Dennis Avner aka "Stalking Cat" Found Dead; On his Time in OC

Categories: Grrranimals
StalkingCat.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
If I told you that Dennis Avner passed this November, it wouldn't mean much. But if I pulled up a photo of the character he was better known as, your interest would surge immediately. Avner lived a great part of his life as Stalking Cat, an identity that would earn him worldwide notoriety and supposedly a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Modified Person in the direction of an animal.

And although he was found dead last week of an apparent suicide in Nevada, he was an OC boy.

Avner, or as some called him, Cat, had Lakota and Heron blood, and was told by a Native American elder that his totem animal was a tiger. While most of us might go away from that realization with the intent to buy more tiger paraphernalia at the next flea market, Avner took it to heart...and epidermis. His entire body was tattooed, but his face was inked to look like a tiger's. Saline injections in his brow and upper lip made him more feline-esque. He had his ears surgically reconstructed to points, and dermal piercings on his lip and eyebrows were used to attach synthetic whiskers. A quick Internet search will reveal this information more times than you want to count. Newspapers across the nation, and even across the Atlantic, reported on his death. Yet finding out about the man behind Stalking Cat is a different story.

An old friend of Cat's, Octavia Wolfe, informed the Weekly that Avner actually spent a lot of time in OC between 2002 and 2005. Avner was born in Michigan in 1958 and lived in San Diego during the time that he and Wolfe met. Wolfe never visited Avner's home, but he lived somewhere in a remote location in the Northern San Diego mountains and worked as a computer tech. However, he came to stay in OC for weeks at a time. What was he doing down here? Well, just hanging out.

Avner stayed at a friend's home in Garden Grove where he gregariously socialized at parties, watched TV, cracked jokes, and mused about spirituality. He had girlfriends and cooked meals for his friends. Robert Johnson, another friend, described Avner as larger than life and full of stories. Johnson also pointed out that he shared several meals with Avner, and despite Internet rumors, he did not live off of raw meat. "He used a knife and a fork just like everyone else," Johnson said. In fact, both Wolfe and Johnson recalled that after people got over the initial shock of Cat, and asking him 20 questions, he became just a friend.

The only peculiar thing about Avner's stint in OC was that he worked at a Furry Convention in Irvine. Before you start to chuckle and reference CSI, consider how comfortable Avner felt in this environment. Wolfe said that people at the conventions looked past Avner's body modifications and were more interested in him personally. He made many friends there and they all took trips to Disneyland. Not surprisingly, Avner had trouble getting into the park due to their "no mask" policy.

What happened, then, to a man loved by so many? After moving from San Diego, Avner lived in Washington for a brief time and then settled in his final destination in Tonopah, Nevada. Johnson commented that "he always seemed to live in the middle of nowhere," and Tonopah certainly kept with that tradition. Neither friend knew much about what Avner was doing out there, and it is difficult to research. The only public proof of his presence comes in a few photographs that fans took after running into him at a gas station. Now these images seem almost ghostly. Avner passed away alone in his garage on November 5th at the age of 54.

No cause of death has been released to the public and searching for an answer took me down 3 phone trees to a voicemail for the Nye County records office. My voicemail has not been returned. Several articles about Avner's death blame suicide. Wolfe chose not to comment on this, due to spiritual reasons, and Johnson said he wouldn't muse on it. Perhaps the only person who knows about this and Cat's foggy past is his only biological brother, Dave Avner. Outside of mentioning he had a brother, Cat did not like to talk about his family. His brother recently posted a fundraiser on gofundme.com to help pay for Cat's funeral expenses and to save his estate in Tonopah. He never replied to an interview request.

No matter what Cat's past held or the complicated and emotional reasons that he chose to modify his body so extensively, it seems that no one who knew him minded. Without fail, Cat is remembered for his kindness and contributions. His friends saw his body modifications as something that simply made Cat happy and gave him solace. When I asked Johnson what the most memorable thing about Cat was he replied softly, after a long pause, "His eyes, without the contacts in. He had beautiful eyes."


