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Dennis Avner has died.
November 14, 2012 6:57 PM   Subscribe

RIP to internet and body-mod legend Stalking Cat Known as "the cat guy" on many parts of the internet, Dennis had spent money to shape himself in the form of his totemic animal, which he described as "a stalking cat". He held the world record for "most permanent transformations to look like an animal" by a single person No note or reason has been shared by the family.
posted by boo_radley (66 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
RIP Stalking Cat. I wish I had the courage to follow my dreams as boldly as you did.
posted by Scientist at 6:59 PM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


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The blog post says he took his own life. Some of the furry forums posts I found on this topic mentioned suicide as well.

When did Shannon Larratt* rejoin BME?

*MeFi's Own

Shit, ManWoman too? :(
posted by mkb at 7:12 PM on November 14, 2012


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May he rest in peace.
posted by Daddy-O at 7:13 PM on November 14, 2012


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posted by poe at 7:13 PM on November 14, 2012


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posted by jquinby at 7:14 PM on November 14, 2012


=^.^=
posted by Ad hominem at 7:17 PM on November 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh gosh. I actually met him-- bumped into him coming out of the Payless store on Whidbey Island of all tiny places. He was very nice. :(
posted by The otter lady at 7:20 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I looked at the vid, I was both amazed and repelled. This is one of those things I just don't get. I feel bad that he went to such trouble to turn himself into a cat, only to commit suicide.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:28 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if it is notable that he committed suicide.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:33 PM on November 14, 2012


[Made a quick edit per OP request, carry on pls.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:35 PM on November 14, 2012


Katjusa Roquette: I would expect that someone who feels moved to such lengths to make themselves look like another species is also likely someone experiencing a fair amount of body dysmorphia, not to mention someone who probably has a hard time getting people around him/her to understand what he/she is all about.

As someone who has spent some time on the fringes of the furry/otherkin community (which Stalking Cat was as much a part of as he was the body-mod community) I think I can safely say that many people who are there are having a rough time with life in one way or another, and often feel marginalized and dissatisfied with life.

What surprises me is that the reports that I had heard (always third-hand at best) seemed to indicate that Stalking Cat was pretty alright in himself. I never expected he would commit suicide. Of course, I never knew the guy. Still, it's too bad that he was never able to find whatever it was he was looking for.
posted by Scientist at 7:43 PM on November 14, 2012 [14 favorites]


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Meow
posted by growabrain at 7:44 PM on November 14, 2012


I first saw him on a tv show at some point, and he struck something really strong inside of me. I think because at the time, I was a a young teen and felt an extreme hatred of my own body, and didn't see a way to either become happy with myself or to change it into something that would make me happy. He was so shocking to me, because he'd given himself permission to manipulate himself into what he wanted. That was so controversial in my mind! It wasn't even that what he wanted was strange; it was that he tried so hard and so drastically to pursue it. I really needed to be shown, not that it was okay to do that, but that it was even possible to try. I hope his friends and family know how much he affected people for the good in this way.
posted by Mizu at 7:54 PM on November 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


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posted by radwolf76 at 7:56 PM on November 14, 2012


Donations
posted by unliteral at 7:56 PM on November 14, 2012


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posted by snsranch at 8:11 PM on November 14, 2012


I can't look at photos of him for very long as it triggers warning bells in what I presume is my lizard brain, but he was beautiful. Wrong species, this incarnation. Hopefully the right one next time.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:12 PM on November 14, 2012


. for Stalking Cat
. for ManWoman

both are huge losses to the world, without most of the world even realizing it.
posted by SuzySmith at 8:17 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


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Shapeshifting is the missing link in our species.
posted by infini at 8:20 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh goodness. I'm sorry to hear he is gone. He was a brave soul who I didn't understand but admired on a lot of levels.

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posted by hippybear at 8:22 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by lapolla at 8:43 PM on November 14, 2012


> I actually met him-- bumped into him coming out of the Payless store on Whidbey Island of all tiny places

He visited the Unitarian church I went to here in suburban Seattle. Maybe he was a boring, conventional person in some ways.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:01 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thank Mizu and Scientist for your thoughts. They make a good deal of sense. Whatever anyone thinks of him, it's a shame he took his own life.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:08 PM on November 14, 2012


This is sad news. I saw him at an airport once and really wished I could go up and have a coffee with him; he seemed like a cool person.

One detail I always found kind of fascinating when he'd show up on some documentary or another was the way he was often wearing a t-shirt with tigers on it - it always seemed a little redundant, but in an oddly endearing way, like maybe it was a gift from a well-meaning relative who didn't know what else to get him but knew he was into cats ...

