Feb 22 2012

The tattooing trend: out of line?

cat tattoo

A few weeks ago an Acworth mother was arrested for getting her 10 year old son a tattoo, raising questions about what the child wanted and whether he is old enough to make the decision himself. A few years ago, this picture from Russia of a Sphinx with a tattoo circulated, and the owner’s actions were argued from both sides. Many claimed animal cruelty, while others said they didn’t think the pet would mind. On the one hand, the cat did’t have a say in the matter. But cats also don’t have a say in being bred hairless or living inside house and eating cat food. Here’s my take.

For a tattoo, a cat has to be sedated. Tattoos used to be very common as a means of animal identification. A number would be inked inside a pet’s ear or thigh and registered to a database, much like microchips are used now. It is not a major inconvenience, and we don’t anesthetize a pet just for a microchip. The tattoos used for identification, however, were for a better purpose than a decoration. Keeping a cat under extended sedation for a design is absurd.

Unnecessary sedation is never a good idea. While it is needed in some situations, using it for an “elective” (by the owner) procedure is unwise. While I can’t speak to the pre-operative requirements these establishments use, I doubt that they are as thorough as a veterinarian’s – bloodwork, physical exam, and intubation – nor does it look as though they use any monitoring equipment. The American Animal Hospital Association has high standards that reputable veterinarians follow, but it doesn’t look as though this tattoo parlor is AAHA accredited.

Many people get tattoos, and insist they aren’t painful. The fact is that a cat will not sit still to be tattooed. Not only will they be confused and scared about what is going on, but their skin is much thinner than ours. My other concern is how the cat felt about his addition when he woke up. There is now a foreign design on his skin, and the pain, scabbing and bleeding associated with a healing tattoo must bother him. Feline instinct is to clean a fresh injury with his tongue. Would the poor thing enjoy wearing an E-collar until it’s healed?

The 10-year-old child from the recent story had his late brother’s name inked on his arm. Is he old enough to decide that he wants this on him the rest of his life? The law says no. The artist and the mother are both in trouble. But how about the cat? In no way could the owner have asked for consent from his pet or explained what he was having put on him. Why aren’t there laws about this – tattooing those who are unable to consent?

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