Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Do all cats paint?

Only a very small percentage of domestic cats are known to paint. While about 60% of domestic cats (USA data), will demarcate their territory with claw marks on trees, furniture etc, perhaps only 0.001% will take paint on their paws and apply it to a surface. However, with the recent growth of interest in feline aesthetics due to the international success of books like "Why Cats Paint" and the formation of Cat Art Societies around the world, it is anticipated that more owners will encourage their cats to paint and the number of cats actually painting and exhibiting is expected to rise dramatically in the next few years.


Are some breeds more likely to paint than others?

Cats which don't mind getting their paws wet such as Birmans, are more likely to take to painting than other breeds but there appears to be no one breed which is more "artistic" than any other.


How do I know if my cat will paint?

The best way of determining whether your cat has artistic ability is to carefully observe it in certain situations. For example, does it sit and contemplate the marks it makes in its litter tray? Are the marks curved or aesthetic in any way? Does it make marks on the wall with the fine litter left on its paws after using the litter tray? Does it scratch in just one place on the furniture as if constructing an on-going artwork? Does it take great care in arranging and presenting its prey or parts of prey? Does it like to play and make patterns with its dry cat food? Does it like to watch TV and can it recognize other animals on the two dimensional screen? If you show your cat a picture of cat food from a cat food advertisment will it sniff at it? Does your cat make territorial claw marks on trees? If you make marks in the same places your cat does on trees or furniture, does it show interest? If you can answer all of these 10 questions with a yes, then you may well have a cat that will paint. The fewer positive responses the less likely it is. (Count each "yes" as 10%. For example, four "yes's" will give your cat a 40% chance of painting).


How can I encourage my cat to paint?

If you think your cat has artistic ability there are several things you can do to encourage it to paint. The most effective method is to leave a saucer of non-toxic scented acrylic paint (warmed to room temperature) near its regular toilet areas or by its litter tray, along with a sheet of smooth board which will easily take the paint. Cats commonly mark their territory with scent by leaving their feces in a prominent position or by spraying their urine around so that its unique smell will act as a warning to other cats. Cats will often use their front paws to scrape at earth (or litter), that has been soaked with their urine and then transfer the scented earth to a tree trunk or wall. In this way they can get their scent into a higher position from where it will carry more effectively. Because the ammonia in the scented acrylics smells a lot like cat pee, cats will mark with it in the same way as they do with the earth. Obviously, if you can manage to mix in a little of the cat's own urine with the paints, the cat will be more likely to use them. After a while your cat will come to see that the unique marks it makes in applying the scented paint are just as representative of itself as the scent is. These marks become its signature and the moment the cat begins to manipulate them in order to refine that signature (and make it more distinguishable from other cat's marks), it is making its first genuine aesthetic gesture.


How can you tell if a cat painting is genuine?

Because of the recent growth in popularity of cat art and the often very large sums of money which are made from their sale, forgeries are inevitable. While most curators of cat art have little trouble in spotting a fake, the only way to ensure that a work is genuine is to make sure it is accompanied by a sequence of verifying photographs which clearly show the cat actually working on the painting. Video footage is even better. Most genuine works come with the seal of a Museum of Non-Primate Art and a certification number.


How can I tell what my cat's painting is all about?

As we can't actually talk with our cats it's almost impossible to determine what they are trying to express and whether their work is intended to communicate something to us or other cats, or whether it's simply a Self Rewarding Activity (SRA) as some biologists believe. Other biologists argue that it is no more than a form of territorial marking behavior.However, mounting evidence suggests that some cats' marks are aesthetically motivated and should be treated as genuine works of non-primate art. Dr Arthur Mann proved that cats are capable of making crude representational works but for some unknown reason, often render them upside down - a practice known as Invertism. The most accessable information on what cat painting is all about can be found in "Why Cats Paint" by author and critic Burton Silver and photographer/curator Heather Busch. This clearly written work analyses the work of 12 major cat artists and attempts to uncover their possible motivations. As they say in the preface to their book, it is their hope that by exploring the marks that cats make, they may stimulate interest in a unique feline way of perceiving the world and perhaps derive valuable insights from it.


If we don't know what a cat painting is about, how can we give it a title?

Almost all cat paintings are given a title, either by their owner's or curators. The reason for this is straightforward. "Just as surrounding a painting with an expensive frame and hanging it in a gallery places a value on it, so too, naming a work confirms artistic intent and allows the work to be legitimated and taken seriously. Certainly, by titling a cat's painting, we provide a context within which judgements of aesthetic worth are made. A title such as, "Fluff and Kittens" is likely to suggest a different level of worth than, "Maternal Arrangements" or "Coital Consequences #4". Be that as it may, titles provide a clue, a starting point, no matter how arbitrary or contextually based, from which to begin our journey of discovery into the fascinating world of feline creativity. Without them, we run the risk of dismissing cat art as being no more relevant than the mindless territorial daubings of the graffitist." From Why Cats Paint.


How do I go about selling my cat's paintings?

Contact a Cat Art Society in your area or write to a Museum of Non-Primate Art for advice. You can also approach galleries which specialize in cat art as they are sometimes willing to buy good photographically verified works.


Who is the legal owner of a cat's painting?

Animals cannot hold copyright or have moral rights, so the legal owner of the copyright in a cat's painting is the person or persons who supplied the materials the cat used to make the painting. If your cat stays at a boarding cattery which offers a creative programme and supplies paints and canvas, then any works the cat completes during its stay will belong to the cattery. If the owner supplies the materials then they will own the works.


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