Utagawa Kuniyoshi was one of the last great masters of the Japanese ukiyo-e style of woodblock prints and painting. He was a member of the Utagawa school. His mastery was also seen in one aspect of his work: he loved depicting cats!
In Japanese folklore, cats symbolize good luck and are said to have protective powers, but Kuniyoshi depicted them without any idealization; in his woodcuts, they behave like real cats ... like the one we see here hissing at a reclining beauty reading a book and holding a pipe with her legs in the kotatsu (a low, open wooden frame covered by a blanket with a heat source underneath). The cat might have felt threatened by the woman, or he is just being himself.
This scene, created in early 19th-century Japan and depicting a beautiful woman compared to a hero of the semi-historical Chinese novel, Suikoden (Shuihu zhuan in Chinese) looks so natural and modern. All thanks to the hissing cat!