4 Steps Cats Use to Explain How to Do Something

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Have you ever had to explain how to do something? Like, how to play with a paper bag? Or how to pet a cat?  Or how to become a cat? There are steps and sequences to follow.

4 Steps Cats Use to Explain How to Do Something

Maybe the protagonist in your story gets a flat tire and their father is going to teach them how to change a tire. Or maybe your protagonist is blind and she wants to explain how to fry eggs if you are blind.

Or maybe you are a cat and you want to help humans become a cat.

Cats Are Good at Explaining Things

Pooh Hodges, who was a regular contributor to The Write Practice before his untimely death, wrote an article about how to become a cat for a contest on Problogger.

Mrs. Hodges took Pooh's winning “how to” post, illustrated it, and made a book. Before he died, Pooh interviewed authors Marion Roach SmithJeff Goins, and Steven Pressfield and shared his book with them. They all agreed that cats are good at explaining things.

A romp for all cat lovers.
—Steven Pressfield

I wish I could have met Pooh. I joined the Hodges household after he died. I think Pooh and I would have gotten along well. We are quite similar.

You see, I am a cat who writes, too.  I write here when Pamela Hodges, the regular biweekly columnist, is too busy cleaning the seven litter boxes. I am inspired by Pooh's book, How to Be a Cat, and today I want to teach you how to explain to someone how to do things.

Maybe we should get Mrs. Hodges to write about how to clean litter boxes?

4 Steps Cats Use to Explain How to Do Something

If you want to explain how to do a specific task, there are several steps you must follow. I will tell you the steps, and I will also use examples to show you how to follow them.

1. Determine the problem you are trying to solve

The first step is to figure out what problem you are trying to solve.

In How To Be a Cat, Pooh helped humans who were tired of being stressed out by the demands of human life. He helped them become cats.

I know you secretly wish you were a cat. You hate shaving your face. You hate waking up early. Your life feels rushed. You have just enough time to shove a doughnut in your mouth and then drive to work. You really want to be a cat.
—Pooh Hodges, How To Be a Cat

I agree with Pooh that humans appear to be stressed and anxious. I am also trying to solve that problem by explaining how to play with a paper bag. Playing with a paper bag relieves stress.

Becoming a cat would be helpful, too. However, if you would have a hard time never driving again, or using your thumbs, I suggest playing with a paper bag instead.


2. Make a list of materials you will need

After you know the problem you are trying to solve, you need to make a list of the materials you will need.

In How To Be a Cat, Pooh doesn't give you a long list of materials, as cats don't need many items. You do have to find a family to live with, and you will have to make a large litter box. However, you won't have to shave anymore, and you won't need a car.

To play with a paper bag, you only need a paper bag and a wall to put it against. You might need to use a large card box instead, because most paper bags are just the right size for a cat, but are too small for humans.

I would gladly trade you my paper bag for your thumbs. Opening a can of sardines whenever I am hungry is something I dream about.

3. Plan out the steps to complete the task

Now that you know the items you'll need, think of everything you have to do to complete the task. At first, don't worry about the order the steps are in. Just get down everything you can think of.

After you have all the steps written down, begin to put them in the proper order.

The first step in How To Be a Cat is to admit you want to be a cat. You wouldn't do Step Two first, where you find a family to live with, unless you had already decided to become a cat.

4. Complete the task yourself

Now, do the task. If you can, that is.

If you are explaining how to attach an air hose to a flying saucer you might have to find an alien ship first. Or you could talk to someone at NASA to ask how to attach an air hose to a space ship. The process might be similar.

If the world in your story is totally different you can create your own processes.

To play with a paper bag, open the paper bag and place it on its side against the wall. Then, from the other side of the room, run towards the bag and leap inside of it. Stay for a few seconds and then run back to the other side of the room. Play with the bag until you get tired from running, then find a sunbeam and take a nap.

Why Try the Steps Yourself?

Suppose you are teaching someone how to fry an egg. If you follow the instructions you created yourself, you might find out that you forget to mention that you must turn the stove on.

If you are describing something you don't know how to do yourself, be sure to double check the instructions with someone who knows how to do your task.

If your protagonist has to explain how to change a tire, talk to someone at a garage and ask them to show you how to change a tire. And, if you are physically able, actually change the tire. There are probably videos online showing you how to change a tire too.

More Knowledge Is Better

The more knowledge you have about a task, the easier it will be to write about the process.

Pooh Hodges knew how to be a cat because he was a cat. And I know how to play with a paper bag because I have played with one.

Would someone please write about how to open a book when you don't have any thumbs? I am trying to open How To Be a Cat to read it to the kittens, Oscar and Clara, but I am having trouble turning the pages.


Have you ever tried to explain how to do something? Have you ever wanted to be a cat?  Please let me know in the comments.


Take fifteen minutes to write a story in which your character explains to someone how to do something.