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posted by DingoMutt at 9:29 PM on November 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


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posted by DrMew at 9:33 PM on November 14, 2012


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posted by arcticseal at 9:35 PM on November 14, 2012


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posted by elsietheeel at 9:36 PM on November 14, 2012


As someone who has gender transitioned, I have nothing but respect for people like Stalking Cat who are willing to endure great amounts of social marginalization to embody as they identify.

I know that people who engage in bodymods of this "extremity" are often brought up by transphobes in slippery slope arguments about what will happen in society if gender transitioning is socially accepted--and for this reason, a lot of trans people seek to distinguish "normative" gender transition from "crazy" bodily transformations such as trying to embody as an animal totem. This just makes me sad. Gender dysphoria is not the only sort of bodily alienation that should be respected.

RIP, Stalking Cat.
posted by DrMew at 9:47 PM on November 14, 2012 [26 favorites]


I read an article about him a while back. Apparently his inspiration was a dream in which he heard the phrase "become the tiger".

This clearly illustrates the dangers of psychological illiteracy. Taking one's own dreams literally is as dangerous to the individual as religious fundamentalism. In my socialist utopia, students K-12 would take would take at least a week of psych a year.
posted by clarknova at 9:57 PM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


How was this guy able to earn a living, considering how those body modifications and face tattoos made him almost completely unemployable?
posted by Yakuman at 9:59 PM on November 14, 2012


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Shit, ManWoman too? :(

Aw, man. That just bums me out like crazy. ManWoman's "Joy" painting, of the three girls skipping rope, hung in my doctor's waiting room when I was a kid, and it always made me smile. Learning later that it was painted by a tattooed weirdo who often dressed up like a skull version of Mr Peanut just made it that much more fun. Namaste.

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posted by Sys Rq at 10:03 PM on November 14, 2012


How was this guy able to earn a living, considering how those body modifications and face tattoos made him almost completely unemployable?

The article said he was a programmer and honestly, I can think of a dozen other fields he could have worked in without a problem.
posted by kate blank at 10:11 PM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Shine on you crazy whateverthefuck.
posted by Artw at 10:23 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yakuman: "How was this guy able to earn a living"

He wasn't and that could be part of what led to this. He was a friend of friends and we didn't exactly get along but I wish he could have found a better way out of his troubles.
posted by the_artificer at 10:35 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Suicide is..

Well, it's painful for all involved. I wish his loved ones well and I hope he left them a note to explain his choices. It won't make it better but at least there will be fewer questions.

If any of them are reading, I'm sorry for your loss. Hang in there.
posted by Malice at 11:02 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, no. No.

I met him once. I didn't know him, but I met him. We exchanged a couple of words. I was pretty tired. Really nice guy. Nice to everybody, the way I remember it.

I wish we'd exchanged more words.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:13 PM on November 14, 2012


@clarknova: This clearly illustrates the dangers of psychological illiteracy

Yep. I've never seen his transformation as anything but dysfunctional. If you're unhappy in your own skin, so to speak, it easily manifests as a desire to be something 'other' - anything - and it can reflect a self-fulfilling existential position if you feel you must go down a path that's guaranteed to turn you into someone even more marginalised.

ManWoman, however: I've been a fan for a long time, and I was very sorry to hear the news about him. His quest was nothing buy joyful and positive, and I wish I had the nerve to get a swastika tattoo for that reason myself.
posted by raygirvan at 2:21 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hairball.
posted by spitbull at 3:38 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never seen his transformation as anything but dysfunctional.

I'll admit I always found Stalking Cat's appearance alarming, but we all modify our bodies to some degree. (If we didn't, we would be very hairy and very stinky.) How far we take it is our own business. Almost any modification you could make to your body, no matter how minor or generally accepted it would be within the society where you live, would be declared weird and unnatural by somebody somewhere.

Changing into a tiger person probably did complicate Stalking Cat's life in all sorts of ways. But he (she?) had to do it. Is it more dysfunctional to live the weird life you want, or to spend your days in repression, frustration and despair?

I'd seen Stalking Cat on TV a lot and I'd noticed the breasts, but the shows never mentioned the gender aspect of the transformation. How strange and sad that a man turning into a tiger was apparently acceptable for the family hour, but a man turning into a female tiger was beyond the pale.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:45 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by toerinishuman at 3:55 AM on November 15, 2012


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posted by Faint of Butt at 4:36 AM on November 15, 2012


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posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 5:12 AM on November 15, 2012


"When did Shannon Larratt* rejoin BME?"

