Tattooing pets for cosmetic purposes really gets under some people's skins... just imagine how the pets feel! This disturbing concept sheds light upon the complex issues surrounding pet ownership, animal rights and the nature of art itself.  



Tattooed Rats: Not Very Mice

Rats and mice are popular pets – maybe not so much as cats & dogs but beloved by their owners nonetheless. One recalls the legendary tale of “Yentl”, a pet rat who woke their owner in time to escape from a potentially deadly house fire.

Rats range from hairy to hairless, and we're not even considering Naked Mole Rats in the latter category. While a hairless rat may not be thing of beauty to most people, it's still a living thing and not an art object... to most people. Leave it to the lunatic fringe, however, to embarrass the rest of us via the ol' rat-a-tat-touille.

There is one other place where rats are tattooed on a regular basis and it's not somewhere frequented by lunatics: the nation's scientific laboratories. Lab rats there are tattooed as a matter of course and the ink's applied to their toes, not their hides. (Tattooed Pet images via PetStreet and MEDIpoint)



Tattooed Dogs: Looking a Little With Drawn

To some pet owners, dogs act as an extension of their persona. Ever notice how some people and their pets look alike? When the owner is a multiple-tattooed Illustrated Man (or Woman, as the case may be), this subconscious urge to make over your pet in your own image takes a turn for the worse.

Tattooing your dog is bad enough; tattooing it with Hello Kitty takes things to a higher plane of awfulness. The owner of the dog in question states he did the tattooing himself while his pet was under anesthesia for another procedure – hopefully not a navel piercing – as if that somehow made it OK.

Word up dude: HK is never OK, especially when it comes to tattooing an immobilized, unconscious, unresisting pet.

Dog-owners who love the look of tattoos but don't want to get “hounded” by animal rights advocates might want to consider temporary tattoos for pets from Pet-Ink. Each kit contains stencils, dye (said to be “semi-permanent”), gloves, cotton application swabs for application, gloves and a blotting paper towel.

Unlike traditional tattoos, no needles or other invasive procedures are required though since your pet's hair is being dyed, the temp tats work best on short-haired dogs. (Tattooed Pet images via Dale Mackey, Hello Kitty Hell, and Teddy Hilton)



Tattooed Cows: An Udder Disgrace?

Cows and cattle may be sacred in India but elsewhere they're the poster calves for animal domestication. They're milk objects, meat objects, and if they were hairless you just know they'd be art objects of the needled kind.

The photo above, captioned “Official Supplier tattoos Olympic cow herd”, gave rise to rumors Canadian dairy corporation Saputo arranged to have a whole herd of cows tattooed with the Olympic logo. Not true, of course: that would be a very cheesy publicity stunt indeed. 

Between faux cow tattoos and photoshopped ones there's more than enough  “branded beef” to go around... got that, Steven Tyler? (Tattooed Pet images via Pacific Pin Club and iKoupon)



Tattooed Pigs: Inked & Oinked

Wim Delvoye is originally from Belgium but he's relocated to China to avoid the EU's animal rights laws. Is Delvoye doing animal wrongs, then?

After being tattooed under light sedation, the pigs are regularly fed, cared for, and allowed a “free range” type of lifestyle at Delvoye's Chinese farm. Some might say that Delvoye's tattooed pigs are far better off then those born, raised and slaughtered for food at government-approved commercial farms (including many in the EU).   

Delvoye tattoos pigs with a wide range of motifs from decorative to commercial (such as Louis Vuitton logos). After the pigs have passed on, their distinctive hides are removed, prepared, displayed and occasionally sold to collectors. (Tattooed Pet images via Daily Mail UK and Spin The Bottle)



Tattooed Elephants: We're Gonna Need a Bigger Needle

Imagine getting a bull elephant to stand still for a tattoo artist: the result would be more like “stomp still”, most likely. Luckily for all concerned, artist Hilda Pacheco has re-imagined a tattooed elephant so we (and the elephant) don't have to.

If a large living canvas is what you want, elephants fill the bill quite well – but put the ink & needles away, there are more practical, more beautiful and more respectful ways to illustrate a pachyderm: mainly, by painting them.

A fine display of such can be observed at the annual  Elephant Festival in Jaipur, India. Not only are the colors applied by brush brighter than any tattoo could possibly be, they wash right off with a little soap & water. Now that's something any elephant can get behind! (Tattooed Pet images via Hilda Pacheco and



Tattooed Fish: Working for Scale

Tattooed fish are real, and real popular as gifts in China and Vietnam because they're said to bring good luck to the recipient. All the tattooed fish get, however, are an increased likelihood of skin diseases and a much shorter lifespan.

