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Kazuaki Horitomo is a gifted tattoo artist who also loves cats. A Japanese native currently making his home in California, Horitomo has chosen to make cat tattoos his specialty—not just tattoos of cats but images of cats with tattoos and also cats giving each other tattoos. They’re kind of awesome. (I suppose for the purposes of this imaginative pursuit, the inconvenient fact of a cat’s fur is a detail better left unmentioned.)

Horitomo cleverly draws on Japanese artistic traditions of the kakejiku (hanging scrolls) or ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) stretching back centuries. You can almost imagine his cats giving each other tattoos in the court of Emperor Go-Sai during the Edo period (1655–1663).

The tattooing technique Horitomo prefers is known as tebori, an ancient method of tattoo art that does not employ the needles of an electric tattoo machine, as in contemporary western practice, but rather makes use of long tapered instruments similar to a straight razor; some styles of tebori blade resemble screwdrivers. One of the cats in the images below has a tebori blade in his or her mouth.

Horitomo’s calls his creatures “monmon cats,” using the term monmon, an old Japanese slang word for tattoos. You can buy Monmon Cats, his recent book of cat tattoos, or check out his regularly updated Instagram feed (which—fair warning—also features some tattoo’d dogs). Prints are available here.

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