I like this cat, and the way he stands out is just great! One tip is to color the clouds with blue/purple tones so the wood colors will not dominate upon the cat, but it looks nice as it is now as well.
Now then I know the trick, I see what you mean. So, I think you did great job! Hate the art teachers who want your work to look exactly as THEY see it, leaving nothing to your own personality... I hope this is not the case of most of the teachers in HIT.