The best thing about having a pet is unquestionably the endless amount of joy it gives you. Ask any pet owner and they’ll immediately tell you their animals are the loves of their lives and/or their best friends. (Plus, science proves the feeling is 100 percent mutual.) Which is why getting a pet tattoo in homage to your dog, cat, or whatever is a pretty common practice.
“I think it’s the unconditional love,” says Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Erika Vendett of the popularity of the pet tattoo. “When we think of our pets generally all we can think of is happiness—so getting a permanent picture of them on our bodies is just a constant reminder and beacon of happiness.”
And what pet owner wouldn’t want to honor their fur baby? (Or fur babies. The more pets the merrier, TBH.) At the very least it’s worth considering. Scroll through these 13 different takes on the pet tattoo for inspiration and ideas for your own future piece.
1. This sweet little guy
It’s no surprise Vendett frequently gets requests for a pet tattoo if you consider her portfolio. “My first tattoo ever was actually a pet portrait,” she says. “It was for a probably far-too-trusting friend at the time and it was her cat.” And today Vendett still loves the subject matter. “You just can’t be mad when your job involves staring at a photo of a happy fur baby for hours on end.”
2. These two cuddle buds
These two felines fit perfectly inside of this fine line frame. Plus, the box’s rectangular shape provides for ample negative space, giving balance and simplicity to an otherwise complex and detailed design.
3. This extremely cool chihuahua
Vanessa Monday’s pieces typically start as watercolor paintings before they’re transferred from paper to skin, which explains the pristine use of both black and grey as well as color ink. You can find Monday working out of Jes Valentine’s Haven Studio, which recently opened and is known for being an inclusive, safe space for anyone who walks through its doors.
4. These sweet bunbuns
These bunnies are cute—but when you learn their names are Doris and Barney, they’re that much cuter. And while this playful linework piece could have worked beautifully with just the black ink work, the additional pops of color add the proper edge bunnies named Doris and Barney deserve.
5. This well-behaved boy
A style that’s tricky to imagine until you see it, crayon tattoos have the look of drawings done with the waxy sticks. It’s a relatively new style: The hashtag #crayontattoo only has around 4,000 posts, whereas #watercolortattoo has over a million (Ed. note: At time of publication.) Its casual feel lends itself pretty well to not only the pup, but the bright blooms behind him as well.
6. This precious face
We also can’t resist this tiny crayon tattoo paying homage to a feline friend from the same artist. Who could?! .
7. This very good duo
These two pups are encircled by a floral laurel, a trend that we’re seeing consistently both in the pet tattoo category and among all body art. Designed by Hannah Kang of Nice Tattoo Parlor (one of our fave spots in New York City), the actual dogs themselves are trending, too: As of 2018, French Bulldogs ranked fourth most popular dog breed in the United States. Judging by her Instagram profile, Hannah Kang, artist at Nice Tattoo parlor (which made our NYC city guide BTW) seems to consistently have clients coming in for pet tattoos.
8. This motley crew
This San Francisco artist fully understands the power of getting one of your pets tattooed. “For those of you who receive pet tattoos from me, I know exactly what your pet tattoo means to you, as I also have tattoos of all 3 cats I have raised,” reads one of the artist’s Instagram captions. “I really appreciate your entrusting me to work on your meaningful tattoos. It really means a lot to me.” The artist, who goes by Jia, not only volunteers her time at the local SPCA, but makes monthly donations from what she’s earned tattooing too. In just a year, she’s already gifted $6,000 for animal-related causes.
9. This pint-sized paw print
If you’re a big fan of massive tiny tattoo trend, look no further than this minimal—and miniature—way to show your love. This tiny paw print fits perfectly on the wrist, as the placement is a small enough of a canvas so that the byte-sized design doesn’t get lost.
10. This starry portrait
The work of celeb-favorited, LA-based Dr. Woo (he recently worked with Hailey Bieber on a neck tattoo) this creative concept blends pet a portrait with an equally popular constellation tattoo that’s part of the space-themed trend. Or you can call the single needle work what Woo captioned it as: a “lil friendstellation.”
11. This trio of tails
Featuring a trio of tails, this micro tattoo is a fresh take on honoring several furry friends in one pretty piece. Plus, cat owners know all too well how important their tails are to them: You can tell a lot about a cat’s mood based on what they’re doing with their tail.
12. This dotwork design
You don’t need to get your pet’s face to show them some love. Artists can often turn a pet’s actual paw print into a permanent piece. Details with shading, and in this case dotwork, can give it an authentic look and feel to the real thing.
13. This pretty fur babe
A common thread is that many pet tattoos are small, fine line or single needle designs, but make no mistake—pet portraits can also be bold. Take this kitty by New Zealand’s Amanda Toner, who specializes in neotraditional tattoos—a modern, detail-oriented iteration of the American Traditional style. Her style is bold on its own, but to make the piece stand out even further, Toner also included some pops of white ink on the cat’s eyes, whiskers, and nose.
If you liked our gallery 13 Pet Tattoo Ideas Because Furry Friends Are the Best Kinds of Friends, be sure to check out these 13 Disney Tattoos for the Ultimate Stan.