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Dennis Avner (August 27, 1958 - November 5, 2012), was a member of the furry fandom who was widely known as the Catman, though he preferred his Native American name, Stalking Cat. Cat had spent considerable resources to surgically modify his body to resemble that of his totem, a tiger. He claimed that this was due to his traditional Native American beliefs.
Stalking Cat was born half-white, half-Native American, with Huron and Lakota ancestry. He grew up in Oscoda, Michigan, U.S.A. and from his earliest childhood he experienced a spiritual connection to all feline species, but particularly tigers. Around age ten, Stalking Cat was first named "Cat" by Grey Cloud, a medicine man of his tribe.
In an interview later in life with Mark Dolan, Stalking Cat would comment that virtually all his childhood friends were adults, he did not relate to children his own age, and he spent a lot of that time in the woods. He would also reveal that he never really knew his father, and claim that his step-father was a child molester. When asked if he was a victim of his step-father, Cat replied, "Not to a great extent, but enough. I mean, I've got some mental trauma that'll never go away."
After his transformation, Stalking Cat's appearance made him a celebrity, and he travelled to many different countries, appearing at live events and on television programs. He was represented by Hollywood talent agent Chuck Harris, who typically negotiated a "minimum (of) $2,500 for a half day's work, up to $8,500".
Whidbey Island years
Through informal fur-friendly gatherings of science-fiction fans in Southern California, Stalking Cat met Tess the Red Pony and her husband Rick (a Boeing engineer), and moved north with them in 2005.
In 2006, Stalking Cat and Tess were on a flight to Chicago to attend Midwest FurFest 2006, when they met Marla Carlson, Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Georgia. Around this time, Stalking Cat was working on a deal to market a Stalking Cat action figure, which did not materialize.
On March 5, 2007, Cat and Tess visited Western Washington University as guest speakers in the "interdisciplinary monster’s class". In April, Stalking Cat was interviewed by Professor Carlson for an article (Furry Cartography: Performing Species) that would be published in the Theatre Journal in 2011. At the time of the interview, he was living on Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington, with Tess and her husband. Fleet Wolf also lived in the house at that time. Prof Carlson's visit coincided with one of the household's monthly fur parties.
Stalking Cat was doing some work on the shared house, and had unsuccessfully sought computer-related work in the Seattle area. Because "expenses and dynamics became unworkable for this interesting household", Cat was asked to move out later that Summer.
In 2008, Stalking Cat would enter Guinness World Records in the category of "most permanent transformations to look like an animal". This record was verified on the set of the Italian television show Lo show dei record on February 9, 2008. In September the same year, Stalking Cat made a public appearance at the opening of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! museum in London's Piccadilly Circus.
By 2009, when Professor Carlson last spoke with Cat, his friend had moved on, work had dried up, and he was seeking clients as a home health aide.
Around 2010, Stalking Cat was interviewed by Mark Dolan for an episode of his documentary series The World's... and Me. The episode, titled The World's Strangest Plastic Surgery and Me, aired on April 12, 2010. At this time, Cat was making a living from public appearances and part-time work as a home-help for the elderly. During the interview, Stalking Cat indicated he was considering making money by selling his body to a museum to be displayed after his death.
Rumors of Stalking Cat's death began to circulate on Lulz.net on November 5, 2012. Oggywolf and bluecanary indicated in their Fur Affinity journals that they had contacted the Nye County Sheriff's office in Tonopah, Nevada, USA, who confirmed Stalking Cat's passing.
Because they were easiest to arrange, Stalking Cat began his transformation by getting tattoos. Initially he had fish-scale tattoos on his arms and legs due to a connection he felt with aquatic species like porpoises. Years later he got tiger stripes tattooed on his face, and, as a result, "got more in touch with (his) totem and who (he really was)".
Stalking Cat had several body modifications performed. He had head, nose, and brow implants, and silicone cheek, chin, and lip injections. His ears were sculpted to make them more pointed, and the lobes relocated to make them more elongated.
Cat had his lip cleft to resemble the mouth of a cat, and had the septum of his nose relocated to give a more flat, cat-like profile. He had six stainless-steel mounts implanted on his forehead and eighteen piercings above his lip to which he could attach whiskers.
In the United States, it is illegal for a medical professional to alter someone's appearance beyond what society deems "normal", so most of Cat's modifications were done by body-modification artist Steve Haworth, of Phoenix, Arizona. The same legal issues meant at least one procedure (injection of silicone) was done in Mexico. Cat had to brave surgery without pain relief, because of U.S. laws stating that only qualified doctors are licensed to administer anaesthetic.
