My Dirty Paws by Stacy Tang

My Dirty Paws – An Art Project About Shelter and Rescue Animals

Stacy Tang is an artist in California who volunteers at a local animal shelter and has created a heartwarming art project called My Dirty Paws. With an eight-year-old, adopted cat at home named Casper, he is Stacy’s inspiration and favorite model. However, it is shelter and rescue pets that truly drive this touching project.


MY DIRTY PAWS is a passion project I created in 2014 to document the lovely souls that I met at animal shelters. A lot of shelter animals are instantly labeled as difficult and trouble, but only with a little more patience and love, you will get to see the true characters underneath their fearful shells. They all have their unique personalities — quirky, goofy, affectionate, shy, outgoing, you name it. These dirty paws are not less-than-desirable animals waiting for your pity. They may have come from an unfortunate past that needs more TLC to trust humans again, but the love they give is just as much, if not more!

Each animal is special. Each story is touching in its own way. I want to capture their beauty through every illustration and tell the stories of how these animals have become loving pets.

My intention is to encourage people to see the beautiful souls of these animals and motivate more people to adopt. To the world, that is just one animal out of millions. But to that animal, you will forever change his/her world.

– Stacy

My Dirty Paws by Stacy Tang

A Conversation with Stacy

What inspired you to start My Dirty Paws?
It all started because of a stray cat (I called him MeowMeow) in the apartment building where I used to live. It was about three years ago and I was still very afraid of cats at that time. This tuxedo cat started following me for food and I had no idea what to do with him at first. But slowly, as I let him come closer and spent more time with him, I began to build affection for him. I wanted to understand cats more, so I signed up to be a cat TLC volunteer at a local animal shelter. My fondness for cats grew quickly! Since I’m an artist, it’s only natural for me to use art to express my emotions. In the beginning, I was just drawing what I loved. Gradually this pet project turned into something bigger, especially after I adopted my cat Casper and was hugely inspired by him.


How did you come up with the name My Dirty Paws?
Because of my lack of knowledge about cats, for the longest time, I thought MeowMeow’s paws were gray. Until I looked at photos of my friend’s cat who had bright white paws, I realized MeowMeow was just dirty! It made me think how tough life must be for homeless cats. That’s why I named this project “My Dirty Paws” to represent them.

My Dirty Paws by Stacy Tang

How do you create the pieces of art for My Dirty Paws? 
They are all digitally painted. My background is in traditional art and my main medium was acrylic. Three years ago I was making a big transition from traditional medium to digital because of work. So, I wanted to use my spare time to hone my digital painting skills while working on something fun. Initially, the various techniques were done as practice. Later on, I really loved how each of them was different, so I began to purposefully use different styles to express each animal’s characteristics.

I see you also have plans to do a book. Will you talk a little bit about that?
I have the intention to do a book when I reach at least 50 illustrations. One book for cats, one for dogs. Every piece will come with a story about the animal. My wish is to create an art book carrying an educational message.

How long do you plan on continuing the project? 
Probably as long as my love for art and for animals continues – I hope that would never end!

My Dirty Paws by Stacy Tang

Will you talk about what you do as a TLC volunteer at the shelter? 
What I do is to provide socialization to the cats to help them build confidence since most of them came to the shelter confused and scared. The shelter is a very stressful environment to them and we volunteers try to give them the care they lack. Sometimes it also means simply taking them out of the confining cage and letting them exercise in a room. Even just 15-20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Maintaining their well-being gives them a better chance to find an adopter and help them adjust when they move into their new home later on. My cat Casper was also adopted from the shelter back in 2014.

What’s a fun fact about yourself? 
Most of my friends still find it weird that I went from disliking cats to being a crazy cat lady in a few years’ time. It’s been an amazing journey; cats have opened up a whole new world to me.

Do you have a favorite rescue or shelter that you’d like to give a shout out to?
Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue in San Francisco is doing some really great work in helping adult and senior cats with treatable medical and behavioral issues.

My Dirty Paws by Stacy Tang

Thank you to Stacy for sharing her beautiful artwork with us! You can purchase art prints from My Dirty Paws at the project website. 50% of proceeds are donated to non-profit organizations. If you want to submit a story/photo for consideration in the My Dirty Paws project, please visit the submission section of the website to learn more. Follow My Dirty Paws on Facebook!

I love it when people like Stacy use their talent to showcase shelter pets. Don’t you?

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  1. What a wonderful interview and beautiful art. As a tuxedocat addict, it doesn’t surprise me he turned you Stacy. They are a special “breed” all on their own.

  2. Great interview and wonderful project………….Stacy’s art is absolutely wonderful – very good at capturing a cat’s spirit which isn’t always easy to do. BIG SUCCESS to her!

    Hugs, Pam and Sam

  3. What a wonderful story and I love love when others see the good in all those shelter animals as its true, their fear does not show their true light, your project is amazing, thanks for sharing

    1. Hi Dezi and Raena, this is Stacy. So sweet of you to ask that question! So, MeowMeow still lives in that apartment building area. I went back to visit him a few times. He’s very well-loved by the residents. People leave him food, water, shelter, toys in the garage (enclosed area so it’s not out in the open), and a lot of people actually spend time to play with him. In the past, I’ve also wondered if it was better off to help him find a home and get domesticated. But I have a gut feeling that he’s enjoying being so free, especially that he’s getting all the love from the residents. I also noticed from the clipped ear that he’s been neutered.

      1. Dat’s pawsum mews. Fanks fur tellin’ us Stacy. We just worried cuz his story ended and you got a kitty, but not him. Glad to know he is luvved and cared fur.

        Luv ya’

        Dezi and Raena

  4. I was going to ask about Meow Meow too, but I saw the comment above. I am glad he is cared for. This is a wonderful project.

  5. Stacy’s work is exquisite! I love how many artists/photographers are now using their talent to showcase shelter animals in a positive light, which helps (we pray) to erase stereotypes about certain animals/breeds. I also love how Stacy chose to volunteer with cats in order to learn more about them. For someone who was as afraid of cats as she was, that is just HUGE. Wonderful post!

  6. Thanks everyone for the kind words and support! Please do check on Instagram/Facebook/Website for new updates.
    Thank you Rachel for showcasing My Dirty Paws here. This community is so full of love! :)

  7. It’s great that someone who started off being afraid of cats ended up not only adopting one but being totally inspired by them! Wonderful project!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  8. This is such a cool project! I love the idea behind it. Shelter cats just need a little bit of love and they will be as squeaky clean as any other cat. :) I love my rescued furbabies!

  9. Absolutely brilliant Stacy! Love what you do and why you do it. Awesome artwork and great project! This world sure needs more compassionate true artist like you. Blessings. Jackie

  10. What an incredible concept. Blessings to Stacy and all she does to help kitties. Her art is absolutely beautiful too… really captures the soul of the cat… or the sole of the paw! Purrs from Deb and the Zee/Zoey gang