Our pets are more than just, well, pets. They hold a special part of our soul, and many pet parents can say their dogs or cats have gotten them through the darkest times in their lives. It should come as no surprise then, that some owners seek out unique ways to pay tribute to their beloved companions.
In a recent survey by Figo, over 75% of Gen Z participants said they'd be willing to get a tattoo of their pet. That might sound a little intense to some, but tattoos have always been a meaningful way to remember those important to us. When polled, Figo's own Instagram audience overwhelmingly said they'd be willing to get body art in honor of their dog or cat. To get an insider look at this increasingly popular request, we spoke with Kevin Leary of Great Lakes Tattoos in Chicago. You might recognize his work on tattoo lovers all around the city or maybe even on the walls of the One Tail at a Time vet clinic.
City you’re located in
I live and work in Chicago, IL.
Years in current location
I have lived in Chicago now for almost 10 years now and work at Great Lakes Tattoo.
Why did you decide to go into tattoo artistry?
My whole life I have had a natural ability in art. Drawing and painting at a young age came very naturally to me. I love heavy metal music and art, so I was involved in both cultures early as a youth and young adult. The imagery of tattoos and the kind of tattoos that metal musicians had, along with album art and t-shirt designs really made me want to create art like that as a freelance artist and hopeful tattooer. The day I turned 18, I went and got my first tattoo. Basically didn’t stop getting tattooed after that, and worked very hard to become a tattooer.
A recent Figo survey found that over 75% of Gen Z’ers would get a tattoo inspired by their pet. How do you feel when you get a request for a pet tattoo or tribute?
I love being able to create a pet portrait for my clients. Whether it’s a memorial for a beloved, deceased companion, or just a great photo of a dog or cat that is still alive and loved, it's a huge honor.
Have you noticed an increase in these requests lately? If so, why do you think that is?
I don’t think I’ve seen an increase or decrease in pet tattoos. They are kind of always peppered into my schedule. A pretty regular occurrence. On average I’m doing between 2-5 pet portraits a month.
In your experience, what would move someone to get their pet tattooed on them?
Most people are getting these tattoos as memorials, so more often the pet tattoos I do are of deceased pets. They are memorializing the love and memory of their pets. If it's a situation where the pet is still alive, I find that the person wants the tattoo just because they love that pet more than anything and want a nice portrait of them.
Are you a pet owner? If so, do you have any of your own pet-related tattoos on you?
Unfortunately in the last 2 years, I lost both of my pets. I had a 16-year-old cat that passed at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. And most recently my wife and I had to say goodbye to our 16-year-old pit bull in late 2021. Yes, my wife and I both have tattoos for Sofia, our dog. They are not portraits but her name in a heart.
We're so sorry to hear of Sofia and Knuckles passing! Do you have a photo of the two of them?
This is my beloved Sofia and Knuckles. We miss them with all our hearts.
What draws you to pet tattoos or designs in particular?
I wouldn’t say I’m drawn to them in any way other than my clients ask me for a portrait of their pet. I like to see a variety of photos and choose the best photo that will translate to a great tattoo.
If someone requests a pet design, what do you recommend they bring with them so you can do them justice - just a photo of their pet?
Yes, I like to see more than 1 photo, so I can determine the best photo that will translate to a great tattoo. I’m looking for things like a good angle, maybe a tongue hanging out, no ears, fur, or contour of the face cropped out of the photo. I don’t want to have to make anything up in the drawing. If I work directly from a great photo the better the tattoo will be.
If someone wants to book with you, how would they go about doing so?
If you want to see more incredible art and pet tattoos, follow Kevin on Instagram.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.