Cat originally wanted to have his teeth reshaped and sharpened to look more cat-like, but his dentist refused to do the work. As "years of drinking and drugging" had left his teeth in a poor state, Cat eventually had to have them fully removed and dentures fitted, and at that time his dentist helped him acquire dentures with cat fangs that were in excess of an inch long.
Stalking Cat grew his fingernails into long claws, which were strengthened by a layer of acrylic. He wore contact lenses with slitted pupils, and sometimes an animatronic tail.
Cat's tail was built by Wolf Tail, of WolfTronix. During Cat's phone-in interview on the Funday PawPet Show in May, 2002, he mentioned that he was looking for someone who could build an animatronic tail for him. Techwolf, one of the viewers who was also in the show's IRC channel, knew of WolfTronix because its website ran on his server, and he pointed it out to Stalking Cat who in turn got in contact with Wolf Tail. The tail was completed in about one month. Stalking Cat was flown out to Wolf's home in Indianapolis by German television station ProSieben, who filmed Wolf giving the tail to Stalking Cat before going on a day-long video shoot around downtown Indianapolis.
Stalking Cat's transformations were estimated by some to have cost more than $200,000, but Cat himself lost track of the expenses. He had planned to have implants inserted into the top of his head so he could attach cat ears.
- Ripley's Believe It or Not! (episode #2.11, April 25, 2001)
- Larry King Live (episode of January 3, 2002).
- Anna in Wonderland, a BBC documentary in July 2002, which had a half-hour segment about furries.
- Russian Roulette (American game show; 2002 Halloween episode).
- Ripley's Believe It or Not! (episode #3.1, December 18, 2002)
- Arabella (2002 or 2003; German talk show).
- Jensen! (2007; Dutch talk show).
- Weird, True & Freaky (episode "Humanimals"; December 16, 2008)
- The World's Strangest Plastic Surgery and Me (April 12, 2010)
- "Cat Match Fever" (San Diego CityBeat, April 28, 2004)
- "Catman's transformation raises concerns over extreme surgery" (The Seattle Times, August 16, 2005)
- "Cat Man - the human 'tiger' who enjoys climbing trees and eats raw meat every day" (The Daily Mail, September 6, 2008)
- "I used to be a bloke but I'm all right MIAOW" (The Sun. September 6, 2008)
Stalking Cat and furry
In 2000, Stalking Cat attended a furry event at a science-fiction convention, where he "felt comfortable with other people for the first time". He regularly attended conventions, and was the fan guest of honor at RainFurrest 2007. He was the Cabaret Lead at Califur 4 (2008) and Califur 5 (2009).
Convention and event attendance
- Califur - 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
- CritterConDiego - 2002
- FurBQ - 2003
- Further Confusion - 2006, 2010
- Megaplex - 2005
- Midwest FurFest - 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
- RainFurrest - 2007
In 2002, Stalking Cat's website was reviewed on episode #124 (May 26) of the Funday PawPet Show. Cat phoned in to the show, and, after a brief interview, played their quiz "So You Want To Win Nothing And Like It" and fielded questions from the audience.
- Stalking Cat's profile on LiveJournal. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- "Dennis Avner, 'Stalking Cat,' Dead At 54: Body Modification Enthusiast May Have Committed Suicide" - news article on The Huffington Post. Dated November 13, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2012
- Catman's transformation raises concerns over extreme surgery, The Seattle Times, 16 August 2005.
