From pet memorial portrait tattoos to old school wild cat and sparrow designs, the following top 5 animal tattoo designs lead the pack for wild inspiration.

There are many reasons people choose to tattoo animal designs. Whether to depict legend and myth, honor sacred pets or to embrace zodiac and astrology symbols, animals have a universal lure.

Before you tattoo your favorite beast, take a look at some of the more common meanings and associations of the top 5 animal tattoo designs and avoid any danger ahead.

1. Cats

Cats - Animal Tattoo Designs
Image CC Miss Pupik @ Flickr. Image CC Miss Pupik@Flickr

Go ahead and call her fancy. She’s picky and knows exactly what she wants and will turn up her nose to almost anything unsatisfactory. Sound like you? Meow, a cat tattoo may be the perfect top 5 animal tattoo design for you. Cats have a mysterious and playful disposition but they also harbor a dark side and association with the other worlds. From black cats to old-school tiger tattoos, if only the best will do, you might want a feline design.

2. Dogs

Dogs tattoos
Image via @shindakodomo

He’s loyal alright and this tattoo is going to be there for life, so go ahead and pay ode to man’s best friend in a tribute dog tattoo piece. Dog tattoos include wolves and coyotes so feel free to pair up a wild beast with a dreamcatcher for Southwestern inspiration or opt for a simple dog silhouette of your beloved. Black and grey portraits make for realistic and memorable dog tattoos.

3. Fish

Fish Tattoo
Image via @franmassino

Japanese koi fish tattoos are the fastest swimmers in the fish tattoo category and it’s no wonder why. Beautiful koi are believed to be brave much like Samurai facing the sword. Koi can swim up waterfalls and will await the chopping block without so much as a quiver. For men, the koi is a strong and masculine tattoo design. Other fish tattoos include the seahorse, which is happily portrayed as erect and entirely present, or salmon, which are widely celebrated in the Celtic culture for being wise. For the fierce, bring on the gore with a shark tattoo, just be ready to scare off a few people from time to time.

4. Snakes

Snakes tattoos

While Snakes have an ever-changing reputation and will always be linked to temptation and sinister traits, don’t let these negative connotations stop you from inking a serpent design if your heart desires. Snakes can also signify rebirth, renewal, and change thanks to the shedding of their own skin. They’re also very wise and are said to bear secret knowledge. Celebrated in many cultures and sacred to Native American tribes, consider a tribal or Celtic snake tattoo for hidden meaning or a coiled design for something realistic and traditional.

5. Birds

Birds Tattoos

Bird tattoos can symbolize many different things. From flight and freedom to the beauty and fragility of life, birds are nature’s pick for one of the top 5 animal tattoo designs. Hummingbirds make for pretty shoulder and hip tattoos while owls are a wise choice for a masculine back piece, arm, or leg sleeve. Add a few branches and get inspired by a tree tattoo and give your bird something to chirp about.

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Julian Carter

Tattoos & Body Piercings Expert, Contributor

Tattoos & Body Piercings Expert Julian is a freelance tattoo writer, beauty expert, traveler, and photographer. Her passion for body art over the past 7 years led to one of the internet's greatest websites about tattoos and piercing.

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