Furries: The Spirit Animals of Second Life

There is a little bit of animal in all of us, but what if we truly seek to embody the very animal we can best relate to?

If you truly want to embody your spirit animal, becoming a furry may be the best way to go.  According to Megan Garber’s November 6, 2014 article entitled “Your Spirit Animal:  An Investigation,” a spirit animal can either be a person or thing that a person deeply appreciates; to better identify this appreciation, a person can literally embody their admiration for another person or thing by claiming it as their own (Garber 2014).

Within the context of the furry, the sense of ownership specifically relies on identifying, as well as incorporating key characteristics and strengths that the animal of their choosing has.  For instance, a person may appreciate the mane of a lion, as well as a lion’s hunting skill and prowess.  Yet, in appreciating a lion, a person may see a bit of themselves in the animal; like the lion, they may have a “mane” of thick hair, or they may be very skilled at hunting down a person or a thing that they want, not to mention have a strong social prowess that is difficult to shy away from.  They see the attributes of the lion in themselves, and readily embrace that side of themselves by claiming the lion as their spirit animal.

Dennis Avner before and after his conversion into a human feline….

While the concept of embracing your spirit animal in Second Life may seem more tangible to the average person, it is important to note that in Real Life, embodying your spirit animal is just as tangible (if not more so).  Dennis Avner (age 50), for instance, was a former US Navy veteran that had at least 14 operations aimed at morphing himself into a feline, complete with whiskers, ears and a mechanical tail (White 2012).

Avner, according to the Daily Mail’s September 6, 2008 article entitled “Cat Man – The human ‘tiger’ that enjoys climbing trees and eating raw meat everyday” is descended from American Indians, and has spent ‘an uncalculated amount’ of money on making himself look like a big cat (The Daily Mail 2008).  Avner’s dedication to morphing himself into a tiger occurred soon after having a discussion with a Native American chief who inspired him to ‘follow the ways of the tiger’ (The Daily Mail 2008).

II. One of Two Furries:  Anthropomorphic Furries

In contrast to Dennis Avner’s literal, cosmetically enhanced feline morphing, becoming a furry in Second Life can–in a hosts of ways–be a bit more simpler.  Jaysen Katscher, who has been an active Second Life community member  for 10 years and a month, says that becoming a furry was a matter of seeing an inworld avatar up close and wanting  one for himself.  “Six months to a year after I first landed…” Katscher explains, “I found a WereHouse on a Therianation sim. While there, I saw the smilodon avi and instantly had to have it….”

Jaysen Katscher

Katscher alludes to the choice he made to become an anthropomorphic furry.  Anthropomorphic, according to Wikipedia, “…is the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities…” (Wikipedia).  In the context of being a furry and participating in furry fandom culture, examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, as well as the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes (Wikipedia).

Katscher, as he explains, functioned as a human in Second Life before finding his first furry avatar.  He explains, “I wasn’t even aware of a fandom in RL or SL…I was just amazed to find this and wanted it. I was partnered at the time and she wasn’t keen on my being a furry in here. So I sneaked around, in a sense, trying to spend time with a version of myself that I enjoyed being over ‘just plain old human’. She eventually accepted what I was about and even tried it herself, though she preferred being human. Real life happened for her and she drifted out of SL…After that, I was a full-time fur and avatar collector. Giant robots, dragons and other creatures all in my inventory for whenever I got bored. I always came back to my smilodon or tiger, though. They were home for me….where I felt at ease with myself and my lot in my 2nd Life.”

Because Katscher was a radio jock for the first four years he was involved in Second Life, he often worked for and alongside Second Life humans, which often presented challenges for him.  Katscher continues, “…it presented its moments when people wouldn’t get why I wouldn’t completely change my avatar to suit them…I even tried the ‘walk a mile in my paws’ explanations with some…”

He asserts, “Since then, I have come across a bunch of great people who take me for me and don’t judge my looks. It’s been a great decade being a part of this and even getting to meet some people in here that became part of my family in real life.”

Rhythmic Nalvir (viviandreamer)

Like Katscher, Rhythmic Nalvir (viviandreamer) also functions as an anthropomorphic furry, and has been an active Second Life community member for eight years.  Yet unlike Katscher, Nalvir has always functioned as a furry.  She explains, “I always been into the furry community on here. I was a furry before joining SL…I have always loved animals growing up, so being a creature where you’re a humanoid-like animal sounded awesome to me…especially when I first heard about it 10 years ago…I also love the art styles and character creations people put behind there fursonas (NOTE: Furnsonas are, according to Wikipedia, ‘Anthropomorphic animal characters created by furry fans’)…”

Though both Nalvir and Katscher came across their furry-based spirit animals in different ways, both admit that being a furry allows them to be creative.  Katcher reiterates this claim by saying, “I get to express myself. I’ll admit to a guilty pleasure in the compliments from people who message me that they wish they could do the same, but are too afraid of being judged for it.”