IIRC, his daughter became very sick while she was staying with her mother (the current owner of BME). While dealing with that situation, Shannon and his ex reconnected on some level, and he resumed blogging for BME.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 5:20 AM on November 15, 2012


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posted by shakespeherian at 5:21 AM on November 15, 2012


I'd seen Stalking Cat on TV a lot and I'd noticed the breasts, but the shows never mentioned the gender aspect of the transformation.

I am not sure, but I remember hearing (via some random tv snippet) that it was the result of a medical treatment and hormone imbalance, not a deliberate part of a gender transition.


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posted by Theta States at 7:07 AM on November 15, 2012


Not my thing but I can recognize the beauty and he did an amazing job. Good for him to go beyond what is expected.

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posted by stormpooper at 7:08 AM on November 15, 2012


Very sad to hear this.

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posted by skye.dancer at 7:28 AM on November 15, 2012


I'm conflicted. The death of any person diminishes us all, however the suicide of Mr. Avner should come as no surprise. It is one thing to have a totem animal or even a familiar and wholly something else to submit yourself to an obsession so completely. I find little to admire here beyond the novelty of lifestyle. I see a broken human being with so little connection with people who actually cared for him as a human but instead saw some symbolic hero of extreme body modification. Body modification is one aspect of hipsterism I hope to see die out as the rebellion fashion choice of a generation. Shall we adopt foot binding and neck hoops? What of clitoridectomy. It may seem unfair to compare such exotic forms of body morphing to current fashion trends but they differ little in the fact that they are fashion.

Unlike his totem there were not nine lives for Stalking Cat. RIP
posted by pdxpogo at 7:47 AM on November 15, 2012


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posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:50 AM on November 15, 2012


I hate myself when I am repelled by the appearance of someone, when I am simultaneously resenting people for disliking my own appearance. That being said, though, I simply could not look at pictures of his face, it just disturbed me too much.
posted by The Sprout Queen at 7:56 AM on November 15, 2012


I'm baffled and saddened by some of the judgmental comments here. I think his pictures look awesome, and I have nothing but respect for his willingness to become whatever he wanted to be without regard for societal norms.

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posted by IjonTichy at 8:26 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I find little to admire here beyond the novelty of lifestyle. I see a broken human being with so little connection with people who actually cared for him as a human but instead saw some symbolic hero of extreme body modification.

Did you actually know them?
Did you read stories from those who did?
Are you just basing your comment on exposure to the photos?
posted by Theta States at 8:41 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


. and . for two amazing beings.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2012


I am horrifically unsurprised.
I met him once at a Norwescon science fiction convention. For a person who looked so fast-forward future that you could barely get him out of your head once seen, he was one of the saddest, more morose persons I've ever met. In a 15 minute conversation, every positive i interjected, he found a suitable negative. I mean, he was a nice enough guy, not at all bitchy, but really felt the world was screwing him and there was nothing he could do. Don't remember seeing him smile all weekend. I has always hoped that one day he would turn it around and really rock, but that's the problem with depression, it just builds up.
Damn.
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posted by djrock3k at 10:13 AM on November 15, 2012


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posted by TrinsicWS at 10:17 AM on November 15, 2012


People who own their life to the degree that they are willing to endure pain, expense and possible bad reactions to be who they need to be fill me with awe. That said, this man sounds troubled. I hope he has found peace.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2012


Just saw the questions "when did Shannon rejoin BME" so I just wanted to clarify that I don't have any role at BME except occasionally posting on ModBlog, mostly to take the load off my ex-wife so she has more time to dedicate to our daughter... No official role or "reconnection" or anything like that I'm afraid.

To be honest these two unfortunate posts are the only things I've posted in a couple weeks because I've been focused on finishing a couple book projects because my own unfortunate obit is posted... So ManWoman hit me not just as the loss of a friend and someone I admire, but I could very much relate to the situation he found himself in, deciding to pull the plug in the face of a debilitating no cure disease that left him little option for a decent life from here on.
posted by glider at 11:30 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Re: Cat and gender...
I think that it was a lot easier for Cat to publicly confront the "concept tranformation" than the "gender transformation", probably because of his social background. To be honest, I've sometimes wondered if there was interplay between the two issues, and whether the secret need for a gender transformation was expressed in the totem transformation.

