PASSAGES: DENNIS AVNER, STALKING CAT, DEAD AT 54

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November 14, 212 (Guatay) – Dennis Avner, a former Guatay resident also known by his Native American name, Stalking Cat,  was found dead on November 5 in Tonopah, Nevada. Avner was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most body modifications to resemble an animal, following numerous surgeries, piercings and tattoos to resemble a tiger. 

Born August 27, 1958 in Flint Michigan to parents of Huron and Lakota heritage, he came to believe that altering his body in the image of his “spirit animal,” the tiger, honored an ancient Huron tradition of resembling one’s own totem. He took on the name Stalking Cat and began his body modifications after talking with a Native American chief who reportedly inspired him to “follow the ways of the tiger.”  He was also known among friends as "Cat Man."

He served in the U.S. Navy as a sonar technician and later went into computer repair. In Guatay, he also worked at Hilltop Hardware,  musician Paul Cumming told ECM.

But in 2005, he opted to relocate to Washington state, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune that Guatay folks were “mostly tolerant” of his eccentricities but that he needed to move on to make a living.

His unusual obsession earned him celebrity status and some money.  He appeared on TV and radio programs including Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Larry King Live, and Animal Planet’s Weird, True and Freaky. It also provoked controversy over medical ethics though major changes were reportedly performed by non-surgeons without an anesthetic. His modifications included piercing and splitting his upper lip to wear whiskers, filing teeth to resemble fangs, silicone injections and forehead implants, and tattooed stripes on his face and body. 

When sheriff's deputies were called to 401 Mizpah Circle, Tonopah, Nevada for a report of a deceased person, they found Dennis "Catman" Avner, deceased in the garage.   

Deputy Jason Blackburn then began investigating the death. After completing his investigation at the scene, he arranged for an autopsy to be completed, and notified Avner's relatives of his death at that time.  

Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeio confirmed Avner's death in a press release forwarded to ECM.

“Dennis Avner was transported to the Washoe County Medical Examiner's office where an autopsy was completed. The autopsy results are pending laboratory testing of samples collected,” Sheriff De Meo said. “Cause of death is pending the results of the autopsy, and will be determined after all information is gathered."