In the United States, tattoos are becoming more popular than ever: About 20% (1 out of 5) of American adults have at least 1 tattoo now, versus around only 13% just a few years ago.
When I saw this statistic, I began wondering about pet-related tattoos and the reasons people decide to get them. So I went out and asked the inked-up to weigh in here at Peful. Here’s what 9 of them had to say.
After the loss of 2 of her cats, Elizabeth Harvey wanted a way to memorialize them for the unconditional love they showed. Each cat is a permanent fixture on her wrist. The tattoos face inward instead of outward, a choice Elizabeth says she made because the tattoos are for her — not for show.
The feline silhouettes are black and gray, with the lighter one representing her gray cat, Pita Pie. Elizabeth nicknamed them her “cat tats” and plans to add to her collection, although doing so would mean another one of her cats has died.
The tattoos “eventually will snake their ways up my arm because I will never be without a cat in my life,” says Elizabeth. “Each will continue to live with me as art on my skin.”
Mama was a 2-year-old German Shepherd/Labrador mix loved by Paul Mancino and his wife. When Mama stopped eating and was no longer able to jump, they took her to the veterinarian. Collecting a blood sample from the dog’s spleen, the vet gave them the bad news that Mama would be around for only another month or so because of a suspected blood virus.
Paul and his wife took Mama home and started planning the best month of Mama’s life. But before they could start crossing items off the dog’s bucket list, sadly, Mama died. Her blood had not clotted after the sample was taken from her spleen. Paul couldn’t bring Mama back, but he wanted a way to keep her spirit alive.
“I love my dog a lot and was devastated by her death,” says Paul. “I decided to get the tattoo because it was a way to keep her around me forever.”
A cat was walking the streets in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware when Carey Buck spotted him. The stray, around a year old, had an injured tail and looked in desperate need of veterinary attention. Carey took him home and named him Buddy. They soon became inseparable.
“It was my first time living on my own for a few years, and he was all I had — so we bonded a lot,” says Carey. Buddy enjoyed his new life and companion for years until he reached 5 years old. But then the cat started having health problems and was taken to a specialist.
Unfortunately, Buddy’s problems were too numerous to save him, and he was euthanized. Carey was devastated.
She started thinking about getting a tattoo to honor her deceased pet. A friend suggested she wait 2 weeks before getting the tattoo to make sure she really wanted it. She agreed, waited the 2 weeks, and got her tattoo.
Carey says the body art has had a cathartic effect. “It really helped with the grieving process because it allows Buddy to live on since he was so young,” she says. “To this day I love when people ask me about my tattoo, and I get to share with them about Buddy.”
Jenny Linderborg and her sisters volunteered at a farm in the southwest suburbs of Chicago as part of their 4-H group. One winter day, the farm owners found a kitten in the middle of a field still alive, although all of his kitten brothers and sisters had perished. Jenny and her sisters gave him a home and named him Murphulls.
At the time, Jenny had another cat named Topper. His name was chosen because of a black spot between his ears that resembled a small top hat. Topper and Murphulls became best friends until Topper’s life ended many years later, at 21 years old. Jenny wanted to honor both of her beloved cats by getting a tattoo.
The cat in her tattoo is now 17-year-old Murphulls (pictured over her shoulder), and the top hat symbolizes Topper.
“I have always liked tattoos,” says Jenny. “I thought that honoring my best buds with a new tattoo would be a good way to commemorate both of them.”
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Allison Lamond was a little unsure about pit bull–type dogs, but she met one when completing her volunteer orientation at the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) 7 years ago. Her first assignment was walking Pinky, a tan-and-white pit mix. Allison fell in love with Pinky and agreed to foster her until she could be adopted.
In the end, the foster home wasn’t necessary, explains Allison. “After months of trying to find her a home, I realized she had already found it. I adopted her on Feb. 14, 2008.” Since that Valentine’s Day decision, Allison has gone on to foster a dozen more dogs.
