Pet Tattoos Are the New Couples Ink
Tattoo artist Evan Kim on why pet ink is the ultimate (and unregrettable) homage. Plus, 15 of the raddest dog and “cattoos” on the Gram.
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Search the hashtag “cattattoo” (or, even, “cattoo”) on Instagram and you’ll be met with hundreds of thousands of results — rows and rows of images of inked limbs and torsos featuring one critical commonality: a cat. A green-eyed beauty with rainbow backdrop; a fine-point black-and-white cat, its legs splayed as it slurps a bowl of ramen; a trio of manga cats tucked into a banana peel; a tiny cat head pictured in an avocado (labeled, naturally, avocato); a formal portrait of a tabby with top hat and monocle…
If the very act of having a tattoo inducts you into a tribe of like-minded individuals, then the thriving dog and cattoo community could be considered a sub-tribe. Honoring your pet has taken the form of tattoos for many, including countless well-known fans of the medium — Demi Lovato’s ankle has ink of her beloved dog Buddy; Lena Dunham’s shoulder, of her cat Gia; Ariana Grande, Pink, and Miley Cyrus all have multiple tattoos of their dogs; Orlando Bloom’s late dog’s name (Mighty) is emblazoned over his heart; Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, and Howard Stern and his wife Beth have matching dog-related tattoos; and Jennifer Aniston’s only known tattoo is Norman, the name of her late Corgi on her foot.
While tattoos are often a vehicle for commemorating the life of a pet that has passed, this year may see a surge of living memorials. After all, as our worlds became that much more insular and, ergo, more time than ever was spent with our pets, recognizing them while they’re living takes on a new urgency. Artist Evan Kim — whose clients include Kaia Gerber, Zosia Mamet, and Brooklyn Beckham — frequently renders animals in ink. We caught up with him to talk pet tattoos.
Are you seeing an uptick in requests from clients for tattoos of their pet’s name or likeness? If so, why do you think?
There’s definitely an increase in pet lovers, especially cat moms. A tattoo is a form of affection towards their pets. It is a form that they choose. I believe there’s an increase in the number of people choosing this form of affection.
Are pet tattoos often done in a commemorative way after a pet passes or when the pet is still alive? Do you approach them differently?
I find myself more sensitive to the commemorative tattoo. It’s very different; when a client comes in with the story of their pet’s passing, there are greater emotions involved. I’ve had clients who smile and clients who cry once the tattoo is finished. It has an emotional effect on me as well, so I find myself approaching such tattoo works more carefully.
I’ve seen a lot of dog tattoos; have you done tattoos of other types of pets as well?
Cats, goats, squirrels, chickens, snakes, rabbits, fish…
Do you yourself have a pet? And, if so, do you have a tattoo of them?
A few! My dog is a Toy Poodle named Coco. They are supposed to be the size of a toy, but he is quite bigger than a toy. I also have a variety of fish and two turtles. But no, I don’t have any tattoos of my pets…right now.
Any advice for those who are considering a pet tattoo?
Just bring in a good quality photo of your pet. Other than that, it’s not a big deal! Come with a good memory and we can create a style for each individual based on the story, no matter what size or placement. The connection and relationship are what’s most important.
Is there a difference between tattooing pet and pet names on clients, versus the names and images of romantic partners? The pet connection feels like a much purer one to me!
I mean, we can’t break up with our pets!
Check out some other pet ink below…
Fiorella Valdesolo is a writer, editor, brand and creative consultant. She’s worked with New York, Elle, The Wall Street Journal, T, Glamour, Vogue, Women's Health, Nylon, Style.com, Net-a-Porter, and Domino, among others. She is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the independent food magazine Gather Journal and the author of Pretty: The Nylon Book of Beauty. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner Nate and daughter Aluna. Her dream interview remains Stevie Nicks.