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cat eats owner, news at 11.
October 9, 2006 8:21 PM   Subscribe

which pets are more apt to eat their deceased owners?

my friend is convinced that more cats would eat their (dead) owners if trapped in the house with the body, but i heard somewhere that more dogs would. can anyone quantify, explain, debunk. etc?
posted by sdn to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cats just aren't big enough to use their take-down-with-claws and rip-at-flesh-with-canines on people, dead or living, says I. Dogs can do that tugging-backward thing and have better incisor/nipping power. IANAFZ. (I am not a forensic zoologist... or whatever.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:40 PM on October 9, 2006


This is why I LOVE metafilter. The truly important, burning questions. I love this stuff.... Okay, are we limiting ourselves to the "typical" pets? Cause I gotta say, pets of the reptile variety would almost certainly clean up the mess. I'm fairly certainly that a fully grown python could make quite a meal of my tiny body. That's another point...how big is the dead pet owner?
posted by AlliKat75 at 8:40 PM on October 9, 2006


Cats hunt and dogs are carrion eaters.
posted by salvia at 8:43 PM on October 9, 2006


Cats generally won't eat carrion. Dogs will eat any goddamned thing.
posted by lekvar at 8:43 PM on October 9, 2006


Lion, several snakes, a gecko lizard called Helmut and several thousand termites, dog, dog. Dogs win.
posted by tellurian at 8:57 PM on October 9, 2006


Question: Will a household cat or dog eat its owner who dies and whose body stays undiscovered for some time, leaving the pet unfed?

Answer: We see instances of pets feeding on their deceased owners (anthropophagy) from time to time, its rarity probably reflecting that the opportunity does not occur that often, says North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner John D. Butts, M.D. "In our experience, the animal is usually a dog."
posted by dgaicun at 9:01 PM on October 9, 2006


The Straight Dope's take on it. Evidently when they get hungry enough, pets eat pretty much anything, including dead owners.
posted by Humanzee at 9:03 PM on October 9, 2006


Anecdotal evidence: Not far from our country house was a cat lady who was eaten by her cats.

Further useless evidence: None of the nearby dog lovers were eaten by their dogs.

A neighbor of mine had near-feral cats that would wander on to his property and fuck in his barn. They very often killed each other and had a special fondness for gnawing open the heads of other dead cats. On their refrigerator was a chore list, and one item was "Clean up dead cats".

Personally, I'd say the least likely to eat their owners would be fish.
posted by fake at 9:30 PM on October 9, 2006 [3 favorites]


What about monitor lizards? Won't anyone please think of the monitor lizards??
posted by ilsa at 9:38 PM on October 9, 2006


She was a winner
Who became the doggie's dinner...

posted by Dr. Wu at 9:45 PM on October 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Fish, safe? Don't be so sure. And mad props to the monitors.

Nonetheless, I say vultures.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:10 PM on October 9, 2006


Dr. Wu beat me to it.
posted by jessenoonan at 10:34 PM on October 9, 2006


I have heard that a dog without food will give the rest of the world 24 to 48 hours to intervene before they feed on the remains of their guardians. I'm pretty sure this has been used in forensics to determine time of death. This may be an urban legend.
posted by vito90 at 10:37 PM on October 9, 2006


Oh yeah that Straight Dope covers the forensic angle.
posted by vito90 at 10:39 PM on October 9, 2006


Humanzee : Evidently when they get hungry enough, pets eat pretty much anything, including dead owners.

There is one of your best answers right there. Trapped animals are going to eat whatever food is available, no matter what they may have thought of you in life. Also, consider this; since many animals hunt/ scavenge based on smell, you-as-alive-owner might smell different enough from you-as-dead-owner that eating you would cause no cognitive dissonance. You are just meat at that point.

