Love them or hate them, there’s no middle ground where cats are concerned.
Aloof and independent, at turns icy and warmly affectionate, there’s no figuring out the feline mind, which makes it all the more alluring.
Humans have been enjoying the company of their feline companions for thousands of years, with evidence seen everywhere from the inky paw prints in Da Vinci’s notebooks to ancient Egyptian tombs. A symbol of higher power and primitive grace, the cat as we know it today carries a long and rich iconography.
Whether you’re honoring a beloved pet or the archetype itself, a cat tattoo speaks of the rare kind of man you are. You don’t require the unquestioning loyalty and constant enthusiasm of, say, a dog, nor do you require similar conduct from your companions. You understand the cat’s secrecy, and fierce aversion to having its space invaded; conversely, you are endlessly generous with those who have put in the work to deserve your affection. A representation of the darker aspects of the psyche, the nocturnal cat isn’t afraid to venture where others fear to follow.
The man who welcomes the cat into his life–be it in the fur or on the skin–is an exceptional soul. Patient and steadfast, with an ever-so-slight sarcastic glean in his eye, he takes on the world on his own terms. Just as the cat asks for neither permission nor forgiveness, so too does he proceed with hardly a second thought for his detractors.
One thing is certain: once you’ve won the cat’s love, it’s for life.
This black and gray piece is an excellent example of a cat design that uses a photo-realistic approach to create a great tattoo. Here, the artist utilizes expertly applied black and gray shading to create the face and body of this cat, eschewing line work in favor of this more life-like approach. The gradation of tones is excellent, perfectly capturing the expression in the cat’s face as well as using light gray wash tones to make up the background, increasing contrast and definition in this car portrait. The whip shading used where the darker portions of the cat meet with the white in the chest is excellent and creates a realistic impression of the wisps of fur. This is a great tattoo that most likely serves as a commemoration to a beloved pet.
This is a piece that uses a more illustrative design, incorporating elements of American traditional with some aspects of new-school tattoo work. Here, the artist uses a variety of shading techniques to create different textures that help to make for a more dynamic tattoo. The hatching that is used in the face is reminiscent of lithographs, while the fine dot work that is used in the leaves and the beetle help to create stylistic contrast. The incorporation of a halo of thorns, wreaths of leaves and decorative filigree at the bottom of the piece, as well as the cat’s third eye, all work to create a piece that brings to mind a demon cat from a different realm.
This is a more playful piece that uses black and gray ink to create a lovely ode to cats and tattoos. Here, the artist sticks with fine dot stipple work for the shading, with fully saturated black ink and large areas of negative space to create contrast. What really sets this tattoo apart, however, are the small details. The face of the cat is perfectly captured; with just a few lines the artist is able to create a salty sailor-cat, complete with a fully-rigged ship tattooed on its chest. The small machine, complete with a bottle of “INK”, and the fact that the cat is having its stripes tattooed on are funny little details that show off the wearer’s love for cats, tattoos and sense of humor.
Here is a piece that uses bright colors and an illustrative approach to create an ode to the supernatural connection associated with cats. The gradation of tones and full saturation of color in this piece are exquisite and perfectly create a demon cat that looks like it could come straight from a comic book. The perspective in this design is also perfectly captured, giving the impression of depth by accurately depicting a larger paw in comparison to the rest of the animal. The third eye, a common mystical element as well as the horns of a ram, an animal steeped in occult traditions, leave no doubt about the wearer’s respect for these animals that are believed to have a link to the other side.
This is a lovely small tattoo that uses a loose style to create an interesting, cat-inspired design. Despite the slightly abstract nature of the design, the artist incorporates just enough identifiable features in the cat to leave no doubt about what animal this is; the ears, eyes, and tail are the three components that perfectly create the cat. The way the artist uses gradated tones is also worth noting: the sense of depth captured with the simple use of a lighter tone for the furthest paw is masterful and helps to create a more dynamic tattoo. This is a great tattoo that goes to show that bigger is not always better, and demonstrates the artist’s talent in working with a limited concept.
This is an interesting black and gray tattoo that takes the shape of a cat sitting with tail curled, to create the backdrop for a forest scene that is straight out of Grimm’s fairy tales. The way the artist uses the same fine line work in the trees to create the face of the cat is interesting, giving the impression of the forest continuing up into the cat’s nose and helping to draw the eye around the entire tattoo. A layer of depth is also created thanks to expert use of gray wash to make the trees in the distance fade away. All of this is tied together with clean line work and consistent shading to create a unique and mysterious cat tattoo.
This black and gray piece is an interesting take on a cat portrait that incorporates classic design elements as well as aspects from new-school designs. The exaggerated size of the cat’s head is a common feature of new-school designs, although the use of black and gray shading to create a realistic visage of a cat has more in common with the iconic “American Gothic” painting than other new-school tattoos. The level of detail in this piece is also impressive: note the use of white, fine line work to create the patterns, seams, and buttons in the clothing. The use of smooth gray wash to create a backdrop for this piece improves the composition and helps to complete this interesting tattoo.
