Taxidermy is all the rage these days. This year we have two new reality shows focusing on taxidermy, American Stuffers and Immortalized, Etsy is full of arts and crafts made from dead animals, and artists like Sarina Brewer, Kasey McMahon, and Reid Peppard all uutilize taxidermied animals in their art.
And besides the wild animals who are typically immortalized by taxidermists, generally after they have been shot and killed by hunters, there's now a growing pet preservation industry serving pet guardians who want to forever immortalized their beloved companion animal.
And then there's this cat rug, made by a taxidermist from a cat hit and killed by a car in New Zealand.
The public response to the cat seems to range from artistic appreciation to disgust and horror, as might be expected.
For me, perhaps my concern lies with the fact that this was not simply a cat, but a cat who had a relationship with a person, and, thus, a social identity. It seems to cross the boundary between the impersonal form of taxidermy and exploitation found with bear or zebra rugs, even while maintaining the personal identity of the individual animal, a distinction noted by Emory University graduate student Christina Colvin in a recent talk on taxidermied pets. This cat once had a name, an identity, a past, and, most uncomfortably, all of that can be read in its eerily preserved, for eternity, face.