As the popularity of tattoos strengthens in mainstream culture, the art and subject matter used in tattoos also expands and evolves. Today you’ll see tattoos you absolutely wouldn’t have seen 20 years ago. One of these increasingly popular tattoos is the cat tattoo. Perhaps even more interesting is the variation on the theme. A simple cat tattoo might once have been just a portrait of your cat. A photo-realistic tattoo, perhaps, if you happened to find an artist with great reproduction skills. Today, tattoo artists and in some cases, their patrons, are getting way more creative than just getting a simple cat tattoo. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the prevailing styles you’ll see if you’re in the market for a cat tattoo.
The Cat Tattoo Evolved
If you’re here, then odds are you are contemplating getting a cat tattoo for yourself. Maybe you aren’t sure what style of cat tattoo you want, or perhaps you just want to see what your options are. We’ve tried to pull together as many of styles as we could find. Of course, you’re sure to run into some cat tattoos that completely stand out and are wholly unique. What you’ll find here are styles that are either already popular or are growing in popularity. This means that these are tattoo styles that should be the easiest for you to match to an artist near where you live. In most cases, that one super-unique piece you find on the internet is a breakout style and typically that means there’s just a few people doing that –often in far away parts of the world. Our objective here isn’t to show you what you can’t have, but to show you what you can.
Good luck with your cat tattoos! Here are the most popular styles we came across.
Photo-realistic Cat Tattoo
Photo-realistic means exactly what it sounds like. You bring a picture of your cat to your tattoo artist and that person then duplicates the picture on your skin. If you have a photogenic cat, or are getting the tattoo as a memorial to a deceased feline pal, then this style is probably what you are looking for.
To make your search for a tattoo artist skilled in this style easier, you may want to look for artists who specialize in reproduction art–the craft of reproducing existing pieces, or realism.
The examples we have here are both from Thea Duskin of Ghostprint Gallery in Richmond, VA. Thea specializes in lineless or watercolor style tattoos.
These types of tattoos have a softer look and feel than tattoos that use a traditional hard black outline, which of course works great when you’re working with such fluffy subject matter.
Traditional Style Cat Tattoo
Cats have been used in the traditional style of tattooing for a while now. Often they are black cats and are meant to convey that either the wearer is bad luck or that bad luck is drawn to them. As the popularity of cats in tattoo art increases, we’re seeing the use of cats in traditional tattoos growing and expanding because hell, some people just like cats!
With traditional style cat tattoos, you’ll have the option of color or black and white (as you will with most styles) but when it comes to traditional tattoos, adding color can really change the feel of the piece. Keep that in mind.
These pictures are pretty typical of what traditional style cat tattoos will look like. Both examples hail from Hold It Down Tattoo in Richmond, VA –a shop well versed in creative use of traditional style tattoos.
Victorian Portrait Style Cat Tattoo
This is easily one of the most rapidly spreading trends in tattooing right now. We’ve seen it done with just about every animal imaginable, but there are certainly plenty of cats tattoos out there. This style is modeled off of Victorian era portraits. In some cases they can even resemble cameo pendants in the way they are styled and framed. These are almost always colored tattoos and often are large pieces due to the level of detail involved.
Some Victorian style cat tattoos are simply a cat with an Art Nouveau or Art Deco style frame. Other versions of the style dress the cats up as though they were in the Victorian era themselves, with monocles, top hats, lace, you name it. It’s a good look and definitely a conversation starter. Just the kind of thing your grandmother will love.
Lucky Cat Tattoo and Japanese Style Cats
Aside from cat portraiture, one of the most prevalent styles of cat tattoos are Lucky Cat tattoos. In Japanese these are referred to as Maneki-neko, or “beckoning cat”. The Lucky Cat is a figurine intended to bring one luck and is usually depicted with one paw in the air as if motioning you to come forward.
These tattoos can be done in traditional Japanese style or in a more modern take. They are often worn by people who have an interest in Japanese or Asian culture. They are often associated with cuisine as the figurines are commonplace in many Asian restaurants. One of our examples, done by Matt Brotka at Salvation Tattoo Gallery, is featured with a bowl of ramen and sushi, illustrating our point.
Not all “Japanese style” cat tattoos are Lucky Cats though. Cats have been a part of Chinese and Japanese culture for centuries and are frequently depicted in their art. In both cases, the cat is thought to bring good luck as they kept away mice and rats who steal family’s grain. Cats were seen as protectors of the home. The last picture was done by Erin Chance at Ghostprint Gallery in Richmond, VA.
Modern Cat Tattoos
Not all cat tattoos have to adhere to a specific style. If you’re more of an “Outside the box” individual, you might like these modern cat tattoos. Most of these styles pull from other genres, but the point here is that they are instantly recognizable. They stand out from the crowd and they really don’t blend into the background, which is increasingly common given the popularity and prevalence of tattoos. Some folks are traditional and others aren’t, and these modern cat tattoos really set the two types apart.
The hipster Satan cat tattoo employs a modern traditional style and modern cultural themes with good ol’ fashioned evil. Much like your cat, who’s gonna tell him he’s been bad? Look at that face!
We also have a cat tattoo done in what some people call a “watercolor” style. It’s very modern art, with its abstract elements which really help it to stand out.
We also have another cat portrait tattoo that really stands out. The bandana was a nice touch, too. (Another Erin Chance piece–she’s really good at this cat thing, but we recommend checking out her other work as well).
Cheshire Cat Tattoos
This could easily be its own page, but we don’t have a lot of time to update the site so it’s going to live here for now. There are thousands of Cheshire cat tattoos out there in more styles than we care to count. A quick Google image search will show you what we mean. For those who may not be familiar, the Cheshire cat is an enigmatic cat-shaped creature from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The character has been quite popular and there have been a vast number of artistic variations ranging from the cute and cuddly to the demented, dark, and haunting. This example is somewhere between the two.
Cartoon Cat Tattoos
Sometimes the cats we love are from our childhood. Sometimes they aren’t actually real cats. Lots of folks have tattoos of cartoon cats, either because they love the cartoon, or they love cats… or both. Our example here is of a pair of cats made famous by the popular anime Sailor Moon. Of course, there are plenty of other popular cartoon cats, but these stood out as really fine examples.
Of course, there are more types of cat tattoos out there and if you’re especially crafty or clever you’re likely to invent your own. For those of you who came here hoping to get some ideas for your own tattoo, we hope you got what you were looking for! If you’re in the Richmond, VA area and looking to get some fresh ink, check out our directory of tattoo shops to find an artist and shop.