Make This! 80’s Shredded Cat T-Shirt



Growing up, we had a lot of pets. Not in a creepy animal hoarder way, but always a dog, a few indoor/outdoor cats, and usually a small creature like a hamster, rabbit, or fish. When a pet died, it was buried in our backyard with a proper funeral, and almost immediately replaced. Sometimes I’d find a stray cat and coax it home, sometimes my dad would show up after work with a new dog. My parents liked animals and all, but I can only assume they tolerated running a home for wayward pets because I loved those goddamn animals so much. Loved is probably an understatement. I’ve always been acutely aware that I need them more than they need me.


1980 – “holding” my first cat who we found in a tree.


Although I grew up in the heart of suburbia (30 minutes North of Detroit), our street, and the few streets surrounding it, somehow evaded development until the early nineties. Our tiny piece of town was a rural oasis tucked inside the neighboring suburban sprawl. Our street was narrow, barely paved, and covered in a layer of gravel. My mom & dad’s house, which they still live in, is very old (the title of the home literally states “old” as the date built). Instead of a garage, we had a dirt floor barn and attached to the back of our house was a pump house, which until the early 90’s, was used to supply our well water. Our yard, which contained several apple trees, two cherry trees, a pear tree, and a plumb tree, was surrounded by woods and farmland. My parents allowed a family of farmers, who lived a few doors down, to grow crops on an acre of our land in exchange for free fruits and vegetables. Once a week my mom and I pulled my little red wagon down to their farmhouse, and filled it with tomatoes, corn, lettuce, strawberries, and peppers from their produce stands. In the summer, if I craved a snack, I would run out to the field and pluck a green pepper from the ground or a pear from one of the fruit trees. In the fall, I’d pick my own pumpkins right from the patch just beyond our backyard. Not a dollar was ever exchanged between our families. It was all very Ann of Green Gables and back then I had no appreciation for how enchanting it all was.


The majority of my friends lived in the neighborhood across town, which seemed like a world away. With no sidewalks, no kids, no siblings, and no parks nearby, my pets, and any creatures within a square mile of our house, became my playmates. I often dragged a little wooden chair to a clearing in the woods just beyond our backyard. I would sit and read books aloud to the birds, the squirrels, and my cats. Every Spring, for a stretch of four or five years, one of my outdoor cats gave birth to a litter of kittens, and so would begin a new semester of Tracey’s School for Kittens. I’d teach them how to eat solid food, climb stairs, and use the litter box. They’d all sleep in my bed every night until they were old enough to be re-homed. When I was 7 years old, I got my first camera – a Kodak Ektralite 10. I followed the cats all through the house and neighborhood, shot countless pictures, and mailed all the doubles to my grandmother. She’d reply a few days later with an envelope filled to the brim with pictures of her cats. I realize this probably sounds like a terribly lonely and feral childhood, but it wasn’t. I loved my feline companions, and they loved me back.


A few of my cats, photographed by me, in the 80’s. 


So yeah. All of this to say I LIKE CATS. And dogs, and birds, and forest animals, and well, people too, but maybe I like cats the most? Question mark?


A while back, I posted a throwback photo of myself on Instagram & Facebook wearing this shredded cat t-shirt.



That shirt elicited a bunch of enthusiastic comments, because apparently it was quite popular back in the 80’s. To celebrate my love for you (and cats) (and the 80’s) I thought I’d create a free download so you can make your very own adult sized shredded cat tee! CAT LOVERS UNITE!




A plain white t-shirt, iron-on inkjet transfer paper, scissors, iron, inkjet printer.


Step One:

If your shirt is wrinkly, give it a good ironing so you have a smooth surface to work with.


Step Two:

Download the cat image here. Right click on the image and choose “save image as” to save it to your computer. Print the image at it’s full size onto 8.5 by 11 iron-on transfer paper. Be sure to follow the print instructions included with the paper – it will explain how to create a mirror image in your print dialogue box.


Step Three:

Cut out the printed image leaving a 1/4 inch border all around.


Step Four:

Place the printed image face down onto the front of the shirt. Make sure it’s centered.


Step Five:

Iron the printed image according to the instructions included with the paper. The paper I used called for two minutes of even pressure at the highest cotton setting.


Step Six:

Once the paper has completely cooled, gently peel it away from the shirt.


Step Seven:

Cut off the hems on each arm, the bottom of the shirt, and the neckline as shown below. I like my shirts to have a bit of a scoop neckline, but that’s just my preference.



Step Eight:

Make a series of vertical cuts up each of the arms. I made mine about a third of an inch thick, but you don’t have to be super accurate with this. Then, make a series of vertical cuts from the bottom of the shirt in an inverted triangle pattern (make sure to cut through both layers at the same time so the front and back are identical). Tug down on each strand to elongate them, which will make the edges of the fabric curl in.






Add a pair of saucy swants and you have a fierce ensemble. This outfit says you value comfort, but you’re not afraid to party. Meow.






Posted on by Tracey
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3 Responses to Make This! 80’s Shredded Cat T-Shirt

  1. Audree says:

    I remember several of those litters of kittens:) You were a regular kitty midwife.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you! I loved that story AND the super cool top. It’s funny how much room we had in that little town. Those kitten pictures are too much.

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