My favorite cat book of the year so far has fewer than 40 words in it (39, to be exact; yeah, I counted). Instead of offering up promises of kitty behavioral tips or wacky attempts at anthropomorphic comedy, this slender tome is full of temporary cat tattoos illustrated and captioned by the Oakland-based artist Megan Lynn Kott. Naturally, it’s titled Cattoos!
So after earmarking a picture of a judgmental-looking cat with the righteous slogan “I Dislike Most Things” for my own soon-to-be temp tattoo, I spoke to Megan about the growing cult of cat-themed tattoos, the potential for celebrity cattoos, and whether it’s ever advisable to let your own feline sport a fleeting tat.
Catster: How did you come up with the idea for a book of temporary cat tattoos?
Megan Lynn Kott: Chronicle Books [the publisher] actually approached me with the idea about doing the book — they had seen my work on the Internet and thought I might be interested. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!
Are the cats in the book based on real-life cats?
Some of them are real and some are Frankensteined together from quite a few cats. I tried to get my three kitties in there: the orange tabby in “Cheeese” is my cat Griffin, Thessaly is giving us a “High Four,” and Davos is “Party All Night, Sleep All Day.” My friend’s cat named Dennis also made an appearance in “I Dislike Most Things.”
Which Internet famous cats would you most like to turn into a cattoo?
I’m super obsessed with Elfie and Gimli right now. They’re two cats with dwarfism and overbites — so cute! I think they’d make really good cattoos. Also Imogen The Kitten. She’s so sweet and so grumpy at the same time, plus her owner takes amazing pics of her.
Which cat-owning celebrities would you most like to see sporting one of your cattoos?
I would love it if Taylor Swift wore one! I feel like she could rock “Party All Night, Sleep All Day.” I think Michael Showalter — the guy cat-lady himself — might also wear one, like an awkward belly rocker or something. Maybe his belly button would be saying “Purrr?”
What illustration tools and techniques do you use when drawing cats?
Most of my paintings start out as a Photoshopped image; I adjust expression, pose, color, and lighting. I then sketch that out in pencil and watercolor over my drawing — I love using watercolors. My aunt is quite a prolific watercolorist in Ireland and she instilled a love for that medium in me. It also captures fur really well and can be really emotive on its own.
The instructions in the Cattoos! book do not specifically advise against putting a cattoo on a cat. Is this something anyone has attempted?
Oh, gosh, I truly hope no one is silly enough to put a cattoo on their cat! I think that should be one of those things that goes without saying — like not putting one on your tongue. Hey kids, don’t put a cattoo on your tongue or your cat. Also, please don’t lick your cat — they’ll think it’s gross.
Do you have any permanent cat tattoos yourself?
Yeah, I have a lot of dreamed-about cattoos, but I do actually already have one cattoo on my forearm. It’s a black paper-cut of a tabby kitten from some Japanese stationary I got. It reminds me of my childhood cat Frisky. I also have some plans for a cattoo half-sleeve by my friend Sean who does amazing work.
While researching the book, did you come across any great or bizarre real-life cat tattoos?
I did see some pretty amazing ones out there on the Internet, but I just found out about the best cattoos: The co-host of the Cat Lady Podcast, Liz, has some cat-dinos tattooed on her, like a cat-a-saurus, a ptero-cat-dyl, and a stego-cat-us. Amazing!
Beyond the Cattoos! book, your illustrations are often based around cat puns and pop culture references. Which are you most proud of?
I did a series of the Arrested Development characters as cats, which I am pretty proud of. I’ve also done some illustration work with the podcast network Maximum Fun, which was really awesome — they commissioned paintings of their podcast hosts as cats. I really love non sequitur humor, and thinking about what cats would actually be thinking. [Pauses] They would most likely swear a lot.
Finally, do you have any cats yourself?
Yes, I accidentally have three cats. I might accidentally have more, but my husband says we can’t have more cats than we have rooms in our house. My cats are Griffin, Davos, and Thessaly, in order of when I got them.
Griffin is a polydactyl ginger tabby who thinks he’s a human and only loves me. He has a very epic fluffy tail and will trick you into petting his belly just so he can bite you. Davos — named from Sir Davos of Game of Thrones — is one of the tallest and longest cats I’ve ever met. He weighs almost 20 pounds, but it’s mostly because he’s just so large! He is the king cat of the household but is also just a big baby; he carries around a fuzzy blanket in his mouth and will periodically knead and drool on it.
Then Thessaly, who was named after the witch in the comic series Sandman, was our last accidental cat. My husband heard a cat crying outside across the street from our house. Every time I tried to hear the noise, it disappeared, like the dancing frog from Looney Tunes. Finally, after a week, I heard it too!
I went outside with some kibble and a cat carrier; she came out immediately and I swooped her up. She was five pounds and fully grown when we found her, and had some really bad abscesses. So we took her to the vet and nursed her back to health. She wasn’t microchipped and no one seemed to be looking for her. I was supposed to find her a home but I couldn’t give her up …
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About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.