Decide what problem you want to solve, or a task you want to want to give instructions how to complete. It could be something a character in your story has to explain to someone else. Maybe your protagonist has to show someone how to fry an egg if you are blind.

Please post your how-to steps in the comments section, and then please read someone else's comments. I love this community and how kind everyone is. I wonder if some of you are really cats?


P.S. Here is Pooh's book. He explains in fifteen steps how to be a cat. There is a checklist and a journal section for you to help you as you become a cat. There are paper cut-outs and an official certificate after you complete the fifteen steps. Click on the book to find out more about the book, or go to How to Be a Cat.



This article is by a guest blogger. Would you like to write for The Write Practice? Check out our guest post guidelines.

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  1. dduggerbiocepts

    Really? This is the best TWP can do?

    • Harper Hodges

      Hello dduggerbiocepts,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment.
      I hope you have a nice day.
      There are many writers on The Write Practice.
      Please come back and share your writing. I would love to read your stories.
      Love Harper

      • EmFairley

        Great way to respond to the troll, Harper. Good for you, little one xoxox

        • Tina

          Was not sure this commenter was a troll of a sort; just maybe a Debbie downer (though probably a guy) … maybe they don’t write stories but “creative nonfiction” … in which case, could be a slamdunk

  2. bernadette

    Thank you for this post, Hodges, and for this reason: a character of mine needs to do something I don’t know much about. I’m going to look on You Tube!

    • Harper Hodges

      Hello Bernadette,
      You are very welcome. Did you find what you wanted on You Tube? Please share what you wrote. I would love to meet your character.
      Love Harper

  3. Aspholessaria

    Thanks for that, Harper. I would love to be a cat. I wrote a rather sad short story where I pretended to be a cat. I don’t know if you would think I’d got the thoughts and actions right though.
    Next time I want my protagonist to do something difficult, I’ll follow your advice.

    • Harper Hodges

      Hello Aspholessaria,
      You are very welcome. If you want to share some of your story here I would love to read it. Sometimes stories are sad.
      I hope you had a nice day today.
      Love Harper

  4. Nanchatte

    Dear H.H. —

    Thank you for your creatively wonderful column. I’m reminded that there is nothing so profound than that which is simple. Many want to make things complex. The art of articulation across the masses is to distill things down into simple word pictures. Cats know something about living simply, living creativity and whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales. Cat’s tails and cat’s tales are both seek and very flexible and have an uncanny way of bringing balance to even the most stodgy human’s life.

    Your writing reminds me of a quote I love:

    “O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.”
    — Leo Rosten

    Thank you Harper Hodges!

    — Nanchatte

    • Harper Hodges

      Dear Nancatte,
      So nice of you to comment. Some of the best things in life are simple. Like hugs, sunbeams and a purring cat.
      Thank you for sharing the quote by Leo Rosten. I love it.
      Love Harper

  5. Bruce Carroll

    How to Open a Book without Thumbs
    by Bruce Carroll
    Dedicated to Harper Hodges

    I am going to assume you want to read the book, and not merely open it. (Step 1. Determine the problem you are trying to solve.) Assuming that is the case, you will need the following items: A computer (I prefer a laptop, but a desktop or even a tablet will work fine.), an internet connection (I prefer wifi), and a credit/debit card.

    1. Decide which book you would like to read.
    2. Open your computer’s browser.
    3. Do an online search for the book you have decided on.
    4. Once you have found the book, see if there is an audio version.
    5. If there is no audio version of the book you want, go back to step 1 and choose another book.
    6. If there is an audio version, select it. You may have to use the credit/debit card to pay for the book. (If not, pat yourself on the back — you have found a free book!)
    7. Download the audio book.
    8. Open the audio book and play it.
    9. (Optional step) Leave a review of the book on the site where you purchased it. Authors love to get reviews!

    Bruce Carroll is writing his first novel. He is currently stuck in the middle of Chapter Four, but is determined to press on.

    • Harper Hodges

      Dear Bruce,
      I read your comment earlier in the day, but my typist was out all day and couldn’t type for me.
      Thank you for taking the time to help me with my problem. You are right, I wanted to read the book, and not just open it.
      Oh dear, you are stuck in the middle of Chapter Four. Maybe you would feel better about the story if you played with a paper bag?
      Does Akiko eat fried eggs?
      Love Harper

      • Bruce Carroll

        Thanks for your suggestion, Harper. I have not tried playing with a paper bag yet, but I have been watching “Babymetal: Live at Budokan,” which seems to be helping me relax. I also have a coaching call later this week, which will certainly get me going once again.

        I didn’t realize you are aware of my character, Akiko. In Chapter One, she specifically eats bacon. In her current situation, she can’t afford to be a picky eater. She is blind, however.

  6. EmFairley

    Thanks for another great post, Harper. I’m really enjoying reading Pooh’s book and will post a review soon.

