent cat poster Lait Pur Stérilisé (found below).

Lait Pur Stérilisé by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen

Another French artist whose work of art centers on a cat is Berthe Morisot. Her art piece Fillette au Chat shows a drawing of her daughter affectionately carrying a kitten. 

Fillette au Chat by Berthe Morisot

     Do you agree that cats are great, mighty hunters? Here is a fact: This trait is highly regarded by some societies or cultures from the past up to the present. An example is an art of a cat capturing a partridge in the well known Pompeian Casa Del Fauno (House of the Faun) mosaic circa 2 B.C.E. 


     In the 20th century, modern art forms had recurrent cat arts. Why? Most artists were inspired and connected to the cat’s solitude, tranquility, and elegance. One artist who was known to adore and love his furry muse allowing to accompany him during his creative process was Henri Matiss. His art piece of his daughter and cat can be seen below. 

Matisse’ Marguerite with a Black Cat, 1910

     At present, cats are still one of the favored subjects of artists. Moreover, with the emergence of new art forms, artists are able to bring these felines closer to people. Some museums and programs have interactive art that features live rescued cats ready to be brought home to a family. Through art, cats are appreciated and it also becomes an opportunity to encourage others to adopt.

     What are your thoughts to our fun facts? Would you like to add an information? We would love to hear from you in the comment box below. 


  • Cat Museum San Francisco
  • The Great Cat
  • Google Arts and Culture
  • Swann Auction Galleries
  • The Artifice

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