III. Kit Mahogany:  The Feral (and hence, second) Furry

Panther Amorosi and her beloved pet cat, Kit Mahogany (also known as Kit-Kat)

Besides anthropomorphic furries, there are those that believe in completely emulating their spirit animal by embodying them as a feral furry. Also known as either Non-anthro, full non-anthropomorphic, and/or non-morphic, the feral furry is a term used to describe a fictitious character or fursona that does not share virtually any human characteristics or traits associated with full furry/anthro beings (WikiFur, the furry encyclopedia). Less commonly, it is used to describe just a regular, feral, non-sapient animal (WikiFur, the furry encyclopedia).

One of many SL Community members that chooses to embody their spirit animal as a feral furry is Kit Mahogany.  Affectionately known as Kit-Kat, Mahogany is a male jaguar that periodically turns into a snow leopard when the occasion calls for it. In either rp-based spirit animal mediums, Mahogany can often be seen at various venues with his owner Panther Amorosi.  Because Mahogany’s owner is a DJ, Mahogany accompanies Amorosi to all of her DJ sets.  When asked what he loved most about being a feral cat, Mahogany explains, “I love being able to just lay around soaking up music and sunshine, lazing like a real cat does. No one expects much of you so it’s very relaxing.”

What makes Mahogany and Amorosi’s relationship really special is that both are embodying their spirit animals in different ways.  Mahogany actually embodies his spirit animal by literally becoming a feral cat, while Amorisi does so by closely aligning and caring for Kit Mahogany.  Kit Mahogany reiterates this by saying, “Panther Amorosi, a human, takes care of my home and feeding needs…and I mainly live on a diet of fish…”

Kit Mahogany as a snow leopard…

When Kit Mahogany was asked about the creation of his fursona, he explains, “I decided to create a furry after being an SL newbie for about a year and a half…I was intrigued with the possibility of taking on a fursona (persona for furries) and living as a furry in Second Life.  My first avatar was an Anthro type (stands on two legs like humans), then I discovered the Feral type (goes on four legs and is more like a real animal)…”

“About a year later…” Mahogany continues, “…I settled on being a Melanistic Jaguar, as I had always loved cats…I enjoyed watching my domestic cat for many hours, and this gave me insight as to how to act like a cat for my in world RP.”

Because he also became enamored with the snow leopard, Mahogany decided to embody the in world role of that animal too.  Mahogany says, “I fell in love with the Snow Leopard avatar two years ago and felt that I could work it in as my ‘Winter Aspect,’ changing back to a Leopard for Summer…”

All admiration aside, Mahogany does acknowledge one key challenge of emulating a feral furry. “The constant challenge…” Mahogany says, “…is to try and work out how to express ideas or complex actions only by emote, as my character is a mute…that is to say, in the RP, Kit-Kat cannot speak (as a real Leopard would not speak) and so somehow, he must convey an concept by emoting. I suppose I am a ‘purist’ in that way as I try not to ‘speak’ while being in character.”

IV.  Discrimination Against Furries

As in all things that are readily embraced by some, there are others out there that simply do not understand the reasoning behind becoming a furry…let alone embracing their own spirit animal.  Jaysen Katscher, for instance says that as an in world radio jock, he often experienced challenges from various venue owners.  He explains, “When I was a radio jock in here, I’d get the ‘Can you be human here?  We don’t want our clients freaking out.’ Then, off the gig, there would be the ‘Yiff in Hell, furfag’ jerks….Not so much now though….”

Rhythmic Nalvir (viviandreamer) relaxes with her SL partner and RL boyfriend, Daeron Nalvir (daeronnavlir)

For Rhythmic Nalvir (viviandreamer), one of her biggest challenges is helping others understand that her fursona is not a form of role play; rather, it is actually an extension of herself.  Nalvir explains, “Rhythmic is me in furry form so when you are talking to her, you are actually talking to me. I don’t like to hide behind a character…I want people to know me.”

This, along with others stealing Nalvir’s art and artistic interpretation can make things very difficult for a person that has truly embodied their fursona.  For this reason, Nalvir has the following warning in her Second Life profile:

PLEASE DO NOT STEAL, COPY, TRACE, USE HER IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM OR COLOR OVER ANY OF MY PIECES OF ART I GOT DONE OF HER. RHYTHMIC TOOK ME 3 YEARS TO FINALIZE I WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF SHE WAS NOT STOLEN.

