Everyone’s heard the phrase “crazy old cat lady”, right? An elderly woman, with only her many cats for company sitting on her porch and yelling at kids to get off her grass. Well why not try this on for size: replace the domestic cat obsession with a tiger obsession, and the old lady on her porch with a man called Dennis Avner who has gone as far as to file his teeth into fangs, have his top lip surgically split and undergo extensive and permanent facial surgery…to turn himself into a human tiger.
Dennis, or as he prefers to be known, Stalking Cat, is a descendant of the Huron tribe of Native American Indians and believes it is his responsibility as such to model himself after his totem, in the ancient tradition. Stalking Cat, a former navy sonar technician, began these intense modifications to his person and personality after a discussion with a native chief who clearly told him that he should “follow the ways of the tiger”. Avner took those words more seriously than most people would have, and began at once to change his appearance. Not only are his teeth filed to fangs and his lip split to resemble a cat’s, but Avner’s body is also covered in tiger stripe tattoos, as well as his face, which has been surgically plumped and flattened to match a tiger’s. Every day Avner attached his whiskers to the facial piercings on either side of his nose. He claims not to keep track of the money expended on his obsession, but the total must be running high. Most of Stalking Cat’s body mods and tattoos have been performed by Arizona artist Steve Haworth, but the first artist to begin tattoos on his face was Larry Hanks of San Diego in 1985. As it’s illegal in the US for a medical professional to alter one’s physical appearance beyond the bounds of what society deems to be normal, Cat cannot have any of his modifications performed by a surgeon. As all anesthetists are medical professionals, this also means that Cat is not able to be anaesthetized before having any of his procedures done. Professor Kevin Gournay, of the Institute of Psychiatry says he thinks it very possible that Cat’s obsession stems from an unusual type of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
It’s not only his physical appearance that’s changed, his diet has too. Avner enjoys climbing trees and makes it a priority to eat meat every day, just as a tiger would. The meat should be as close to raw as possible, according to his preference, or at the temperature the animal would be had it just been killed. Delving further into his personal life, one asks the question- how do cat men find cat women to love. It’s a daunting and difficult task, but not an impossible one. Cat says of ‘dating’, “I’m seeing a few women at the moment. They understand that being a tiger is more important to me than humanity, which is difficult for many women to cope with.”
His unusual appearance has gained him local celebrity status and appearances on shows like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Larry King Live, VH1′s “Totally Obsessed”, Kerrang! Radio’s “The Night Before”, and even an interview on the BBC Choice program, “Anna in Wonderland” and other television and radio shows.
Cat isn’t stopping any time soon, not until he realizes his goal to be the perfect blend of cat and human, incorporating the best aspects of both. He admits that the painful transformation doesn’t give him much pleasure, other than getting him ever closer to his end goal.