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
26 comments
irkthomas
irkthomas

Hope he is at peace......God bless, Stalking Cat!

irkthomas
irkthomas

Hope he is at peace.....Seemed like a very gentle soul......God bless, Stalking Tiger:)

irkthomas
irkthomas

Hope he is at peace.....Seemed like a very gentle soul......God bless, Stalking Tiger:)

irkthomas
irkthomas

Hope he is at peace.....Seemed like a very gentle soul......God bless, Stalking Cat:)

AllNaDaysWk
AllNaDaysWk

@DjMichaelToast @OCWeekly may he finally be in peace, he served our country with honor & sustained wounds that would never heal #myclient

Vawlkee
Vawlkee

I'm a furry and frankly, for the life of me, I'll never understand the logic behind self mutilation. "Cat" ruined his body for a reason only clear to him.

In this day and age, nothing surprises me - well almost nothing!

I'm still scratching my head.

Nelson Mills
Nelson Mills

Dude this guy lived in Tonopah! I worked there last summer and I saw him working at the supermarket in town.

OCWeekly
OCWeekly

@bozobarr Gracias for rt!

Vanessa Espitia
Vanessa Espitia

What?! I googled him like two days ago! Ugh. Creepy.

Lithic_Chick
Lithic_Chick

I didn't know him personally, but one of his friends told me he was an amazing artist and accomplished flint knapper (maker of stone tools like arrowheads) because she overheard me mention an I had an interest in learning flint knapping. I guess his appearance upstaged his talent, I have never seen anything about his art in the media.

 

Also, @paullucas714 @LPHastings I am pretty sure it has been proven that modern native americans descend from people who crossed the Bearing Strait from Asia.

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

He was told by "A Native American elder that his Totem animal was a Tiger? Did any one ever think to tell him that North America doesnt have any tigers? that Tigers are indigenous to Asia? Totems are indigenous to The Pacific North West and Canada.

LPHastings
LPHastings

 @Lithic_Chick  @paullucas714  @LPHastings Good point about the Bering Straight. Yet that would have been so insanely long ago that I would be surprised if animals from their ancestors' homes would have remained prominent figures in the folklore. Over time, the folklore would have adapted to the land they lived on.

 

And yes! He apparently was a fantastic artist and great body painter.

LPHastings
LPHastings

 @paullucas714 I also had this question. However, the woman that I interviewed said that the modern Native's, which Avner was a part of, are not limited to having a totem that only exists in North America. I suppose, Native American traditions, like all, are not free from modernization and globalization.

rubi-kun
rubi-kun

 @LPHastings  @Lithic_Chick  @paullucas714 I wonder if we're ever going to see any of his art.

 

Also, I've seen some people mention he wanted to be a female tiger. So are male pronouns the most appropriate to use in that case? Should we be talking about Denise rather than Dennis?

bbinkowski
bbinkowski

@stalkingelk I'm unsure as to whether my reply to you went through, so I'll re-type it. Apologies if you get it twice. 

I only met him once - I was a reporter for an LA radio station called KNX, and wanted to do a profile on him. I expected a kook, but came away from the interview with a deep and profound respect and affection for who he was and how he had remade himself. We corresponded for a bit after that, but I was always a little bit concerned about being one of those overenthusiastic reporters that you just can't shake, so we fell out of touch. I was genuinely saddened to find out about his death.  Thank you for giving him the support you did (obviously emotional as well as financial.)

-Brooke 

stalkingelk
stalkingelk

@LPHastings @rubi-kun I dated Catman...Dennis...StalkingCat....for several months. I was emailed a link to a site that had photos of him as a joke from a friend of mine and I became intriqued...so I wrote to Cat and we became friends and lovers. I was the one that moved him from San Diego to Whidbey Island....financing the bulk of the trip as he was pretty broke. He had a lot of good traits but could be short tempered and curt with fans.

rubi-kun
rubi-kun

 @LPHastings I'm also curious if anyone knows anything about his life before 2001 or so when he first got the attention of Ripley's and the press. I know he was in the navy and then got the facial tattoos in the mid-80s, but I'm curious what life was like for him after such drastic modifications but before celebrity hit.

LPHastings
LPHastings

 @rubi-kun  Ah yes, I read about that too. It was one question that I asked his friends and neither had heard anything about his tiger being female. Actually, Octavia Wolfe met a few of his girlfriends over the years, so it seems that he endured at least some masculine traits. I think that when we see people as different as Dennis, we tend to tag sexuality onto it. Who knows! If any of Dennis' girlfriends are out there - talk to me!    

Now Trending

Anaheim Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Fashion

General

Loading...