How to draw animals | Domestic Cat in 7 Steps

how to draw the domestic cat

Cats are stubborn and curious beasts that have conquered our hearts. You’ll probably agree with me when you have a cat of your own.

Maybe this is why you would want to draw a cat yourself. Cats can be difficult to sit still and can be annoying when you are drawing because they always demand your attention.

However, because cats are so interesting I also like to draw them.

If you don’t know where to start I will now explain step-by-step how to draw a cat. Or at least there are thousands of ways to draw cats, but I am trying to explain my method to you.

Cats are pretty easy to draw because they often have a lot of fur and have round shapes because the muscalature is not visible. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to think so much about the anatomy.

When you see artist drawing from their imagination, it means that they can skip several steps in their head.

As a artist you need to work on your visual library and process.

A visual library is necessary to allow yourself to come up with imaginary images and references.

The process is important to allow yourself to break the subject in smaller parts, after you can easily approach any subject.

By doing the anatomy study I allow myself to work on my visual library, I can check if I missed some details. And the Step by Step guide offers you a beginning reference on how I approach drawing animals. The step by step guide is therefore my thoughprocess, If you need more steps there is nothing wrong with that.

Domestic Cat Anatomy

Domestic Cat anatomy for Artists
Domestic Cat anatomy for Artists

Domestic cats come in all shapes and sizes, although these differences the species generally all have similar skeleton and muscle groups. Therefore by making one overall anatomy study I could already tackle 95 percent of the problems.

By studying the bone structure and muscle mass, it is shown that domestic cats are very agile.

This can also be seen in its appearance and posture.

So once again you don’t need to know the exact anatomy, it’s more about getting an idea about how to put the animal on paper.

In the picture you see the skeleton above with all the important muscle groups shown below.

In the study below the skeleton I tried to create shadows. This way the cat is more translated into large shapes and planes.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect anatomy drawing but as long as the rough shapes and proportions are correct the study should suffice.

Because remember you are only doing a anatomy study to solve problems for your initial art or future drawings.

Drawing a Domestic Cat | Step by step

When you have a rough idea about the anatomy, you’re ready to start drawing the cat. It is important that you can put the essence on paper.

When you draw the animal always start with the big shapes and work slowly towards the details. As shown in the steps below.

I made these images in photoshop for the sake of clarity for the website.

I advise you to start with an HB pencil and in your sketchbook or a piece of paper and for example change to a 2B or even 4B pencil from Step 3 onwards.

If you are not satisfied with a line, erase it. We are all students and don’t be ashamed to correct yourself with a eraser if you don’t like the line.

Step 1 | Flowing lines and large shapes

Cat Step 1 | Gesture and organic shapes
Cat Step 1 | Gesture and organic shapes

Actually, all steps on this website regarding animal drawing are almost the same, it is important that you work from big to small shapes. The general though process of drawing animals is for me universal.

I always start with big organic shapes combined with gesture lines. This step is important because you lay the foundation for the rest of the drawing.

Pay also attention to correct proportions and placing of your drawing. The placement of shapes within your drawing boundaries determine your overall composition. If you only do a study this is not that important, but when you draw or sketch for a beginning painting keep this in mind.

When the ground work is laid on paper and step 1 is finished I dissect the animal in different parts mainly the head, neck, shoulders, belly and legs.

Step 2 | Construction of large shapes

Cat Step 2 | Construction
Cat Step 2 | Construction

This step is for the most part imaginary, I try to imagine for myself the big shapes.

Because these big shapes will often “muddy” down your drawing, therefore I try to avoid them to put them on paper.

When the drawing is ‘muddy’ed down it will lose it’s gesture, life or force. Therefore it becomes stiff and unpleasent to look at, you don’t want this because you wantthe animal to jump from the paper.

Off course, when you first draw a new animal it can help to put these big shapes on paper. But only if you find it hard to imagine then I would put the essential shapes in your drawing.

The most helpful shape for me is the keystone shape at the shoulders. You then have a good basis to put the legs down.

Step 3 | Head and Neck

Cat step 3 | Head and neck
Cat step 3 | Head and neck

When you have the essence on paper, we can draw over the large forms step by step.

As mentioned earlier I always divide my subject into sections, for animals this is head, neck, shoulders, body and legs.

For the Head, I start with the eyes and nose, these are important characteristics for me because they determine the proportion of the head. When these are correct I sketch the ears and the rest of the head on paper.

Try to get the proportions of the facial features right, these are often the focal point of your drawing. And people can easily sense if something is off with the drawing if the overall proportions does not match.

It is important that you draw between and around the large shapes. And only create the suggestion with minimal lines.  for example when you draw a cat with fur you only want the suggestion of hair or fur.

I work my way down and try to follow the anatomy of the beast. Try to draw ‘Over’ and ‘Around’ the imaginary shapes of step 2.

Don’t focus on every detail you see, because a drawing is just a representation of the artist perception of reality. And it is therefore not “THE” exact reality.

Step 4 | Shoulders and Body

Cat Step 4 | Body and Tail
Cat Step 4 | Body and Tail

Again, try to think in big shapes and don’t get distracted by the details.

You will notice that the simpler the drawing the more pleasant it is to look at.

Remember: When you put the lines of the shoulder and the body try to draw ‘around’ and ‘over’ the imaginary shapes and lines of step 1 and 2.

Step 5 | Legs

Cat step 5 | Legs
Cat step 5 | Legs

The legs can be a bit complex because muscles can be complex. Try to imagine the anatomy well and simplify it to the structure you see, for ease look to the anatomy study above.

If you have followed the steps above you will see that it slowly starts to look like a cat.

And if you have already created a good looking cat, the next step is to indicate the details. Try to stop in time and don’t include too many details in your drawing.

Sometimes drawing less lines tells you more about your subject.

Step 6 | Details

Cat Step 6 | Details
Cat Step 6 | Details

When the ground work is layed down, you can finalize your line drawing by adding the details.

In the example above I sketched in the pupils of the eyes and put some suggestion of fur on the animal. Also I tried to put some lines around the various muscle groups to show the strenght and power of the cat.

Step 7 | Tone, Shade and Color

Cat Step 7 | Tone, Shade and Color
Cat Step 7 | Tone, Shade and Color

Try to add some tonal value in your drawing, do this by applying the laws of light and shadow.

Erase the HB pencil construction lines from step 1 and 2, if you don’t want them in your details.

When you use a pencil this can be done by cross hatching or slightly fill the area with graphite. And when darker values needs to be put down on paper just press harder or use a 4B or even 6B graphite pencil.

Highlights can easily be created by erasing them in with your eraser.

I even went a step further and gave the cat some color, this final image you can see in the first page of the blogpost.

Further Steps

If you have followed the steps above, there is now a cat on your drawing. Maybe you are not satisfied with it yet, but this is going to be fine if you keep practicing.

Drawing is a skill that takes time, the same as any other profession. Remember that drawing is just a hobby and try to have a lot of fun with it.

If you want to draw even more cats you can take  pictures of cats outside or look up pictures online. The steps are exactly as indicated above, keep repeating this and before you know it you may call yourself an professional artist.

Good luck and more importantly have fun!