Recently, I learned of the existence of something called “otherkin”. Or rather, people called that. Apparently, “otherkin” are people who think they are animals. No, let me rephrase that: they identify as animals. It’s not that they have delusions of being a bird and jump off a rooftop thinking they can fly – it’s that they feel they should have been born (hatched?) as a bird. They are a bird in a human body. Or a wolf, or a horse, or a cat.
I was fascinated. What’s it like to be convinced you are actually a cat? Would you start meowing, stalking mice and sleeping curled up on top of the aquarium? As it turns out – yes, that’s exactly what they do. I don’t know how successful they are in these things, but they try. They incorporate cat behaviour in their daily lives, they wear cat ears and a fake tail. They dress up and engage in role play, go on internet forums and talk to others like them.
Otherkin sometimes feel the sensation of phantom limbs, as if they are supposed to have a tail or wings. They may claim to have special abilities, such as night vision or enhanced hearing. Some people have surgery or tattoos to look more like their chosen animal. In some cases, this kind of body modification is taken to extremes, like in the case of Stalking Cat, the tiger-man, or Tom Leppard, the leopard-man.
I suppose most of these people can’t live like Tom Leppard did: practically in the wilderness on a remote island. I assume they are limited in the expression of their “catness” by having to do human stuff like work, do grocery shopping or make polite conversation with their in-laws. I mean, you can only take this so far without people thinking you’re certifiable.
I had to know more about this, so I kept on digging up more information. (Yes, I should have been working, but I’m very good at convincing myself that writing articles for my blog is almost work.) As I understand it, “otherkin” is an umbrella term for many types of non-human identification. Someone who identifies as a wolf would be an otherkin, more specifically a Therian (animal-otherkin), more specifically a wolfkin. I suppose a cat-person would be called a catkin. Interesting.
So what other types of otherkin are there, apart from animal-people..? Loads. Everything. Anything. You name it, people identify as it. There are people who proclaim they are mythical creatures like dragons, fairies and unicorns, or even angels, vampires and werewolves. Others, taking it a step further, feel that their real essence is a fictional creature, like Batman or Tinkerbell, I suppose. They are called fictionkin. There are plantkin, who identify as trees, flowers or grass (yes, really), alienkin and spacekin, who claim they come from outer space…
At that point, I mentally checked out. Claiming you are actually a fox in a human body sounds almost reasonable compared to declaring you are human grass or a shadow. When I’m not sure what to think about something, I always wonder what I would do if my children came out with it. “Mum, I have to tell you something: I am a trans-species dog.” I imagine I would be quite worried! But while I would not believe that what he thinks is true, I would just let him get on with it and do his barking and chasing sticks. And hope it is a passing stage. If my kid tried to tell me he was Luke Skywalker or a solar system in human form, therapy would be in order, I think.
On the other hand, these people don’t seem to be doing any particular harm. If this is what they believe and they are not hurting anyone – well, good luck to them. It’s more than can be said of organised religion. I would be more worried about the “living in a fantasy world” aspect. I read a recounting of a “werewolfkin” who complained that he lost his job because of his identity (growling and howling at the customers tends to get you fired, yes) and he hadn’t ever had a job again since that.
This is not normal behaviour. Playing at being a cat, while it sounds and looks really silly (fluffy paw gloves, anyone?), can be harmless, I suppose, if you do it in your free time and it doesn’t affect your ability to have a full human life. But if you are unable to hold down a job or can’t socialise because you believe you are a werewolf, I’d say there is something wrong. I hope this werewolf-guy got help from an open-minded therapist and learned to “manage his werewolfness”. Or something.
Interestingly, I haven’t read any accounts of people who say they are “chicken-kin”. I imagine it would be very entertaining to watch!
So that was an extremely interesting online detour! If you’d like to read more, here are some links:
Hope you are having an interesting day, too! 💚