Nova Scotia

'Cattoos' help Sydney artist raise money for animals in need

Vanessa Darling, a tattoo apprentice in Sydney, N.S., helped raised $2,500 for the Cape Breton SPCA.

'Anytime I have the option or ability to help animals, I try to do it where I can'

Vanessa Darling shows some of the 'cattoos' she's inked on pet owners, while raising money for the Cape Breton SPCA. (Matthew Moore)

A Sydney tattoo artist has given cats another reason to feel worshipped after permanently inking their likenesses onto pet owners, all while raising money for animals in need.

Vanessa Darling started selling what she calls "cattoos" in early December. 

An apprentice at Rowe's Tattoo, Darling said the fundraiser allowed her to practise her craft.

"Anytime I have the option or ability to help animals, I try to do it where I can."

"I was lucky, I was given the opportunity — I started apprenticing in November, so the timing worked out perfect."

In five weeks, Vanessa Darling completed 64 tattoos in support of the SPCA. For every animal-themed tattoo, $40 was donated to help pets in need. (Matthew Moore)

Inspired by hoarding cases

Nothing could have purr-pared Darling for the response to a Facebook post. 

"I came in the next morning and there was over 30 messages just from the first day of the post, of people looking to book."

The fundraiser was later extended to Jan. 8, due to its popularity.

An animal lover, Darling said she grew up in a house that always had at least one or two pets.

Her inspiration for the tattoo project came from last fall's animal hoarding in Pictou County and Cape Breton. 

In total, the SPCA seized 85 cats and kittens, many that were sick or injured due to their living conditions. 

Tattoos popular

Among the designs offered for tattoos were leaping cats, curious cats, playing cats and paw prints.

"[We've] been calling them cattoos now," said Darling. "One of the clients that I was tattooing. she ended up giving them that name."

In five weeks, Darling completed 64 tattoos at $50 each. 

Forty dollars from each tattoo went to the Cape Breton SPCA, with just over $2,500 raised for the shelter.

"The COVID-19 crisis has been extremely difficult," said Ryan Toomey, the SPCA's Cape Breton development officer in a press release.

"With no government funding for our shelters, unique and creative fundraisers like this provide lifesaving support."

Darling said she hopes to make the fundraiser an annual event.