Her decision to get a tattoo of Pinky was an easy one: “I have several tattoos already (a few small ones, a half-sleeve and a rib/side piece), and this is one of my favorites. It is so silly and perfect. It is exactly what I wanted, and it makes me laugh whenever I see it.”
Laura Current lost her dog Deni to cancer in 2007. Laura’s memorial tattoo consists of a portrait of Deni with the dog’s name underneath.
Laura’s other dog was Kaisa. She had come from the Lancaster Humane Society and was the only dog out of all her littermates to live past her first birthday because she had tested negative for the genetic heart condition the other puppies had.
Kaisa’s good fortune ran out 4 years later, however. “Kaisa was the only pup from the litter who tested negative, but apparently it reared its ugly head a little later in her life,” says Laura.
In honor of Kaisa, Laura had a tattoo of a kaiser roll added to her inkwork.
Working as a body modification artist, Joshua Coburn did several scarification pieces for his clients, many of whom chose paw prints and pet names for their artwork. His shop also tattooed a number of animal portraits, including dogs, cats, horses, lizards, snakes and pigs. He recalled one client who got a tattoo of her dog because the dog knew more of her secrets than anyone else ever did.
Given that he is about 85% covered in tattoos, it is surprising that Joshua doesn’t have a pet tattoo himself. But that’s about to change.
Sir William was originally a mangled cat with broken limbs, jaw and teeth who was missing his right eye. Joshua adopted him and named him after the One-Eyed Willy character from the movie The Goonies.
Willie has been a constant source of peace and companionship for the past 10 years. On his decision to get a tattoo to honor his cat, Joshua explained: “Willie is a part of who I am. [Even after his death] I feel it is only right that he remains so.”
Bryan and Jme Thomas
In addition to running Motley Zoo Animal Rescue and having fostered more than 900 animals, Jme Thomas and her husband, Bryan, adore their own pets. Jme (pronounced “JAY-me”) recalled the 3 black cats who had a big impact on her life. The first, Nabiki, eventually came to be known as Biki. Jme later got 2 black kittens and named them Hex and Curses.
She was devastated after losing them at different times. During a rough time in her life, she decided to commemorate the cats by getting a tattoo of a black cat on her upper arm. It makes her feel better knowing they are still with her in some way.
Meanwhile, Bryan was very close to a small dog named Jetty. He even created a sculpture of the dog. Both Bryan and Jme were heartbroken when Jetty eventually died. As a former tattoo artist himself, Bryan decided to create a tattoo on his hand of Jetty. It is a work in progress and when finished will be a permanent reminder of the dog he loved so much.
As for Jme, she has more tattoos planned. “Eventually I am going to do a full sleeve of them all — the rabbit, the kitties, the dogs,” she says. “It is just one of those things where when I am working [volunteering] 80 to 100 hours a week, 7 days a week, we rarely have time to sit down and do it.”
Considering Getting a Tattoo? Read These Tips
- Research the shop; look for reviews or ask for referrals from previous clients.
- Check that the shop displays proper licensing information from the state. Also, make sure the shop complies with inspection visits and follows required guidelines for safety and sterility.
- Look at the tattoo artist’s portfolio. “Make sure the artist is capable of doing what you want,” says New Orleans–area tattoo artist Scott Allen.
- If you want a portrait tattoo of your pet, find a portrait artist. If you want a design or something different, find an artist whose style is similar to what you have envisioned.
- Search online, use a computer program or draw a sketch of the tattoo you want. Bring in your design to ensure it is something the tattoo artist can and will do. You can also ask for the artist to sketch the design before anything permanent goes on your skin.
- Before getting a tattoo, do not drink alcohol or take any drugs.
- Minors need parental consent.
Source: Scott Allen of Tattooagogo in New Orleans
- Blanton, D. (2014). “Tattoos aren’t just for rebels anymore.” Retrieved from Fox News.
- Harris Interactive. (2012). “One in five U.S. adults now has a tattoo.” Retrieved from The Harris Poll (PDF).
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