On this episode of the VH1 documentary series Totally Obsessed, which I think ran in 2004, Fred Willard hosts a segment on Dennis Avner, self-styled “Stalking Cat”—he appears to have had his name legally changed—who underwent an ambitious series of body modifications (tattoos, implants, piercings) in a largely successful effort to become a feline-human hybrid. Avner passed away under mysterious circumstances in 2012.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Avner spent time in the Navy as a sonar technician. According to his obituary in Modblog, he “identified strongly with his feline totem animals and in what he told me was a Huron traditional of actually adopting the physical form of ones totem, he transformed himself not just into a tiger, but a female tiger at that, blurring and exploring the gender line as much as the species line.”
As the Seattle Times reported in 2005, “He has had all his teeth removed and replaced with tigerlike dentures and fangs. He has had his lip split to resemble the mouth of a cat. He has six stainless-steel mounts implanted on his forehead and 18 piercings above his lip to which he can attach whiskers. He has had nose and brow implants, and silicone cheek, chin and lip injections. The tips of his ears are pointed. And he has so many tattoos they almost cover his body.”
I confess that I find the segment difficult to watch. On the one hand, I’m glad that Avner/Stalking Cat was able to pursue the life he wanted—on the other hand, one has to wonder about the possibility of body dysmorphic disorder or some other form of mental illness and a chosen life of exclusion from most of life’s offerings. It appears that he did have close friends who supported him, including but not limited to the furry community and the body modification community.