On September 7 2019, Facebook user Rich Preston shared a series of screenshots telling the firsthand story of a man who purportedly used little cat head drawings as his license signature because he thought it would be funny, but regretted the decision when the time came to sign mortgage paperwork:
Preston wrote “this is great,” sharing three pictures: one of text about a 2015 license renewal in which a person said they thought it would be “funny” to sign documents using drawings of cat heads, one of a redacted Washington state license displaying said cat heads, and a third of a man in a shirt and blazer signing paperwork — some of which displayed the same three cat heads in the signature portion.
A quick search indicated the claim had been shared as “viral news” multiple times, dating back to at least 2018. Notably, none of the outlets reporting the story had verified it, simply repeating it as it had originally been told.
Originally, the story appears to have been shared to Reddit’s r/TIFU (“today I fucked up”), a subreddit “for the dumbass in all of us” used to share everyday stories of stupidity and regret:
On November 28 2018, Reddit user bradimal shared the same three images and wrote:
TIFU by having to sign my mortage [sic] in cat heads over 30 times.
In 2015 I had to renew my license and thought it would be funny to do cat heads as my signature, so I did. For the past 3 years I just forgot about it unless I had to show my ID and they pointed it out. They would laugh and say, “haha I can’t believe they let you do that!” and I would be like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, let me in the bar now.” I have always signed my name with my regular signature/scribble, not cat heads. This hasn’t been a problem until today when I had to sign my mortgage papers. The signing agent looked at my ID and shook his head, he was not amused. I tried to explain that 2015 Brad never imagined he’d own a house. So the dude has to call the title company headquarters and explain the situation all while my real estate agent is laughing her ass off. I had to sign 3 cat heads over 30 times today. Here is pic [link.]
Top comments on the thread advised the user to redact his information, suggesting an earlier version of the post featured additional details. A r/TIFU moderator commented:
OP I have to remove the post. Your full name is visible in the document. And your birth date.
He later replied:
Alright everything is blacked out now. now no one knows who i am again. No one would want to steal my info, i have awfull [sic] credit, i dont know how they even gave me a mortgage. I have a bunch of outsanding [sic] parking tickets, unpaid blockbuster late fees, medical dept [sic], maybe a couple out of state bench warrants.
We were unable to locate any Washington state guidelines about signatures on official documentation. Lawyers weighing in on an unusual signature and legal matters indicated that it is possible to use a “custom signature” such as cat heads, but not entirely advisable — adding that the strategy would not likely work to nullify contracts, for instance.
It depends on the context. If you signed a contract [with an unusual signature] and the other party tries to enforce the contract, using a nickname would likely be no defense. However, as you have experienced, you will have many practical problems that really aren’t worth whatever benefit you are getting. Most would advise against complicating your life in this fashion.
Luckily for Bradimal, the unredacted copies of his documentation shared in the original r/TIFU thread did not appear in Reddit post retrieval search results.
Unfortunately for internet users, that meant the “cat heads” signature story was difficult to verify. Although numerous news sites reported it as news without additional verification, all based their articles solely on the claims in the post. The story was sufficiently benign, and it does not seem impossible or even implausible, but users on Reddit notoriously submit funny anonymous tales to amuse fellow Redditors and accrue upvotes. Until we are able to find out more, we rate this story Unknown.