Like Nalvir, Katscher often relies on warning-based stipulations to not only establish boundaries with the SL public, but to stress how important it is for him to truly express his furry self.  Katscher would often tell various venues that since they are hiring him, they have to accept him as a furry.  In fact, Katscher says that he would tell them, “‘You’re hiring a furry ‘jock’. I’m willing to dress to be appropriate for the event or venue. I will not change anything else. If you insist on a human-looking jock, may I suggest – (link to DJ Referral Group)'”.

Besides establishing boundaries, Nalvir, Katscher and Mahogany all agree on the importance of surrounding yourself with those that embrace who you are.  In terms of great places to hang out, Jaysen Katscher suggests furries frequent hangouts that are furry friendly. “FurNation…” Katscher says, “…is a furry hangout…Muddy’s Music Cafe and Muddy’s Country…while not exclusively furry are fur-friendly and don’t give me a hard time showing up in fur avis…”

Rhythmic Nalvir (viviandreamer) prefers adult-rated places like the YIFF CLUB, YIFF ALLEY LOUNGE, KNOTTY BEACH, IYC, GYC, and JUST POSEBALL.  She continues, “…apologies, as these are all adult places…I just like to go to them cause there usually filled with [anthropomorphic and feral] people….”

For Kit Mahogany, the best place to be is beside his owner Panther Amorosi. Because his function is primarily as a pet, he is generally embraced by whatever venue Amorosi frequents, and can be seen at Fogbounds and a plethora of other venues, too.  Mahogany continues, “Kit Kat’s role in the Amorosi family is as a family pet. The role is light and easy and would not be considered a complex feral RP. That is to say, no hunting or mating RP is taking place at all.”

V. Furries and Their Families:  Another Way To Align With Like-Minded Individuals

Jaysen Katscher poses with his SL human family. “The two standing with me…” he says, “…are Tinsley (short one) and Bella…”

As Kit Mahogany mentioned earlier, creating an in world family is another way for furries to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. Because Mahogany functions inworld as a pet (and hence, a member of Panther Amorosi’s family), his role is a relaxed one.  He reiterates this claim by saying, “I would say overall that I chose to go furry as it appeals to my relaxed side, nobody expects much from a cat, except to see it laze around or chase a toy. This way, I get to enjoy the company of friends in an easy going RP manner, no stress. It is my break from reality and isn’t that what SL is about?”

As if echoing Mahogany’s sentiment, Rhythmic Nalvir (viviandreamer) agrees that she can be more relaxed around her SL family.  However, in Nalvir’s opinion, relaxing around her SL family means having the flexibility of sharing your true Real Life personality with them rather than role play.  She explains, “…I have a family on here and we are all furries…We been a family for 5 years now and we are all really good friends…but we don’t role play. There just like me…they act like themselves….and we don’t do the whole daddy/mommy thing…”

Rhythmic Nalvir (VivianDreamer) poses with her furry family…

While Jaysen Katscher also has an SL family, his family is mostly a human one that enables him to be himself.  Katscher continues, “My family is mostly human, and while I don’t have a role, per se…I don’t get treated differently for being a furry, I think….”

In addition to having an SL family, both Katscher and Nalvir both have furfinity.net accounts; these accounts allow them to connect with other furries, as well as admire their artistic efforts.  To contact Rhythmic Nalvir (viviandreamer) on furfinity.net, please click here:  Rhythmic Nalvir’s Furfinity account.

To contact Jaysen Katscher on furfinity.net, please click here:  Jaysen Katscher’s Furfinity account.

References:

“Cat Man – Human tiger who enjoys climbing trees, eats raw meat everyday.” Daily Mail.com, September 6, 2008. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1052934/Cat-Man–human-tiger-enjoys-climbing-trees-eats-raw-meat-day.html#ixzz4dcm8KV3r)

Garber, Megan.  “Your Spirit Animal:  An Investigation.” The Atlantic, November 6, 2014. (https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/11/your-spirit-animal-a-cultural-investigation/382369/)

Pierce, Allen.  “Tapping Into Your Spirit Animal.” Pachamama.org (https://www.pachamama.org/blog/tapping-into-your-spirit-animal)

White, Steven.  “The End Fur ‘Cat Man’:  Former Sailor Who Had Radical Surgery To Look Like A Tiger Found Dead.” Mirror (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/dennis-avner-dead-cat-man-1435103)

Winterman, Denise.  “Who Are The Furries?” BBC News Magazine, November 13, 2009 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8355287.stm)

“Furry Fandom” Wikipedia.org (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furry_fandom)

 

“Non-anthro” wikifur.com [http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Feral_(term)]

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