    Much love to you, Mrs. Hodges and the other animals

    • Harper Hodges

      Hello EmFairley,
      Thank you for reading Pooh’s book and for stopping by to say hello. It is always nice to hear from you.
      Mrs. Hodges said to say hello.

      • EmFairley

        Thank you, Harper. I’m loving the book 🙂

  7. drjeane

    When teaching intro to psychology courses, I always had fun with asking students to give verbal instructions for how to tie one’s shoes (this doesn’t always work well now that so many are wearing shoes with velcro closures). Invariably, the student would go through the motions with their hands while trying to give these instructions. Let’s see how it goes in writing.

    1. You will need to have a pair of shoes with laces in place (untied)
    2. Put the shoes on your feet.
    3. Lift the ends of the laces and tighten to a comfortable level.
    4. Cross one lace over the other to form an “X”
    5. Bring that lace under the “x” and pull both to move the “x” to the top of the shoe.
    6. Create a loop with one of the laces and bring the other over and under to create another loop.
    7. Pull on the ends of both loops to tighten.
    8. Repeat the process with the other shoe.

    Yes, I had to go through the process with one shoe several times to create these instructions.

  8. Tina

    [With apologies to Harper for any references to the feline species used in referring to what humans are wont to do, in the following, but sometimes a writer gotta do what a writer gotta do; this how-to fraction-of-a-scene, takes place somewhere in New England :]
    They already descended to camp.
    Gerrard led in his arrival by several yards. He was nearly exhausted but sported a wan but cat-got-the-canary grin …
    “Wehhlll, hon. Soon gonna be time for the early-bird special,” he told Krisha as they lay down their heavy backpacks. In a reasonably flat area cleared of leaves, Adela and Jon arrived first, and had by then succeeded in laying some larger stones in a rough ovaloid shape, and a few fallen branches within—some of them arranged in a tipi-like structure—from areas close by. The sun was still about 40° over the visible near-summit horizon in the semi-sparsely wooded mountainside …

    “I don’t remember being able to do this, though I’ve watched some of it being done,” Krisha said, still a little out of breath. “Maybe 20 years ago. On a retreat. While in my college years …”

    Gerrard chucked her on the chin. “Twenty years ago! Yeah, you COULD pass for a bit younger. You really DO have a nicely curved, bodaceaous boo–”

    Krisha interjected, “You know? I’m gonna let that slide for now. What happened to you being nice, Ger … what happened?”

    “Letting it go: Good call! So, as to the matter at hand,” he spoke, conspiratorially, “Soon Adela is going to ask us to help, and gather twigs and dry leaves … what did you think? Time is of the essence.”

    “… yeah, can’t exactly order it delivered from the twigs24 app from here—no reception.”

    “Isn’t that great, babe?”

    “I guess they have the main provisions packed as well.”

    “Young and strong, those two. Awesome hosts on for trip of your life” Gerrard smiled.
    Adela approached Gerrard and told him what they had to do. Krisha and Gerrard went into the wooded area, while Jon and Adela continued to unpack their packs. They were poking each other in the ribs, and laughing; and gathering loads of twigs. That was the fun part of the deal.

    They brought it to round out the tipi structure.

    Jon produced his trusty little starter log. It automatically generated sparks amongst the largest of the kindling twigs.

    “The wonders of chemistry and piezo electricity, all in one will provide our magic, Krisha.”

    “Okay … I guess you can’t stop teaching, really; not for one minute …” Krisha smiled.
    “Okay, settle down, now … here are the startings of our campfire …”

  9. Liz

    How to relax after work …
    1. give your husband $20 and tell him to have a night out with the guys
    2. put a pizza and 2 large sippy cups in front of the TV and tell your children to enjoy the movie
    3. sneak into the bathroom and lock the doors, don’t turn on the lights, while the tub is filling, light candles and get undressed
    4. get in tub
    5. you’ll have about 2 min before the kids realize where you are and start beating on the door

    • LilianGardner

      A great, easy to-do idea, Liz. Let’s hope the hubby accepts $20 and doesn’t ask for more, or say, ‘I’m not going without you’, as mine does.

  10. TerriblyTerrific

    You are certainly “A go to” for information. And, I love how you don’t discriminate when it come to providing ideas for everyone. Thank you. You are helping me to like cats. Keep up the good work. My condolences to Pooh. I know you two would have been inseparable and unstoppable.

  11. Jim Hughes

    I like cats (and dogs). I have a cat, her name is Callie (short for PrincessCallie). I do wish I had a tail to swish back and forth when pondering life. And it would nice to ignore life intruders when I want to.

    • Harper Hodges

      Hello Jim Hudges and Princess Callie Hughes,
      So nice of you to stop by and comment. Joanne Fabrics sells fabric, if you wanted to sew a tail, however it is not the same as being a real cat.
      The best place to ponder life is taking a nap in a sunbeam, humans and cats do that equally well.
      I hope your day today is full of sunbeams and cat purrs.


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