Other pets that would probably happily eat you, rats, and pigs (potbellied or otherwise). Hell even rabbits will turn carnivorous if hungry enough, (don't look it up. you don't want to know. Really.)
posted by quin at 10:39 PM on October 9, 2006


Also, don't forget Isabelle Dinoire, who may only be here because she regained consciousness in time to not be eaten.
posted by tellurian at 10:47 PM on October 9, 2006


"When I woke up, I tried to light a cigarette and didn't understand why it wouldn't stay between my lips," she said, her face slack and emotionless. "That's when I saw the pool of blood and the dog beside it."

Thanks tellurian, I can add this to my reasons-to-quit list...

Anyway, cats require fresh meat. They aren't carrion eaters. But dogs are omniverous, so watch out. I'd also advise against pet raccoons, hyenas or pigs. Anecdotally, my husband swears he saw a squirrel gnawing on a rabbit corpse, so I'd be a little wary of Nutkins, too.
posted by maryh at 1:58 AM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


This is from a friend of a friend that works in forensics:

Dogs will wait and wait until literally starving, and then start eating you from the feet up. Cats will wait until bored, and then start eating your face.
posted by kjs4 at 3:59 AM on October 10, 2006 [6 favorites]


I LOVE YOU MEFI
posted by sdn at 6:00 AM on October 10, 2006


I heard a cop tell of entering a residence to find a cat licking blood off its deceased owners face.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:59 AM on October 10, 2006


Trapped animals are going to eat whatever food is available, no matter what they may have thought of you in life.

we've had this question before, and again I feel the need to point out, that if you were trapped alone with no food and your dead pet, you would probably eventually eat him too. Humans trapped in the mountains have eaten each other when necessary.

the sleeping lip chewing thing is freaky though. on many levels.
posted by mdn at 10:10 AM on October 10, 2006


Dogs will wait and wait until literally starving, and then start eating you from the feet up. Cats will wait until bored, and then start eating your face.

From my link:
Interestingly enough, dogs will target certain parts of the human body first, says State University of New York-Canton criminal investigations and forensic science professor Steve Gilbert, MFS, ABD. First comes the daily licking of the deceased's face and hands, then an eating away at these parts, then elsewhere. "There is no difference between dogs and cats when it comes to survival: Both will eat what they must."
The Straight Dope "insider" anecdote and yours appear no more reliable than what a dog biased stranger would tell you. The truth is there are no reliable data on how long cats and/or dogs typically respectively wait to eat dead owners, and more importantly if this even has anything to do with how much these animals really "loved" their owners.
posted by dgaicun at 11:03 AM on October 10, 2006


I can't believe nobody mentioned the all-important Dog Eats Genitals of Newly Circumcised Boy story.

I think the answer is, some pets won't even wait for you to stop screaming before chowing down.
posted by adipocere at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2006


In my training (pathologist) I did a lot of forensic autopsies at the various medical examines' offices around my area. I had 3 cases where the pets ate the deceased owners:

1. Cats: owner deceased around 3 days (time last reported to be seen). 3 cats had pretty much defleshed all of the exposed (not covered by clothing) skin. Hands, face and neck.

2. Cat: owner deceased around a week. Cat had nibbled on his face. Really wasn't that bad, maybe a 3 by 4 inch area on his cheek.

3. Dog: The worst by far. Rottweiler. The owner had been seen at 7am by the girlfriend, then found by the girlfriend dead at 3pm. The dog had eaten off his face and most of the flesh of one of his arms. The bizarre thing was that in the scene photos, a large bowl full of dog food was clearly evident. We all figured that the dog had been waiting for his chance to get back at the owner. Incidentally, the guy died of a methadone overdose. I actually still have a photo of his face and put it in lectures sometimes to wake up the audience (we pathologists are a strange bunch, admittedly).

So the take-home advice is to both feed your pets and be nice to them.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:33 PM on October 10, 2006 [2 favorites]


I don't know if this factors in or not, but a cat that goes without eating for 48 hours or more may become hepatic and will be turned off by food and needs to be hand fed to regain their appetite. This is particularly true of obese cats. So, last out 48 hours and you're in the clear! I don't think any other animals have this problem.
posted by Skwirl at 6:02 PM on October 10, 2006


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