My Mother Forces Me To Draw Cats

Millie Ho With Cat Drawing

My mother forces me to draw cats.

I draw them for her birthday, for my birthday, for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, and that time I left home for university for the first time.

“Why don’t you get a cat if you like them so much?” I asked her once.

She shook her head. “Cats are too complex for me.”

I took it at face value at the time, but saw into her soul years later, on a drive to a restaurant, when she started showing the cat drawings to relatives who couldn’t have cared less.

“I call this one lao hu,” she said, pointing to a cat with stripes in its fur and teeth as sharp as a fishbone comb.

Lao hu, tiger in Chinese, the symbol of war and strength.

It wasn’t the complexity she feared, I realized.

It was the attachment.

Cats are complex, even more so when they die.

33 Replies to “My Mother Forces Me To Draw Cats”

  1. 🙁

    I have a cat, but I also want a dog. Sometimes, when the desire gets too strong, I watch sad movies that remind me that dogs die (why, Marley and Me, WHY?!)

    PS, I love the ballerina cat 😛

  2. I love the drawings, they’re adorable! And I’m going to adopt a cat soon…I’m pretty scared of the attachment issue too because I’m an extremely overly-emotional person >.<

    1. Think of the cat like a family member. What will you do when one of your family passes away? All you can do is prepare yourself. And, remember, when the cat does pass away, it’s better to honor the good times you shared than to dwell on the loss. After you lose a few pets, the loss doesn’t hurt quite as much.

        1. Never had a pet? Well, then I understand the apprehension. And, maybe, for you, it would be better to keep the pattern going. No pets might free you from unneeded sadness and loss of life. You might live a unique life by simply appreciating animals (and plants/flowers, if you ask me) in their natural habitats (or the homes of other people).

  3. What amazes me is how attached people can get to animals. My dad always claims he wouldn’t be said if our dog died, yet he would be. When ever I see him with our dog, the only thing I see is love. It rings true to the statement that a dog is a man’s best friend.

    Also on a whole other note, I adore your cat drawings. They are so we’ll done and adorable.

    1. Very true. We love dogs because they are always so happy to see us, is my theory. There’s also the Hello Kitty phenomenon: animals don’t speak, so we find them fascinating and can assign them to any context we want (almost all of them to do with ‘cute’ and ‘fluffy’).

      I’m glad you like the drawings!

  4. A pet crow?? How does one get such a pet? Aren’t crows sort of tied to the spirits of the deceased? Or, mountain spirits/tengu? How does a mortal girl acquire such a mystic pet?

    As for the loss of a loved pet, that’s life…and death. While I am inclined to agree with anyone who’d rather look and not own pets/take flowers from where they grow, I like cats very much and would not be as grieved to have one die on me, for some strange reason. I would enjoy its company while I had it. But, if the cat went berserk and destroyed my property, I’d be inclined to say we were not a good match…and I’d have to send the cat away.

    I myself have lost countless pets. Enough to say I am no good for them. But, there remains a soft spot in my heart for cats…and certain breeds of dog. I can live without fish, lizards and birds…or, just appreciate them in nature. But, a koi pond might be nice.

    Still, I think you mom is mad to have you draw so many cats. My nephew insists I draw trucks every day. I hate drawing trucks even if it’s good practice. I’d rather draw dinosaurs, Ninja Turtle characters and superheroes:) I’d tell mom to expect a cat drawing for very special occasions…but not too often.

    Do you know any of the Chinese folk stories of the cat? Like the beckoning cat (which was used as a model for the Pokemon Meowth)?

    1. A crow started visiting my basement. My parents and I made a house for it, used a toothbrush holder as a makeshift bird feeder, and made it feel welcome for all of three days until it died. I suspect it might’ve been sick before it flew to our house, and was looking for a place to rest. It was my first and only “pet”.

      There’s an interesting short story by Neil Gaiman called “The Price”, which is about a strange cat that’s guarding a young family from the Devil. Give it a read. I see some parallels between the narrator and your relationship with cats:

      Your nephew sounds like fun, oddly enough. Anyone who’s that persistent with drawing (albeit getting others to draw) has to be an asset to your creativity in some shape or form. Regarding Chinese folk stories, there’s one called “The Tiger’s Teacher” that you might enjoy. Coincidentally, it has both cats and tigers in one narrative/didactic bundle.

      1. I wonder if the crow wasn’t a family member paying a “return” visit.

        It died after 3 days??? That’s creepy…

        And, that was the ONLY pet you’ve ever had? Odd.

        I have mixed opinions of Gaiman’s work…and that one doesn’t appeal to me so much (personal reason).

        Well, the nephew has been exposed and bombarded with my sister’s (his mother’s) mention of my drawing skills (which pale compare to so many younger people I find here in the Drawing section). So, I am thinking it’s her nudging me to teach him, and him feeling obligated to learn. I don’t like pressuring him to draw…but I also don’t feel like drawing everything for him to either destroy or “smear” later. And, I know he’s been force-fed trucks by his grandmothers, but I am not a big fan of drawing vehicles:P

        Is “The Tiger’s Teacher” the one about the hare/cat tricking the tiger into “playing music” with his tail in the reeds? Or, the pit the hare/cat leads the tiger into before escaping death?

        1. Here’s the story:

          It’s about an impudent student (tiger) failing to follow through with his lessons from his teacher (cat), which explains why the tiger is unable to perform certain tasks like a cat.

          I find most Chinese fables to be didactic in nature, which might stem from a legacy of working hard in the rice fields (I’m quoting Malcolm Gladwell here, specifically “Outliers”).

          1. In Chinese astrology, it has been said that Cat (or Hare in every context except Vietnamese astrology) and Tiger are teachers to each other, yin and yang. The Cat/Hare teaches the Tiger to look before he leaps and see the smaller things while the Tiger helps the Cat/Hare take chances and fret about less. Both have their own breed of luck.

            The impudent student story is similar to the one about the Cat/Hare eluding Tiger by teaching him how to make music.

            I have considered writing a series of short stories involving Chinese/Western astrology animals not unlike the book of Chinese “folk” tales I found some years ago.

            You and your vocabulary…you challenge me. Didactic. But, you are neither tiger nor cat, right?:D

  5. Wonderful post Millie. The whole idea of attachment and loss brought to mind Gordon Lightfoot’s line, “I would tear the threads away that I might bleed some more”. Over time we constantly weave other lives into our own. As we age, those threads are both treasured and painful.

    Animals, because of their shorter life span can be a very strong reminder of the passage of time. They start with us as children, kittens or puppies, and then become the elderly – faithful companions & family retainers.

    Have you seen George Weaver’s post, A Friend To The End, a beautiful B&W image & very emotional background tale ? I get lump-in-the-throat-melancholy just thinking about it.

    Here is the link, I am off to compose sad poetry.

    Oh,and here is something to lighten things up a bit. 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing the links! Nothing communicates like a black-and-white photograph. I agree that attachment and loss are more pronounced in creatures with shorter life cycles. But the joy they provide is just as sharp and bright, and we can be happy about that!

  6. I guess you could say that I am a cat lady, and yes indeed they are complex:) BTWI just love the way you wrote this post. It’s crisp and interesting without one unnecessary word.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Elena! I’d say the same about your paintings. Each dot of colour is important and part of a greater whole, like a Georges Seurat painting.

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