This is an incredible black and gray portrait of a cat that more than likely serves as a tribute to a beloved pet. There is a lot going right in this tattoo. The amount of texture the artist is able to create in the fur on the face of this cat is remarkable; it almost looks like you could reach out and feel the individual hairs. Creating the effect of translucency can be extremely difficult and here the artist succeeds flawlessly thanks to expert use of fully saturated black with white ink highlights. The gradation of gray wash in this piece is perfectly applied, helping to create a truly remarkable cat portrait.
This black and gray design uses several techniques to create a one of a kind cat tattoo. The overlapping diamonds that create a frame for the piece are clean and balanced, and the way both the cat and the leaves extend outside the frame is an interesting design choice that improves the overall composition of the tattoo. Fully saturated black makes up the body of the cat, while negative space is used for the skeleton, creating an interesting and anatomically correct X-Ray type image. In this piece the artist uses stipple shading to great effect, giving the piece the feeling of old, black and white medical lithographs to create a unique tattoo.
Here is a great black and gray tattoo that uses an interesting composition to create a unique piece of body art. In this piece, the artist uses an excellent gradation of tones, from negative space for the moonlight at the center of the piece all the way to the fully saturated black in the outline and gravestones. One of the more impressive aspects of this tattoo is the way the artist is able to create the effect of layered clouds rising into the distance through the use of expert shading and gray wash. The placement of grass at the bottom of the design, as well as the fence posts disappearing in the distance, work well to create a sense of depth and make for a more interesting and dynamic tattoo.
This is an excellent black and gray tattoo that uses a cat wearing a witch’s hat to demonstrate the wearer’s love for cats and appreciation for the mystical connection these animals have with the supernatural. The level of detail in this piece is outstanding: the way the artist is able to perfectly capture the different textures in the fur of the cat, from the shaggy, longer bits around the chest and mouth, to the fine hair on the top of the head is impressive. The use of white ink to create highlights in the eyes of the cat gives them the impression of sparkling, reflecting a light source, and the geometric shape created with negative space and densely packed stipple shading help to complete this intricate tattoo.
Here is an incredible example of a full-color tattoo that incorporates a number of different design concepts to create a full-chest tribute to these feline companions. Perhaps most striking about this piece is the level of detail captured in the face of the cat: the use of variations in gray tones, along with skillful shading helps create a photo-realistic portrait. The incorporation of roses to frame the cat’s face is perfect, improving the composition of the piece and allowing the artist to further demonstrate their skill and attention to detail. Finally, negative space is used to create a shape reminiscent of sacred geometry that ties into the roses and bonds all the different elements together into a cohesive, one of a kind tattoo.
This piece uses elements of classic illustration to create a well-executed and fun tattoo. First off, the composition of this tattoo is excellent: the flying saucer at the top of the design and the way the tractor beam mirrors the lines of the diamond-shaped border are clever choices that demonstrate the artist’s skill and forethought. The shading in this piece is also impeccable. The dense stipple work used to create the gradation in tones is excellent and reminiscent of the iconic work of R. Crumb, giving this piece a texture that other tattoos lack. The consistency in the line work is excellent and small details like the white ink used to highlight the cat’s outline further help to set this one of a kind tattoo apart.
This full-color piece uses elements of new school tattoo design and incorporates them into this one of a kind tattoo. The illustrative style here uses exaggerated features to create a sense of perspective that is reminiscent of looking at something through a fish eye lens; this is an element often used in new school tattoos. Thanks to the expert use of color and shading, the artist perfectly captures the face, with the use of bright blue ink allowing the eyes to stand out and pop against the more subdued brown and cream tones in the fur. The incorporation of an old school radio microphone is an interesting touch that undoubtedly holds special significance for the wearer and ensures they will never see someone with the same tattoo.
Here, the artist uses black and gray, as well as white ink, to create an interesting cat tattoo that brings to mind the supernatural connotations these mysterious creatures hold. The fully saturated black ink at the top of the piece perfectly captures the shape of the head of the cat, down to the ridges on top, and creates a striking backdrop for the moon and stars in the design. The whip shading that blends the black ink into the negative space around the cat’s mouth is well applied and adds an extra layer of depth to this tattoo, while the double sets of eyes emphasize cat’s mystical nature and are applied here in densely packed white ink to help them pop against the black background.
Here is a black and gray tattoo that uses a cat as a tribute to the interconnectedness of the universe. The artist perfectly creates the silhouette of a cat using fully saturated black ink to increase contrast and allow the lighter tones, negative space and white ink within to pop. Inside the outline of the cat is a spiral galaxy made up of lighter gray wash, surrounded by well-applied negative space stars as well as bits of white ink to help the larger celestial bodies to stand out. Clever details help set this piece apart: notice the way the artist placed the two brightest stars in the position of the cat’s eye and the tag on its collar. This attention to detail is a demonstration of the artist’s skill and planning.