Fish are tattooed in a number of ways including injected dyes or low intensity lasers more commonly used in dermatology clinics. When tattooed in volume, shop owners can realize a decent profit by charging a premium for the living greeting cards... umm, better not tell Hallmark about this.

Fish tattooers (how's that for a job description?) aren't much on artistry but instead seek to mark their scaly canvases with simple LEET-speak style messages and fortunate Chinese characters. In recent years they've refined their techniques so that even very cheap fish like goldfish can be tattooed and sold for a profit. Hmm, you'd think folks in the Far East would know a bit about karma and what a bitch it can be. (Tattooed Pet images via The Sun and Wildlife Web Watch)



Tattooed Goat: That's Baaaad

No, this is not a tattooed goat, just an imaginative representation of what a punked-up and pierced-out Capricorn might look like. Goats are badass enough without resorting to artificial embellishments anyway: they're hardwired with horns, hooves and an all-round bad attitude.

Shearing a sheep is one thing, shaving a goat quite another unless the fraternity you're pledging has an especially mean pledge captain... like, say, Wez from The Road Warrior (left), who coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to the goofy Goth goat above... uh, I wouldn't say that to his face if I were you. (Tattooed Pet images via MegaOdd and Atomic Omega)



Tattooed Horses: Ain't That a Kick?

They tattoo horses, don't they? Comenius Roethlisberger (any relation to Ben?) does but he's got an excuse: it's done in the name of Art. If so, Art needs to step up and 'splain himself.

Roethlisberger's equine illustrations are somewhat of a mystery as only a few selected websites display images of his work. As well, the Swiss artist's website is temporarily or permanently 404, for reasons unknown to anyone not named Roethlisberger.

Supposedly Roethlisberger has moved on from tattooing horses... he's left the animal kingdom entirely it seems in favor of tattooing and branding the leaves of plants. The Botanical Liberation Front isn't going to like that much. (Tattooed Pet images via Blend)



Tattooed Turtle: Wax On, Wax Off

Tattooing a turtle (or tortoise) is tough, take it from ETSY sheller, er, seller Dave Sack who offered up the “excellent collectible piece” online last year – oh yes, it sold.

The bleached and buffed piece measured 4.5 inches long by 3.75 inches wide and was priced at an astonishing... $3.00! No wonder it sold, no matter that Sacks specified domestic shipping only for his unique Rebel With a Shell. 

Turtle tattoos of the applied-to-humans kind are surprisingly common, on the other hand... and on the other body parts as well. Seems turtles are a symbol of success in eastern cultures: ever hear the expression “sticking your neck out”? (Tattooed Pet images via Dave Sacks and Tattoos With Meaning)



Tattooed Cats: Purr-fectly Abhorrent

Cats – hairless Sphynx Cats especially – can and have been tattooed to various degrees. Some of the least tasteful examples have occurred in Russia where the combination of new money and poor judgment have impacted the noble beasts (the cats, not their owners), and not for the better.

The existence of several breeds of hairless cats in Russia (the Don Sphynx and the Peterbald) seems to have contributed to these cats being chosen for tattooing: like Mt Everest, they were there.

As well, “The ethical thinking about animals in Russia lags behind the West,” according to Russian animal activist Irena Novozhilova. “People here mostly buy animals for selfish reasons, and anything else that happens to them afterward is a consequence of that.”

The most commonly quoted example of a tattooed cat goes by the name of Mickey, owned by Moscow artist, Oksana Popova. As seen in the image above, a tattoo of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen was applied to Mickey's chest by tattoo artist Anatoly Keksel in 2009. The widespread publicity that ensued resulted in an unknown number of “copycat” tattooings. (Tattooed Pet images via A Touch of Uniqueness, Mrsamuel/Zimbio, and Great-Info



Though comments accompanying images of tattooed pets around the 'net typically range from shocked to scathing, an appreciable minority either don't mind the practice or state their approval of it. One wonders, would they tattoo their children thinking it's their right and privilege?

The difference is, said children might just hold them to account some day. Animals can't do that so it's up to us to act responsibly with creatures for whom we care, while they're in our care. (Top image from StudioNemo)

So what do you think about tattoos on pets? Do you think it is art or abuse?

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