And yes, it's true that Dennis was often very negative and while he was an icon to many, in person he often rubbed people the wrong way... but I think it's important to understand how incredibly difficult his path was. He grew up half-native and never fit in on either side of his heritage, experiencing horrendous prejudice on both sides. Then he got dumped in Vietnam and came back with all the worst it had to give people -- terrible PTSD that often made him come off as a racist himself for starters. I really think it's important though to understand and appreciate how complex and tragic -- and at times beautiful -- his story was. He lived a remarkable life and experienced some amazing and unique things.

In the first link there's about an hour long audio interview I did with him about ten years ago, before he was particularly well known in the media.

ManWoman is very different -- just a wonderful guy across the board that touched everyone he met with such warmth.
posted by glider at 11:40 AM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


spitbull: "Hairball."

Eponysterical

also:

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posted by symbioid at 11:56 AM on November 15, 2012


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All acts of self-destruction converge towards the same terminus.
posted by gertzedek at 12:50 PM on November 15, 2012


I am not sure, but I remember hearing (via some random tv snippet) that it was the result of a medical treatment and hormone imbalance, not a deliberate part of a gender transition.

That's what I'd always assumed, but then Mr. Larratt's obituary led me to think it was a deliberate change. ("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.")

To be honest, I've sometimes wondered if there was interplay between the two issues, and whether the secret need for a gender transformation was expressed in the totem transformation.

Wow. If he really became a tiger man because he couldn't admit that he wanted to be a human woman, that's really heartbreaking. Macho cultural bullshit has ruined a lot of lives.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:18 PM on November 15, 2012


@Theta States:

First of all I made no mention of ManWoman my comments were toward the actions of Mr. Avner. No I did not meet him in person yes I know people who knew him as a body mod celebrity no one that was family/lover or in a personal relationship. My comments are my own personal opinions. I like to think that I am an accepting person and pretty much have no problems with anyone... but for some reason hidden to my self awareness are my negative feelings for body modification as an artistic/psychic form of expression. I certainly don't freak out when meeting a body modding devotee. Discrete or intimate tattoos/piercings I understand as a bit of mystery something you only share when you are most vulnerable with people you love and trust.

Statements made using your entire body especially about the face and neck are distracting. Often they show gang affiliation or a "fuck you" statement to the world. I have seen poor decisions made with little or no thought resulting in poor work. I have seen mixed tribal tattoos from different and diverse cultures mixed with no understanding of their meaning or purpose. When asking about their significance you get varied responses from shrugs to it is cool. Hardly anyone is tattoo'd to mark life events like taking your first head in battle manhood and menses usually are marked as milestones. Getting body mods as a mark of individuality rings hollow when not having any modification sets you apart from your peers more often than not. Body modding as fashion is beyond my understanding tattoo's are forever you don't put them on and off on a whim. Many see body modification as asserting their mastery over their lives when in fact it is conformity not rebellion that motivates.

Anyway I cannot justify my feelings about extreme body morphing it is something that informs me as unnatural a desecration of the human body. It signals to me someone not comfortable with who they are. Attention seekers, poseurs, uninformed for some reason these images and associations come forward when I meet someone who goes too far. It isn't rational but I have a healthy opinion of my gut feeling for most things. I just can't understand the unwanted negatives. I have the same aversion to games of chance, for some reason I have a negative association of the practice. I wasn't terrorized as a child by a gambling body modder. I did however see how foot binding affected society, women really had no choice in the matter especially the upper class women. I remember I was about 12 years old when I first encountered architecture modified for foot bound women. When I learned the reason was an emperors foot fetish that became fashion I was gobsmacked.

If my opinions give offense apologies. I am not hateful about the practice just uncomfortable when I see what lengths people can go to scratch an itch.
posted by pdxpogo at 5:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure this is the thread for this discussion. There will be other times.

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posted by howfar at 7:41 PM on November 15, 2012


Agreed.
posted by jessamyn at 8:23 PM on November 15, 2012


Fair enough. I apologize if my remarks were insensitive, given Cat Stalking's recent death.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:50 PM on November 16, 2012


@Ursula
Re: "If he really became a tiger man because he couldn't admit that he wanted to be a human woman"

Just to be clear I am not suggesting he wasn't legitimately in love with both transformations. Or that one overtly caused the other, just that there was some interplay, and his difficulty on moving forward on the one may have caused him to move more aggressively on the other. The only sad thing in regards to that is that he had to grow up in a world that is unfriendly to trans-issues... That's still the case, but it's slowly improving.
posted by glider at 6:59 PM on November 16, 2012


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