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Notary Bulletin

WWYD Answers: The Case Of The Cat-Head Signature

Cat-Head-Signature-450x300-1.jpgLast week, we shared a real-life situation where a signer presented a driver’s license as proof of identity to a Notary Signing Agent during a loan document signing. However, instead of the normal handwritten signature on the license, the signer had drawn three cartoon cat heads as his signature.

We asked our Notaries how they would handle this unusual situation and received a wide variety of responses. Here are some of the solutions offered by our readers.

What Our Notaries Said

Readers were divided on how they would handle this situation. Some, like Deborah J. Garhartt, said they would not accept the driver’s license with the cat-head signature. “You know it is not their normal, proper signature,” Garhartt said.

Other Notaries said they would ask the signer for an alternate, acceptable form of ID that included his normal written signature. “I would ask for another government-issued ID, such as a passport, showing the correct signature,” said Connie Holmes. “Then I would suggest that he go back and get his driver’s license corrected, since he will probably need it for other legal uses in the future.”

DeAnn Hailey said she would accept the driver’s license with the cat-head signature as proof of the signer’s identity — provided he signed the loan documents the same way.

“The signatures must match, so the signer would need to draw the same cat heads as they appear on the driver’s license, or provide other identification so that the signatures match,” she said.

Elizabeth A. Sutton suggested contacting the lender or signing service for instructions, or having the person sign their written name along with an “also known as” or “AKA” signature with the three cat heads.

“Best to notify title and get their input before continuing with the closing,” said Susan Petrie.

Standards Of Notary Practice: Signatures For Loan Document Signings

Naturally, many of our readers were concerned that if the customer signed his written name but his ID showed a very different signature of three cat-head drawings, a receiving agency could question the discrepancy and challenge the validity of the notarization and the loan documents. 

To complicate matters further, the odd driver’s license signature was presented for a loan document signing. For many loan signings, the borrower must sign a signature affidavit confirming that the signature used in executing the loan documents is true and correct. If the signature on the loan documents didn’t match the one on the borrower’s ID, this could potentially cause serious problems later with the loan.

Having the signer present an alternate form of satisfactory ID that included his proper written signature would be an acceptable way to resolve the issue. However, that’s not what happened in the actual signing.

How Was The Situation Resolved?

According to a post by the signer on Reddit, this real-life situation took place in Washington state. The Notary Signing Agent halted the signing and called the title company to request instructions. Ultimately, the signer was permitted to go ahead with the loan signing, but he was instructed by the title company to sign the loan documents using the same cat-head drawing on the driver’s license — more than 30 times!

One important lesson from this story is that it’s not a good idea to use a joke signature on key identification documents such as a driver’s license. It may seem funny at the time, but as this story shows, it can cause serious issues for important transactions such as a home purchase.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.





Add your comment

Justin R. Jones

28 Oct 2019

Now I'm just curious when was title vested in the name of the three blind mice (or cat heads in this case)

Luz Rose

28 Oct 2019

It’s interesting, a lot of signings I got, the borrower has to sign exactly as showing in the signature line. I am clear about a regular notary, people just sign how they sign. The loans are different!


28 Oct 2019

I would question the validity of the driver's license wondering why the DVM of that state would allow that type of signature.

Debbie Morauske

28 Oct 2019

Thank you for the questions and answers section.

Marti Schrichte

28 Oct 2019

I had a signer whose driver's licence was his first and 5 or 10 years old. His signature was as it was in high school. Now he uses a more mature (i.e. illegible) signature. I had him re-sign the document to match his DL (and noted this in my journal.) His photo matched and he is the son of one of the company's client, so it seemed safe. Other younger people using an old DL may experience a similar problem.

Arthur Candenquist

28 Oct 2019

As more schools are not providing instruction in reading and writing cursive, and young people cannot provide a handwritten cursive signature, I see legal issues with younger people unable to provide a legal written signature. As a notary in Virginia, in good faith I cannot notarise a printed "signature". How does that square with notary practices, as well as how notaries address this issue?


28 Oct 2019

I don't see why this is any different from signing with a mark, half the signatures I get are nonsense and don't match mean much, but do match their license. I would have called the Title Company just to make sure they knew that the signer would be using the signature on his license, which just so happened to be cats. Super inconvenient for the guy, but maybe that will make him go get a new license.

Howard W Bleiwas

28 Oct 2019

There are a number of situations in which the signature cannot match, such as arm/hand motor issues/paralysis or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The notary confirms identity and execution. Comparison and confirmation of signatures is beyond the skillset of most notaries, and not within their legal mandate in most states.


28 Oct 2019

It is not our right as notaries to decide what or how a signature should or look. If the signatures match the signature on the the form of ID and you have positively identified the signer, then your job is done!

Jodie Dillow

29 Oct 2019

Wow, doesn't this totally undermine the meaning of "sign as your name is typed"? I see these instructions in just about every loan package but TBH in my 10 years of being a mobile notary it hasn't really mattered. I've had signers sign all different ways-scribble, legible, and one even looked like a little smiley face. As long as it resembles the "signature" on their id I don't worry about it anymore.

Christy Hayes

29 Oct 2019

This is ridiculous. Falls in the category of why a person can't be named a NUMBER or SYMBOL in the U.S.A.

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