Why You Should Get a Tattoo of Your Pet · The Wildest

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Why You Should Get a Tattoo of Your Pet

Could this be the ultimate way to show your love for your pet?

by Ro Elfberg
16 May 2024
LightFieldStudios / iStock

All pet parents can agree: our cats and dogs are up there with the most important people in our lives. They love us unconditionally, they provide emotional support through the bad times, laughter and joy through the good times – they’re our everything. So what better way to honour your bestie than by immortalising them forever on your skin?

Pet tattoos have been a steadily rising trend over the last few years in line with the growth in popularity of hyper-realistic style tattoos, which allows pet parents to quite literally have their pet’s likeness inked on them. And unlike getting a matching tattoo with your significant other (writer’s note: do not do this when you are 16 years old as I did), pet parents know for certain that their love for their pet will live on forever. As tattoo artist Ewa Ink, who has an 18-year-old tabby cat named Mia, says: “You can get a partner’s name tattooed and eventually regret that decision, but you’d never consider a cover-up for a pet because they’ll never let you down.”

Yazz El Chammaa, whose husband is a tattoo artist and who has a tattoo of her five-year-old Sphynx cat, Britney, agrees. “I decided to get a tattoo of Brit because of the overwhelming unconditional love I have for her,” she says. “As someone who already has other tattoos, it would be more of a choice not to do it than to do it. I got my tattoo of Brit in lockdown and it felt like the perfect time, considering I have an in-house tattooer!” Her advice if you’re on the fence about the decision? “Do it! Pick your favourite picture, one that holds fond memories, and quirk it. I have a crown floating over Brit’s head and a sash across her that says ‘Princess’ – I didn’t want it overly serious.”

And from the perspective of her tattoo artist husband, Chris Bintt who owns Black Tapestry Tattoo in London, and shares Britney and their other cat, Bag, with Yazz, having pet tattoos himself and tattooing them on his clients is something he really enjoys. “It’s cool understanding how much the tattoo means to the wearer and how special and important their bond with their pet is,” he says. “It’s fun talking about our animals during the tattoo session, their quirky habits or what annoys us about them! And it’s really nice to look at a cute photograph of an animal all day whilst tattooing it on someone.” 


Best friends forever

When it comes to deciding whether to take the plunge and get a pet tattoo, everyone we spoke to with pet tattoos felt that it was a uniquely special way to pay tribute to their best friends and mark their shared memories. “Tattoos are a way of celebrating events and things in your life,” says artist Lee Whiteman, who tattooed his dog Ivor’s name on his own knee, DIY style (don’t try this at home, kids). “I decided to mark this special little guy’s name on me permanently. I now have a long-haired Jack Russell called Dotty as well, so I guess I should write that on my other knee so she doesn’t get jealous!”

Calum Mutch, meanwhile, has three cat tattoos in honour of his love for cats. “It’s funny because I’m much more of a dog person, but having my cat really pushed me into liking cats (mostly my cat, though).” Dax, the cat in question, is now 14 years old and Calum says, “I know Dax won’t live forever, so having something to remind me of him means he’ll always be close to me.” He’s also considering a fourth addition to the cat tatt collection. “Will I get more? Maybe one more in memory of my cat as he gets even older, but more dedicated to him specifically rather than just cat inspired.”

While Niina Topp doesn’t have a pet of her own, she formed a best friendship with her housemates’ Boston Terrier, Poppy. Although they no longer live together, Niina is Poppy’s number one favourite human after her pet parents and they both love getting to spend the weekend together if her pet parents go out of town. “I miss Poppy a lot when I’m away, so having her tattooed on my arm means she’s always with me,” says Niina. “It’s still one of my favourite tattoos and looking at it brings me happiness.”

A colour tattoo of a Boston Terrier with rainbows, spaceships and planets surrounding it.
Niina’s tattoo of Poppy

Why the artists love tattooing pet portraits

The tattoo artists themselves also appreciate the importance and significance of tattooing their clients’ pets on them. “Getting a tattoo is already a very personal experience, so when a client asks me to design one based on their beloved pet, it makes the tattoo all the more special. I love animals and it’s just such a joy to spend the session talking about our cats, dogs and the occasional goldfish,” says Ewa. 

Daniel Pineiro, who works at One By One Tattoo in London, uses a mixture of realistic and geometric styles in his pet portraits and has two rescue dogs himself – an eight-year-old German Shepherd named Kira, and Dana, a six-year-old Australian Shepherd mix breed. “What I enjoy the most about tattooing pets is bringing the photo of my client’s best friend to life and the smile I put on their faces for the rest of their life when they look at the tattoo.” His first pet portrait tattoo was a Pit Bull: “I always wanted to do animal portraits as I love animals, especially dogs, and I love the challenge of doing them.”

A hyper-realistic black and white tattoo of two dogs.

A black and grey tattoo of a fluffy dog face.

