PORT RICHEY — There were 74,059,000 companion cats in the United States as of 2012, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
That’s a lot of cats, occupying more than 30 percent of households, with about two cats per residence on average. Many people spend close to $100 on veterinary expenditures alone each year for a single cat.
With all these kitty lovers and caretakers across the country, it may be surprising for some to learn that up to 20,000 big cats are kept in private captivity in basements, garages, sheds and often in small cages with too little room, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
In the past two decades, incidents with big cats and other wild animals have resulted in the deaths of more than 20 people, including five children.
Adam and Josh Natonio are coming forward to help tackle the issue, along with others in New Port Richey. The brothers are using their co-owned business, Standing Art Tattoos and Gallery, to address the stigma commonly associated with commercial tattooing and to help raise funds for one of the world’s largest accredited sanctuaries for exotic cats.
They sponsored the Big Cattoos Awareness Week tattoo fundraiser for Big Cat Rescue.
The nonprofit BCR, on 67 acres in the Citrus Park area of northwestern Hillsborough County, advocates ending abuse and captivity of the large cats and saving the wild animals from extinction.
Adam Natonio, a tattoo artist, is described as “a professional artist in the area for over 15 years, and a professional tattoo artist for the past decade receiving numerous accolades for his artwork and for his philanthropic efforts,” according to the company bio.
The awareness event included a dozen of the shop’s tattoo designs with big cat silhouettes and paw prints.
In addition to the tattoos, a brand new tiger-themed skateboard designed by the artists in residence is also being auctioned online.
The biggest ticket item is the Dream Package, which included everything from $700 worth of entry passes to the BCR sanctuary to $1,500 in cruelty-free and vegan tattoo supplies exclusively from local Florida businesses. The package includes several subscriptions to magazines that have featured the artists from Standing Art.
See the company’s Facebook page for the latest information.
In an interview, Josh Natonio, Standing Art’s marketing director and graphic designer, explained why it is important to put on this fundraiser.
“We’ve been in business here for six years and lived here all our lives,” Josh remarked. “We’ve raised money for Moffitt Cancer Center, local sports teams, sick kids. We have a deep connection to the community. It’s about giving back.”
He had learned that the BR sanctuary needs $10,000 just for a single tiger, five pounds of meat per cat and other expenses. Many of the large cats are rescued from circuses, mini-petting zoos and sideshows.
To learn more, stop by the Standing Art and Tattoo Gallery, at 10120 Scenic Drive.