“The tattoo is in memory of my pet cat, Casper, who lost an eight-year battle with feline diabetes. She was 14 years old.
Casper came to us as a four-month-old kitten in April of 1995, following the death of a stray we’d adopted several months before. For a week she hid under the furniture before finally coming out and socializing. Casper would accept cuddles and petting only on her terms.
As she got older she proved to be one incredibly smart feline. She could open any door and cupboard in the house, as well as the trash can and the green can even after we’d snapped the lid down. The only door that foiled her was the microwave door; she never quite figured out that she had to push and pull at the same time. One time she and the dog teamed up to get a half-eaten bbq chicken out of the fridge and divide it up, leaving only the empty plate behind.
Around 2002-2003, I noticed that she had chronic eye infections. A visit to the vet revealed that she was a borderline diabetic; she could get better or she could develop full-blown diabetes. We had to give her sugar pills twice a day, which involved quite a bit of trickery to get her to take them. Casper was impossible to fool more than a few times with the same trick.
As she approached her 15th birthday, Casper got thinner and thinner, weaker and weaker. Finally, in early October, she stopped eating. We tried feeding her with a syringe, but it wasn’t enough. She was sick and in pain. Finally, we took her to the vet and had her put to sleep, October 14th of 2009. She was wrapped in a towel and placed in a box (she’d always loved boxes) and buried under the winter apple tree on the family farm.”
“I’m submitting one of my most meaningful tattoos. It is a memorial to my first cat who I grew up with, Ginger. My family and I rescued Ginger off the streets of San Francisco when I was around 6 years old. Some neighborhood kids were pushing her off some stairs repeatedly, and my mom yelled at them so they ran off. The cat crossed the street, seemingly to thank us. She walked up our next-door neighbor’s steps and I grabbed a loaf of bread and made a trail from the neighbor’s steps, up our steps, onto our porch–and then threw a piece into our house! My mom called for me to stop but it was too late! The cat was inside and my mom didn’t have the heart to throw her back out onto the street! Ginger lived with us for the next 16+ years. She had hypothyroidism, kidney failure, and finally arthritis–the day I realized it was time to let her go she slept in bed with me for hours all day, something she hadn’t done in several years (she was very independent and had MUCH cattitude!) After my mom came home from work we had a mobile vet come out to the house, and she passed away in my arms. I don’t think I’ve ever cried that hard, before or since. Her cremains are buried at Angel’s Rest at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. We also had her cremated with her very favorite toy, Spidey! Spidey can be seen resting at her paws in the tattoo!
She was so special to me, and really taught me how wonderful and important animals are–I could never live without cats in my life!”
Raya | Germany Tattoo artist: Kathinka at Skin Works, Cologne
“This tattoo is of my first cat Minka. She lived to be 12 1/2 years old. I loved her very much. She was very cuddly! Throughout all of her life she lived with me and she never allowed any other cat to be around. She was the most beautiful cat I’ve ever known.”
Melina Testori | Buenos Aires, Argentina Tattoo studio: Flesh Tattoo, Buenos Aires
“I made that little kitten in honor to my first pet, a cat named Benito. When I was born in 1988 he was already a family member, Benito was born in 1985. He died in 2003, he was 18 years old!! Me and my family suffered a lot, so I decided to immortalize him in my skin. I really loved that cat.”
We’re pleased to announce a new series, Team Cattoo. This section will spotlight animal rescue groups and organizations that proudly wear their love of cats on their skin. To kick off the new section we have some incredible photos from the team at the San Francisco SPCA. These are some of the most dedicated animal rescuers in the country and they have one of the most impressive collections of cattoos ever. A big thanks to Daniel and the crew for submitting these awesome images and the stories behind the ink.
Photography by Rob Schroeder.
About the SF SPCA
Founded in 1868, the SF SPCA is a community-supported nonprofit dedicated to saving, protecting and caring for cats and dogs.
We do this through immediate care of animals that are homeless, ill or in need of an advocate, but we also work to educate the community, reduce the number of unwanted kittens and puppies through spaying/neutering, and improve the quality of life for animals and their companions.
Simply put: the SF SPCA cares. We care for the abused or abandoned dog, for feral cats fending for themselves, and for animals in pain and requiring treatment. The care that we and our community of supporters provide makes the difference between neglect and nurturing, hurting and health, loneliness and a loving home.
Our programs and services include:
The new Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center, which houses our Veterinary Hospital, Spay/Neuter Clinic, Feral Cat Assistance Program, Foster Care Program, and Shelter Medicine Department.