Naomi Raksha, who tattoos under the name Holiday Jello, first started tattooing animals after her apprenticeship. “I tattooed a hamster on somebody, which was just a scraggly ball with little eyes and little fingers, but it wasn’t hyper-realistic – it was a take on a furry ball that was her hamster. The hamster had died, so they wanted something cute, nothing too serious.” Now, Naomi tattoos super-cute mini pet portraits for her clients. “From a technical point of view, I love tattooing different textures and anything that’s a challenge. There’s so much you can do with fur and it keeps me captivated while I’m tattooing,” she says. “I love seeing how happy pet tattoos make other people, everyone is always so ecstatic after and some people even cry.”

A black and grey tattoo of a Dachshund in a hot dog bun.

A black and white tattoo of a Dalmation

David Corden, who works at Semper Tattoo in Edinburgh and is known for his portrait style, has two French Bulldogs, Bronson, 10 and Chopper, 9, so he understands how much his clients’ pets mean to them. “Ever since I’ve been doing portraits, I’ve been doing animal portraits as well. Portraits are my love, whether it be people or animals,” he says. “Meeting other pet parents, I know I’ll have a great day talking about animals! If nothing else, I know we have a love of animals in common.” His most memorable animal tattoo? “I have one particular client who is a zookeeper – she has had all of the animals she has cared for tattooed as a sleeve. She works with schools in Madagascar to train them about conservation, the students call her ‘the painted lady’ and call me ‘the magic man’, and they’ve done drawings of the animals for me.”

A full colour tattoo of a Bulldog with a tennis ball in their mouth.

A full colour tattoo of a grey and white cat.

In memoriam

For pet parents whose beloved animals have passed away, pet portraits can also be a poignant and significant way to memorialise their relationship and keep the memory of their dog or cat’s personality alive forever. Jen Patterson, who rescued her 16-year-old Staffie, Noodles, from Battersea when she was two years old, is considering how she might mark her best friendship with her pup when she passes away: “For years, I had planned to get a tattoo for Noodles, like getting one for a current family member or partner. All the advice you get against such tattoos made me concerned that maybe something would happen that might make me regret it,” she says. “So I have decided that when Noodles passes away, getting a memorial tattoo will allow me to represent our entire life together.”

When it comes to getting memorial tattoos of a pet, David offers this advice: “Take your time and don’t rush into it. Breathe a little first,” he says. “I would also recommend committing to a size that allows for the level of detail that would do your pet justice, I personally don’t do micro realism for that reason.” He also recommends that if you plan to get a tattoo once your pet has passed but they’re still with you at the moment, “take photos that are as good as you possibly can, even if that means having a professional photo shoot. The better the reference, the better the tattoo.”

A full colour tattoo of a brown Spaniel.

Getting a tattoo of your departed pet also helps some people to deal with the grief. “I inked a paw print of a cat that had passed away and it was such a sad but beautifully therapeutic session that allowed for closure,” says Ewa. Daniel, too, understands the importance of being trusted with commemorating animals who are no longer with us. “Every pet portrait I do is special,” says Daniel. “But sometimes you get to do portraits of the ones who passed away, which adds a little more pressure – but it’s always a challenge and one of the things I love the most.”

How to prepare for a pet tattoo

First, decide on the style you want. From traditional and neo-traditional to realism, blackwork or colour – there’s a lot of decisions to make. Do you want a hyper-realistic portrait that really looks like your pet? If so, follow David’s earlier advice with regards to ensuring you bring a clear photograph of your pet. Or perhaps you want something a bit more abstract, like a paw print, or a portrait that incorporates flowers, frames or geometry. “I normally work a lot with geometry and depending on the area and the position of the pet in the photo, sometimes I suggest adding a frame or something around to hold the picture better,” says Daniel.

A tattoo of dog with geometric designs around it.

Once you have an idea of the style, look for artists that specialise in it – deep dive on social media and search tags to find the right artist for you. “Be willing to travel, if you’ve set your heart on an artist, travel to that person, otherwise you’ll wish you had. Be willing to do your research and wait until the right artist has availability,” advises David.

Most tattoo artists will have a booking form that asks questions about the placement of the tattoo, the size, reference pictures and more. And you might either be invited to a consultation to discuss your design further before the day of your tattoo, or you may not see the design until the appointment itself, at which point you can usually ask for tweaks. There are lots of other important ways to prepare for a tattoo, and the studio or artist will give you all the information you need ahead of time.

So, are you ready to give your pet the greatest honour of being tattooed on you forever? 

Ro Elfberg

Ro Elfberg

Ro is The Wildest UK’s Senior Editor. She has previously written and copy-edited for British Vogue, Glamour and DICE. When she’s not being manipulated into dishing out Dreamies to Kobe the cat, she spends her free time trying to convince her snake, Butters, to wear a tiny hat.

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