Haiku About Cats: 3-Line Short Poems

Updated on June 25, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I teach creative writing to adults and love helping my students improve their writing skills.

The unblinking stare of an odd-eyed cat is mesmerizing.
The unblinking stare of an odd-eyed cat is mesmerizing. | Source

What Is Haiku Poetry?

Haiku are short poems and are usually written as a 3-line stanza containing a total of 17 syllables. The lines are written thus: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.

This stylized form of poetry writing was invented in Japan in the 17th century. It was more than one hundred years later before this style was copied in Europe.

Some of the early European and American haiku writers did not stick to the rigid Japanese rules and adopted their own syllable count. You may, therefore, occasionally find examples of haiku that do not conform to the 5, 7, 5 pattern.

Haiku Are Nature Poems

This haiku poem was inspired by the one yellow- and one blue-eyed cat photo above. I have kept to the formal Japanese syllable count and used a traditional topic for my poem, nature. The first two lines of a haiku should be descriptive and the final line should contain a conclusion or summary event.

Odd eyes hypnotize

Stalking silent in the night

The cat hunts alone

I recommend reading Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide. I found it a great help when I started writing these stanzas. It details the traditions of haiku poetry, and will help you construct the perfect 3-line short poem.

A young male mackerel tabby stretches in his sleep.
A young male mackerel tabby stretches in his sleep. | Source

Haiku Poems About Cats by Kobayashi Issa

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) was a famous Japanese master in the art of writing haiku. The following poem by him is a translation (by an unknown translator) from the Japanese, so the syllable count is not quite the same as the original. However, you can see the overall haiku structure using a nature-based event.

The first two lines describe a favorite cat. The final line is an action or conclusion that arises from the initial description.

Arise from sleep, old cat

and with great yawns and stretchings

amble out for love

My version of the same haiku using the 5, 7, 5 pattern is as follows.

Awaken wise cat

yawning and stretching your limbs

ready to seek love

The Japanese Tea Ceremony.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony. | Source

Kobayashi Issa Had Many Names

Kobayashi Issa was also known as Kobayashi Yataro, and Kobayashi Nobuyuki. He also used the pen-name Issa. This short form of his name means “a single bubble in a cup of steeping tea.”

Here's another haiku about cats by Issa. It was translated by the poet Robert Hass.

Goes out,
comes back—
the love life of a cat.

Pause (Paws) for Thought

Cats are fascinating creatures. If you have ever “owned” one then you’ll know how much time it’s possible to waste watching them. They are graceful and delicate, but they’re also hunters and carnivores. They are a constant source of creative inspiration for poets and artists.

I wrote the following after watching some kittens shadow-box with each other.

A tentative paw

gently pats the other’s fur

Teasing, playful, fun

Four lovable fluffy kittens provide inspiration for writing poems.
Four lovable fluffy kittens provide inspiration for writing poems. | Source

Cats and Playful Kittens Inspire Poets

The skill of writing short 3-line poems is to say a lot with just a few words. Write less and your readers will use their imagination to create the emotion surrounding your words. This allows them to connect better with your poetry and easily identify with the poem’s subject matter.

Here’s an example. In the next haiku, you'll know what I’m describing without my having to explain using long sentences. Playful and mischievous, four new kittens mean 4-times the fun and upset to your household.

Four fluffy bundles

Life will never be the same

Chaos comes with them

Rules for Writing Haiku Poetry

Subject Matter
Number of Lines
Syllable Count
5, 7, 5
Line Length
Black cats are able to blend into the night.
Black cats are able to blend into the night. | Source

Haiku Poetry About Black Cats

A well-constructed haiku is made up of two juxtaposed images (the first two lines,) followed by a turning point or cutting moment (the final line.) The short poem describes a moment frozen in time. It is a snapshot image of a mood or feeling.

I wrote the next verse about my black cat who is an excellent night hunter.

With unblinking eyes

She melts into the shadows

A dark moonless night

Cats are affectionate and very clean animals. I wrote this haiku after watching my cat wash herself all over and then start again from the beginning. They also use social grooming as a way of bonding with other cats.

Constantly licking

No silken part left unwashed

Ready to hunt mice

How to Write Haiku: How to Write Better Poetry

Haiku About Hairballs

The one thing I hate about cats is the way they get rid of all the hair they’ve groomed from their body. Their tongues are quite rough and act like a comb removing dirt and loose hair as they lick themselves all over. They are very clean animals and I’m pleased about that, but the fur balls that accumulate in their stomach are brought back up by the animal being sick. If you have never seen this, the video below shows a cat in full puke mode.

Such a dreadful sound

Stomach sides move like bellows

Retching a fur ball

NB This Video Is not for the Squeamish. The Cat Pukes a Hairball With Retching Sounds.

Writing poetry is as much about what we leave out, as it is about what we leave in.

— Judy Ireland, American poet
Cats need time-out too.
Cats need time-out too. | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    7 months ago from Queensland Australia

    Beth, I enjoy haiku (writing and reading) and I have six cats, so I found this very enjoyable. I loved the commentary about the haiku as well.


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