“I’ve been fascinated with cat behavior my whole life, which ultimately led to my career at the SFSPCA for 10 years now. Knowing that no two cats are alike in their personality made me realize that what’s under the surface can be a rewarding surprise if you take the time to understand what lies beneath. Every cat can be both an angel and a mischievous little devil. My tattoos represent both sides of the feline ying yang….and ok…maybe they say a little bit about me as well. I’m always trying to find balance between compassion and the demons that test it each day. Thankfully, cats are amazing stress relievers, even if saving their lives is what creates the stress to begin with.” Tattoo artist: Tim Lehi of Black Heart Tattoo, San Francisco
Ashley James | Client Care Associate (Adoptions)
“The tattoo on my forearm is a drawing by my favorite artist Aubrey Beardsley. I always wanted one of his pieces tattooed on me and this one just seemed perfect. My current cat’s name is Beardsley, after the artist.” Tattoo artist: PJ at Triangle Tattoo and Museum in Fort Bragg, CA
“I got the tattoo on my foot about six months after adopting Badge. (She became my best friend pretty quick). We moved to San Francisco about a year later, when she was diagnosed with chronic asthma. The vet said it was the worst case she had ever seen. Despite her breathing problems she was a little ball of sunshine. The sassiest and sweetest cat I have ever known. She was my first cat as an adult, and was with me through a lot of “growing up”. I miss her dearly and I think about her every day. I have met hundreds of cats since, and have yet to meet a cat like her.” Tattoo artist: Cris Cleen of Idle Hand Tattoo, San Francisco
Amber Holly | Spay Neuter RVT
“Before I worked in companion animal rescue, I focused on exotic cat rescue. While working in Spokane, Washington, I became very fond of the big purring mountain lions that had been rescued from private homes and drug rings that were using them as home protection. I became especially close to a large pair of males and a young cub. The cubs are born beautifully spotted with huge round blue eyes. As I moved on to small animal rescue, it became clear that neonatal kittens is my natural calling. My tattoo represents my love for the big pumas and my passion for raising “cubs”. A mother mountain lion and her cub.” Tattoo artist: Derrick Snodgrass at Temple Tattoo, Oakland, CA
Sarah Ramm | Veterinary Technician Supervisor/Hospital
“Inspiration for tattoo was Chrissie, a feral kitten that came into my life after finding her on the side of the road after being hit by a car. She was named for my best friend, Chris, who found her and brought her to my house because she knew we would take care of her. Chrissie was sweet (to me, anyway), agoraphobic, and frankly a little “not right in the head.” I let her go after 17 years together when she was no longer responding to treatment for chronic renal failure.” Tattoo artist: Jill Bonny when she was at Sacred Rose Tattoo in San Francisco
Laura Gretch | Community Cares Initiative Manager
“Toby was a skinny white dude hanging out at the shelter, screaming his head off. Love at first yelp!
For years to follow, Tobes sat on the couch, awaiting my arrival home, happy to sniff out whoever I was cheating on him with. He coddled feral kittens into tameness, he showed foster dogs who was boss, and taught them a valuable lesson about honoring thy hissy feline. He pawed my arm when I bawled my eyes out the day I first euthanized an animal.
When Tobes finally gave in to years of heart disease, liver failure and asthma, I knew I had to memorialize him as best I could.
He makes a great ice breaker at the shelter. I mean – if you’re not going to trust that gal that’s committed half her arm to her dead cat, who are you going to trust to tell you why your dog needs to be neutered or that cat, not that one, is the right match for you?
Cat. Friend. Samurai warrior. I miss ya Tobes – every day of my life.”
“You know that saying – We can never move forward without remembering the past?
In April of 1999, I quietly acknowledged a memory none of us want to remember.
After just a few years of working full time in an animal shelter, I sat in the room at the end of the hall and euthanized 10 cats. Our shelter had been hit hard with pan leukapenia, and everyone was pulling their weight that day. My co-workers and I all took a turn sitting in that room, holding cats we had recently named, dewormed, set up in a cage and played with, on our lap, and said goodbye. Those were the days that shelters cleared out when disease hit. And a lot of shelters, all over the country, still do. I’m thankful I work in an environment that is blessed to not have to send anyone to a room down the hall and play God with so many lives. But there is a constant reminder, etched in the back of my neck, that not everyone is this lucky, and our job will never be done until everyone is.”
Shelly Ashburn | Eastpointe, MI Tattoo artist: Jeff Barker
“I have 5 tattoos involving cats. I am in Eastpointe Michigan. I had the work done in my city, but my artist has since left the state. All 4 cats are wrapped around my ankle/leg and are about 6-8 inches tall.”
“This is my beautiful Zoee and the memorial tattoo I had done for her when she passed away last June. I had to PTS at age 15 due to a large mass in her abdomen. I am so happy I got the first one done when she was still healthy!”