Cat Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Cats are beloved by humans across the world, so it’s no wonder that many choose to get a tattoo of the creature. If you’re a cat-lover, there are many ways you can show your affection to the world. Some choose to get their own pet’s face inked on them while others opt for a simple paw print.

Learn more about the history of our relationship with cats, common emotions that cat tattoos evoke and popular designs and placements.

The Symbolism of Cats

For some, cats are simply cuddly friends. For others, they are symbolic of luck, femininity or even evil spirits. Here is how cats are or have been perceived around the world.

Ancient Egypt

Cats were sacred in ancient Egyptian times, and they are still well-loved creatures today. Bastet was the goddess of cats, domesticity, fertility and childbirth. As a result, cat tattoos are often seen as symbols of femininity or female strength.

Japanese and Chinese Culture

Cats are becoming increasingly popular in China and Japan, but they have a rich history with the animal too.

In Japan and China, the Maneki Neko is a popular figure symbolizing luck. You’re probably familiar with the charactera cat figurine with one or both paws raised as if beckoning the viewer towards them.

If the figure’s right paw is raised, it’s believed to bring good fortune and wealth; a raised left paw is thought to lure customers to a shop or business. Both paws raised symbolizes protection.

They’re also usually seen with an array of accessories such as a drum which represents luck in business, or a money bag that symbolizes wealth.

Black Cats

Black cats are often thought of as symbols of bad luck, but they have a range of other superstitions surrounding them from around the world. 

Black cats are often associated with witchcraft. During the plague known as the Black Death in Europe, people killed women accused of witchcraft in an effort to appease God; during this time, they also killed black cats because of their association with witches and magic.

As a result, more spiritual folk may choose to get tattoos of black cats to display their interest in and passion for the field.

Popular Cat Tattoo Designs

Over the years, people have come up with increasingly creative ways to display their love for felines. From a simple paw print to a photo-like image of their pet, there’s something for everything.


An abstract design can be a great addition to a sleeve or a fantastic stand-alone piece. These designs may create the form of a cat using lines or watercolor effects. Some will focus on the outline, while others will add detail to bring the feline to life.

Cheshire Cat

Many people opt for a vibrant design of the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This is a fun design for fans of the story or people who appreciate the Cheshire Cat’s wise, mischievous nature.

Paw Prints

A paw print is a more minimalist design that is ideal if you’re looking for something small or discreet. Some people get a single paw inked on their bodies, while others opt for two or more.

A series of paw prints can act as a trail, symbolizing the passage of time or progress towards a particular journey.

Cat Eyes

Have you ever noticed how distinctive cats’ eyes are? So much so that you could get a tattoo of a pair of cats’ eyes and most people would know straight away that they belong to a cat.

This is another great option for those seeking a minimalist design, as they can easily be tucked away out of sight.

Egyptian Cat

This design is popular with those looking for inner peace, and even with those lucky enough to have found it. Egyptian cat tattoo designs relate to the afterlife and spirituality, and even to a deceased loved one.

Big Cats

You don’t need to limit yourself to small domestic felines. Many people get members of the big cat family inked on themselves too. Lions, tigers, leopards and cheetahs are all popular options. Some people opt for the whole animal, while others simply want the head or face.

Many people choose to adorn themselves with big cats because of their strength. These tattoos look great in a variety of styles, including hyperrealistic, illustrative and traditional.


There are some talented tattoo artists out there, including many who specialize in hyperrealistic tattoos that look just like photographs.

This has led to many people getting inked with their beloved pet’s face or profile. Some even get their cat’s paw print!

This is a fantastic way to show your affection for your fluffy friends. It can also be a touching tribute to pets that have passed away.

Common Color Combinations 

The great thing about tattoos is your artist can customize them to suit your tastes and style. This includes everything, right down to the color combinations you want to use. Here are some common choices for cat tattoos.

Black and White

Pretty much any tattoo will look great in black and white, and cats are no exception. This is a great option for simple designs such as paw prints or outlines. It’s also ideal for hyperrealistic images where there is a lot of shading to bring out the cat’s features.

Brown and Orange

Many people who get cat tattoos opt for natural colorings, including different shades of black, white, brown or orange. This is especially true for tribute tattoos where a person wants to get their pet’s likeness inked on them.

It’s also common to see a splash of color in otherwise black and white tattoos. This can add interest and vibrance to a tattoo.


More abstract designs often lend themselves well to unnatural color combinations. The Cheshire Cat, for example, is usually inked in his signature purple.

If you’re creating an abstract design, your color combinations are endless. Again, a good tattoo artist will work through possible color schemes with you to find one that you love.

Popular Placements

Since there are so many cat tattoo designs to choose from, there are ample places on the body to get your latest piece of body art. Where you choose to place your tattoo will largely depend on your personal preference and the size and intricacy of the specific design you want. 

Arms and Legs

The arms and legs are great for medium-sized tattoos. For legs, the back of the calf, above the knee, or upper thigh are all popular choices for tattoos of cats’ faces or abstract designs. You can easily cover them up when needed, so they’re ideal for more conservative workplaces. 

You can also incorporate a cat tattoo into a new or existing arm sleeve. Your tattoo artist will be able to give you more information about the best placement for this type of design.

Back of the Neck

The back of the neck is a popular place for small tattoos. It would be ideal for a minimalist design or a micro portrait of a cat.

Wrist or Ankle

Tiny cat tattoos such as paw prints or cat eyes are perfect for the wrists or ankles. These areas are often more sensitive due to their thin skin. Opting for something small that won’t take as long to ink or heal is a popular choice.

Best Cat Tattoos