Cat Haiku

Cat haiku are classics in traditional haiku. Here are a few all-timers.

Cat haiku by Japanese poets

Cat Haiku by Traditional Japanese Poets


When you read traditional haiku, many of the same characters and themes begin to emerge. You read a lot of verses about dragonflies and plum trees and horses and frogs. Another thing you’ll find is a good amount of cat haiku. This is largely due to the influence of Kobayashi Issa, one of the four haiku masters in Japan, who wrote many haiku about cats.

Cat Haiku by Issa


In the shimmering haze
The cat mumbled something
In its sleep

Out from the darkness
Back into the darkness—
Affairs of the cat

Playing hide-and-seek
In the bush clover

Spring rains—
A child teaches the cat
A dance

Wake up, old tomcat,
then with elaborate yawns and stretchings
prepare to pursue love

the farm cat
makes Buddha’s lap
a pillow

among red plum blossoms
drying from its bath
a cat

the kitten catches one
now and then…
fallen leaves

the cat washes in the river…
spring rain

the big cat
flops down to sleep
on the fan

the cat joins
the drinking party…
forgetting the year

the kittens
play house
in the pampas grass

under the ice
the cat’s eyes follow…
crazy fish

teasing a butterfly
with his tail…
the kitten

As a poet Kobayashi Issa was attentive to the small creatures of the world – cats, butterflies, and mosquitos are all prominent characters in his work. But underneath the humorous images of kittens at play, there is sometimes a tinge of sadness. Issa suffered many tragedies in his life including— losing his mother at a young age, the death of his wife and three children, an unsuccessful second marriage, and the burning down of his house. Despite all of this Issa is known for his compassion and humor and remains one of the most popular haiku poets of all time.

Cat Haiku by Shiimoto Saimaro

(1656 — 1737)

Overflowing with love
The cat as couettish
As a courtesan

Shiimoto Saimaro studied haiku under Ihara Saikaku, a famous poet and fiction writer. Later in life he became associated with Basho, the world’s most famous haiku master. Though he never became as well known as these two men, Saimaro became a powerful figure in the Osaka haiku world later in his life.

Cat Haiku by Konishi Raizan 


Both partners
Sport whiskers—
Cats’ love

Konishi Raizan also studied haiku with Ihara Saikaku. The tone of his early work is often comical and witty, but he later changed to a more serious style close to Bashō’s.

Cat Haiku by Yosa Buson

(1716 – 1784)

Evening glories—
The cat chewing the flower
Has its mind elsewhere

Along with Issa and Basho, Buson is widely considered to be one of the greatest haiku poets of all time. Buson was both a painter and a poet and his haiku are often accompanied by a painting, a style of art known as haiga. Like Basho, Buson traveled widely through Japan for many years before settling down in Kyoto.

Cat Haiku by Tomiyasu Fusei


There’s nothing
He doesn’t know—
The cat on the stove

The most contemporary poet on the list, Tomiyasu Fusei was one of the leading haiku poets of the twentieth century. Fusei traveled widely in Europe and The United States before settling back in Japan and studying haiku under Kyoshi Takahama.

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3 responses to “Cat Haiku”

  1. […] Poetry is often associated with high seriousness and lofty emotions, while humor is associated with levity and irreverence. Yet, some of the most memorable and beloved poems are those that manage to combine these seemingly […]

  2. […] These example poems our from our article “Cat Haiku“ […]

  3. […] you read traditional haiku, many of the same themes emerge. You read verses about cats and flowers and horses. Another thing you’ll find is a good amount of frog haiku. This is most […]

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Sam and Corey started Poetry is Pretentious to demystify poetry. More importantly, their 5th grade teacher told them they couldn’t go through life as a team. 18 years later they’re here to prove her wrong.


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