One mistaken impression that people have about art is that it is hard; that the finished product has to be clean, striking, or perfect in every way. This is nonsense. Little children while away entire days filling paper with clumsy and inarticulate drawings of cats, which family members have proudly displayed on refrigerators for decades. If you want to learn how to draw a cat, the first real step is accepting that anyone — including you! — can draw a cat.
Aside from a single art class in 4th grade, I have no formal training as an artist or designer. Even so, I’ve been drawing since childhood, and it’s always been very important and relaxing to me. The recent trend toward adult coloring books is one I find comforting. It means that more people are rediscovering some of those innocent diversions that our daily stresses and anxieties force us to relinquish, forget, or dismiss. It’s fun to be creative and know that the only person you have to satisfy is yourself. Now then, let’s draw cats! How about these two charmers?
For these step-by-step drawing lessons, I offer you two different cats from which to choose. I scoured the Internet for interesting pictures of cats to try sketching and ultimately selected a hairless cat and a cute kitten sitting in a wineglass. Why these two images? Why not? The drawing tutorials are laid out side by side, so pick whichever cat you find most appealing, or try learning to draw both! Let’s get started with some simple, basic shapes!
One thing that prevents many people from learning to draw is the same thing that halts any potentially rewarding project at its inception: to wit, getting started! Whether you selected the hairless cat or the wineglass kitten, we’ll begin as simply as possible.
Sketch out three squares, one on top of the next.
Giving the cute kitten a whirl? Add an octagon, or stop-sign shape, inside the top square.
Now then, each cat drawing is going to go in different directions, but I wanted to keep each one relatively easy to follow.
For our hairless cat, a Canadian Sphynx, let’s start with circles for the cheeks and ovals for the feet, and sketch out the body shape by connecting the circles and ovals with angled lines.
For our kitten, let’s dive in face first. Triangles for ears, ovals for eyes, and a third triangle forms the nose.
As I planned out the drawing lessons, I found that the hairless cats looked better when I used harder angles and exaggerated features. Big triangles accentuate their bat-like ears, and large ovals focus our attention on their prominent eyes and brow ridges. Two simple lines from the ears to the cheeks finish out the borders of the face.
On the right, we flesh out the bottom half of the kitten’s face with three softer, curvier lines. Then we sketch in the kitten’s forelegs and shoulder blades, along with the lip of the wineglass.
On the left, a “U” shape connecting the bottom of the cheek circles gives the hairless cat a lower jaw, and a little triangle wedged between the circles provides him with a nose. Add in a pair of parallel lines coming up from each foot to give the cat some rudimentary legs.
Our little kitten gets a crescent moon in the bottom square for a tail. In the middle square, we’ll add an oval for the other foreleg.
Tacked on next to the hairless cat’s leg, a thin crescent moon shape — or, if you prefer, a green bean or a little chili pepper — yields a tail. So far, so good!
Pulling back a bit on the kitten, place a curved letter “N” above the tail, and we have the squished-in hind leg. A couple of scribbles down from the eyes form the nose. The bowed lines on either side connect to the tail, completing the “If it fits, I sits” wineglass. Make the stem as long or as short as you like, and make the base as wide or as thin as you like.
We’re almost done! Our step-by-step cat drawings really only need detailing at this point. We started with a lot of hard angles and lines, and now we can round them off and soften them up. I recommend drawing over the lines you already have and bending them slightly as you do.
For both cats, the inner ears are suggested by nothing but a pair of simple lines.
For the hairless cat, finish the nose by adding curved lines from the insides of the eyes down to the cheek circles. Three curvy lines between the elbows, resembling a frowny face, and the hairless cat now has a tummy and a couple of wrinkles. Our kitten could use some whiskers and scribbles for fur. Toes for both cat drawings are nothing more complicated than “U”s for the hairless cat and little lines for the kitten.
Hey! Chances are you’ve just drawn something that looks remotely cat-like! That more than qualifies as a success. In my own artistic pursuits, I hardly ever use an eraser. I think the messier something is, the more character it has. It reminds me that something doesn’t have to be perfect or excessively detailed in order to be beautiful.
It took me several days and a great deal of trial and error to design these two guides on how to draw a cat, but it was such immensely gratifying work. You may notice that my lines are never straight, and my circles, ovals, and triangles are inconsistently shaped. I’d rather teach by example and emphasize that drawing cats — or really anything else — is supposed to be a fun, low-stress, and pressure-free activity.
When I was a child, I loved checking out drawing books from the library. My favorite volumes were Lee J. Ames’s Draw 50 series, including Draw 50 Cats. These books are still in print; ask for them by name at your local bookstore or inquire about them at the public library! I know you can easily find a professional artist to draw a cat for you, or you can fork over thousands of dollars for cat sketches by famous artists, but it’s so much more rewarding to do it for yourself. If you enjoyed these drawing lessons, let us know in the comments!
Read more about drawing cats (and dogs!):
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a 17-year-old cat named Quacko, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.