This black and gray piece is a great example of an American traditional cat tattoo. Cats have been a common element in American traditional tattoos thanks to the tradition of carrying cats aboard ships to catch rodents. Here, the artist uses excellent whip shading to create the different tones in the cat’s face as well as adding a bit of texture that helps to make for a more dynamic tattoo. The line work in this piece is clean and precise, creating the outline and small details in the fur and face, while the use of negative space for the teeth and highlights increases contrast and improves the overall appeal of the tattoo.
Here is an excellent example of a black and gray tattoo that doesn’t sacrifice any appeal with the lack of color. The skill in the application of the whip shading and stipple work used to create shadow and texture in this piece is impeccable and the limited line work that is used to enhance definition is clean and precise. The level of detail in the illustration is also impressive: notice how the artist perfectly captures the rolls in the tongue of the cat, using an excellent gradation of tones to add depth inside the mouth. It appears this is part of a larger sleeve tattoo and the clever but limited use of negative space to create flames at the wrist is an interesting detail that adds to the overall appeal of this piece.
This black and gray tattoo uses an illustrative technique that gives the impression of a pencil drawing, while the exaggerated proportions of the cat are firmly rooted in the new school tattoo style. The artist uses excellent cross-hatching to create the variation in depth as well as capturing the different layers of shadows falling across this skeleton cat. It is also interesting the way the artist uses loose lines around the design: whether it is supposed to be bits of stray hair stuck to the bones or simply intended to give the tattoo a looser, sketchy feel, it is a unique element of this tattoo that helps separate it from similar macabre designs.
“If I fits, I sits.” This is a fun, black and gray piece that uses cats’ inherent love of boxes to create a unique tattoo. The line work in this tattoo is clean and precise, using just enough ink to perfectly create the design without any superfluous elements cluttering this simple concept. Using only black, gray and negative space, the artist is able to create this tattoo, with the help of excellent shading to capture the shadows and give this design a sense of three dimensions. The placement on the bicep ensures that this lovely tattoo will be seen, putting the wearer’s love of felines on full display.
This tattoo uses several different techniques and interesting stylistic elements to create a haunting image of a cat. The artist is able to employ a loose, ethereal approach to this tattoo that, while abstract, leaves no doubt about the feline subject matter. Notice the detail in the place where the nose meets the lips, which almost has a realistic appearance. A surprising amount of texture in the forehead of the cat is achieved with only the use of line work, with the artist using more complex shading techniques in other parts of the cat to better create a dynamic tattoo. The combination of stipple shading around the ears and the interesting use of whip shading on the lower-left portion of the tattoo work well together to create an interesting contrast in this piece.
Here is a full color American traditional design that uses illustration and some limited text to create a unique homage to feline resilience. Cats have been said to have nine lives for hundreds of years thanks to their penchant for landing on their feet and finding their way out of tight places, and the artist commemorates this with clean script work in a scroll beneath the cat’s face. The use of crisp line work to create the texture in the fur of the cat is excellent and the incorporation of green in the eyes, as well as white for highlights, help this tattoo pop. The top hat completes this tattoo and the use of dots and stars for background filler helps to incorporate this design with existing tattoos.
This final piece uses vibrant colors and excellent composition to create a unique tattoo that is a tribute to the ruthless hunter within every mild-mannered house cat. The artist uses black, gray and white ink to capture the house cat, howling at the stars, and expert color gradation and shading create a realistic illustration. The bright violet and blue in the sky starkly contrast with the more subdued colors below and creates an interesting juxtaposition that perfectly sums up the concept behind the tattoo while creating a visually pleasing piece. This is a wonderful, small tattoo that will serve as a lovely tribute to these beasts we love so much.
Cat Tattoo FAQ’s
What does a cat tattoo mean?
Considering how many people own cats it is a bit surprising the amount of mystery and magic these ubiquitous feline companions still illicit in people. Most often cats are associated with luck and a mystical, eternal nature; they do have nine lives after all. However, it goes a bit deeper than a simple idiom.
Cats have been associated with the supernatural throughout history, most notably in Egypt, where cats were associated with a Goddess named Bastet and the punishment for killing or injuring a cat was quite severe. In the West, black cats have been harbingers of bad luck as well as having deep associations with witchcraft and the occult.
In modern times felines have maintained this mystical connection, which is one reason why people choose to incorporate these multi-faceted creatures into tattoos. Some people choose a black cat as a talisman to ward off the bad luck linked to these animals, while others use a tattoo to commemorate a loved pet. Whatever the motivation, these lovely animals make for excellent subject matter for any number of different tattoo styles.