August 27, 1958
Flint, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||November 5, 2012
Tonopah, Nevada, U.S.
Stalking Cat (born Dennis Avner; August 27, 1958 - November 5, 2012) was an American man known for his extensive body modifications, which were intended to increase his resemblance to a female tiger. For his 14 surgical procedures towards that goal, he held a world record for "most permanent transformations to look like an animal". The name "Stalking Cat" is a Native American name, given to him in childhood by a medicine man of his tribe.
Stalking Cat was born in Flint, Michigan. His parents were of Lakota and Wyandot heritage. He had a brother named Dave. The family lived in Suttons Bay, Michigan. As an adult, Stalking Cat related in an interview that the feelings of being connected to a totem were present, and how one of his earliest childhood memories was of wondering where his tail was. Around age 10, he was given his name by Grey Cloud, the medicine man of his tribe.
In the early 1980s, Stalking Cat began the modifications to his face. In interviews, he stated that he chose to alter his physical appearance in accordance with an ancient Wyandot tradition, where people alter their bodies to resemble their totems. He explained that he met a Native American chief who encouraged him to follow the ways of his totem, the tiger. He also told of how his totem was actually a female tiger, and how he felt moved to blur the gender boundaries as well. While living in San Diego, he met Tess Calhoun at a furry convention. Over several years, he formed a close friendship with Calhoun and her husband, Rick Weiss.
In 2005, Weiss' job with Boeing required the couple to move to Washington, and they asked Stalking Cat, then aged 47, to join them. The trio moved to Freeland, Washington, on Whidbey Island, where Stalking Cat helped fix up their house. He stood out in the small town, and the local newspapers occasionally ran articles on him. One article referred to him as a "cigarette-smoking, out-of-work, registered Republican who owns firearms and left California because he believes it's become a communist state". Calhoun said that he was "living in a family for really the first time" and that "it takes some adjusting".
Stalking Cat, Calhoun, and Weiss were active in the furry community, both online and at conventions. They held monthly gatherings for members of the furry community at their home. Stalking Cat became well known in the furry community and has a biography on WikiFur. Stalking Cat had financial troubles, and in August 2007, he posted publicly on his online journal that he needed a new place to live. Calhoun posted that she and her husband simply could not afford to support him anymore. She also posted that they would be throwing him a send-off party.
In September 2007, at age 49, Stalking Cat moved to Tonopah, Nevada. On November 5, 2012, he died alone in his garage in Tonopah. He was 54 years old. News of the death became public one week later. In an online post, BMEzine founder Shannon Larratt wrote that his death was a suicide. His brother later established a memorial fund in his name.
Description of modifications
Many of Stalking Cat's body modifications were performed by Arizona-based artist Steve Haworth. The first artist to begin the extensive tattoo work on Stalking Cat's face was Larry Hanks in San Diego, California, who started the work in 1985. The modifications included:
- Extensive tattooing, including facial tattooing
- Facial subdermal implants to change the shape of his brow, forehead, and the bridge of his nose
- Flattening his nose, via septum relocation
- Silicone injection in his lips, cheeks, chin, and other parts of his face
- Bifurcating (splitting) his upper lip
- Filing and capping his teeth
- Surgically shaping his ears, making his ears pointed and his earlobes elongated
- Surgical hairline modification
- Piercing his upper lip and transdermal implants on his forehead, to facilitate wearing whiskers
- Wearing green contact lenses with slit irises
- Wearing a robotic tail
Future modification plans included a plan for implants on top of his head, for mounting tiger-like ears.
Medical ethics concerns
Glenn McGee, director of the Center for Bioethics at Albany Medical College in New York, said: "Cosmetic surgery is a practice based on informed consent that needs to balance the risks with the benefits. It is possible to have a coherent view that is nonetheless detrimental to one's well-being. This is a patient who's being harmed by medicine in the interest of his tradition."
Stalking Cat attained local celebrity status, and frequently travelled to attend interviews and photo sessions. He was interviewed on such television and radio shows as Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Larry King Live, VH1's Totally Obsessed, Kerrang! Radio's The Night Before, BBC Choice's Anna in Wonderland, and Animal Planet's Weird, True & Freaky.
- Parry, Laurence "Greenreaper" (2012-11-12). "Stalking Cat confirmed dead at 54". Flayrah. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
- Larratt, Shannon (2012-11-12). "RIP Stalking Cat". ModBlog. BMEzine. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- D'Arminio, Aubry (2008-09-30). "Take the 'Guinness World Records 2009' pop-culture quiz!". Popwatch. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
- Dolan, Mark. "The World's Strangest Plastic Surgery and Me (episode guide)". The World's... and Me. Channel 4. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
- "It's a weird world of world records". The Sunday Mail (Courier Mail). 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
- Shannon Larratt. "BMEzine radio interview with Stalking Cat and Shannon Larratt". BMEzine. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Casavant, Vanessa Renée (2005-08-16). "Catman's transformation raises concerns over extreme surgery". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Stensland, Jessie (2008-07-02). "Catman pounces on Whidbey". Whidbey News-Times. Sound Publishing, Inc. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- "Stalking Cat". WikiFur. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Calhoun, Tess (2007-07-22). "Told Stalkingcat he must move". Tess the Red Pony. LiveJournal. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Calhoun, Tess (2007-08-13). "LiveJournal comment; "If you want the facts..."". Stalking Cat. LiveJournal. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Calhoun, Tess (2007-09-28). "GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRs". Tess the Red Pony. LiveJournal. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Hastings, LP (2012-11-12). "Dennis Avner aka "Stalking Cat" Found Dead; On his Time in OC". OC Weekly. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- "Passages: Dennis Avner, Stalking Cat, dead at 54". East County Magazine. 2012-11-14. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Avner, Dave (November 2012). "Dennis (Stalking Cat) Avner, Memorial Fund". GoFundMe. Retrieved 7 November 2013.