- Radio interview between Stalking Cat and Shannon Larratt for BMEradio. Retrieved November 13, 2012
- Furry Cartography: Performing Species — essay by Marla Carlson in Theatre Journal Volume 63, Number 2, May 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "The World's Strangest Plastic Surgery and Me HD 4/4" on YouTube. Retrieved November 15, 2012
- Dennis Avner on oscodahighschool.org. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "Cirque du Chuck" - article in the Los Angeles Times. Dated January 16, 2005. Retrieved November 15, 2012
- "Kat mannen ! Ewwwwwwwwwww :P" - thread on http://www.scifinytt.se. Dated March 6, 2005. Retrieved November 15, 2012
- "I will soon be an action figure" - posting by Stalking Cat, on his LiveJournal. Dated August 30, 2006. Retrieved November 14, 2012
- "Stalking Cat: How one man changed his body become a cat" - article in the AS review. Dated March 12, 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2012
- "It's a weird world of world records" - article in The Courier-Mail. Dated September 21, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2012
- "Most permanent transformations to look like an animal" - video on the Guiness World Records account on YouTube. Retrieved November 15, 2012
- "Catman and Lizardman at Ripley's Believe It Or Not" - video on YouTube. Uploaded September 4, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2012
- "Cat Man - the human 'tiger' who enjoys climbing trees and eats raw meat every day" - article in the Daily Mail newspaper. Dated September 6, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2012
- "The World's Strangest Plastic Surgery and Me HD 3/4" on YouTube. Retrieved November 15, 2012
- Marc Quinn exhibition on the website of the White Cube gallery. Retrieved November 17, 2012
- "Stalking Cat ..... gone, but not forgotten."- posting by Oggywolf on her Fur Affinity journal. Dated November 11, 2012 (retrieved November 12, 2012)
- "Confirmed about Stalking Cat." — posting by bluecanary on his Fur Affinity journal. Dated November 11, 2012. (retrieved November 12, 2012)
- "'Cat Man’ found dead in Nevada, rumors of suicide" (Daily News (New York) (retrieved November 13, 2012)
- "'Stalking Cat' Daniel Avner dead of possible suicide after years of transforming his face to look like a feline" (Daily Mail,retrieved November 13, 2012)
- "Stalking Cat Dennis Avner whose body was transformed by Steve Haworth into a tiger found dead" (The Melbourne Herald-Sun, retrieved November 14, 2012)
- ""Troubled and remarkable": 'Cat Man' Dennis Avner found dead at home in suspected suicide" (The Daily Mirror, retrieved November 14, 2012)
- Stalking Cat on "Science: Human Body & Mind" on the BBC website. Retrieved November 16, 2012
- Animatronic Tiger's Tail on WolfTronix. Retrieved November 19, 2012
- Episode 124 of the Funday PawPet Show. Retrieved November 16, 2012
- Dennis Avner on the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 10, 2012
- "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Hosts Game Show Network's Three-Hour Halloween-Themed Primetime Programming Marathon" on prnewswire.com. Retrieved November 10, 2012
- "Russian Roulette: Halloween Episode (1 of 4)" — video on YouTube. Uploaded December 22, 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2012
- "Catman" - video clip from Arabella on YouTube. Retrieved November 15, 2012
- "Hi from amsterdam" - posting on Stalking Cat's LiveJournal. Datred April 8, 2007. Retrieved November 15, 2012
- The World's Strangest Plastic Surgery and Me on Britain's channel four. Retrieved November 10, 2012
- "Last week to pre-register for Califur 5" — posting on tanuke.wordpress.com. Dated April 29, 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "Me and Stalking Cat at CaliFur. God this pic is old." — image on the Myspace account of "Viperman, aka Chris". Dated May 21, 2005. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "Mark and Stalking Cat" — image of Changa Lion's flickr gallery, in Califur 2.2 set. Dated Nay 7, 2006. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "Califur Convention Report" — report on the deviantART journal of Sonic626. Dated May 7, 2007. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "HA HA ON YOU FURRIES....." - posting by Michael Hirtes on alt.fan.furry. Dated August 5, 2002. Retrieved November 17, 2012
- "FurBQ 2003 Images" - posting by Alohawolf on dreamwidth.org. Dated June 6, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2012
- "it has been a while" — posting on Stalking Cat's LiveJournal. Dated January 31, 2006. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "FC2010 Gold Rush 17" — posting on Qubi's gallery on Fur Affinity. Dated March 22, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "Re: Would you like to become your fursona?" - posting by Natasha Softpaw on furryteens.org. Dated August 21, 2008. Retrieved November 16, 2012
- "MFF 2002 - Sunday" on runningwolfpack.com. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "Old Repost - Midwest FurFest 2003" - entry on Freaky Lynx's LiveJournal. Dated June 27, 2006. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "Con photos from Bonk and Fossil's anthro tour 2004" on fossilizedart-conventions.buzznet.com. Dated December 12, 2004. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "GreenReaper's Midwest FurFest 2006 con report" - article by GreenReaper, on Flayrah. Dated December 20, 2006. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- "Midwest Furfest 2007" - posting on Takala's LiveJournal. Dated November 26, 2007. Retrieved November 12, 2012
- Midwest Furfest 2008 on jovinamask.com. Retrieved November 12, 2012