Do Cats Murder?
February 17, 2005 8:43 AM   Subscribe

One of my cats has had a loud and contentious history with a neighbor cat. I have not seen then fight but they hissed and screamed and generally did not like one another. Well the neighbor cat showed up dead under one of our bushes (it had been like that for awhile but when the weather warmed up a tad, whew. .that is when we found it). I am wondering if it is possible that my dear kitty did this other cat in. I have not heard of such a thing but it creeps me out to think that I might be harboring a murderer among our menagerie of pets. Has anyone had any experience with this?
posted by Danf to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Your dear kitty would certainly show signs of Cat Battle.
posted by Jairus at 8:44 AM on February 17, 2005

Why does that creep you out? Cats are total predators. Animals are animals, not cute toys. I would say it's certainly posssible, but your cat would show some cuts.
posted by xmutex at 8:45 AM on February 17, 2005

But, but. . well my cat DID have a scratch. . I am just wondering if they would fight to the death, or just beat one another up to establish territory. The neighbor has been cool about it. This cat was on it's way to being compost when we found it, bagged, it and put it in the trash (a cat of ours would have gotten a burial in our pet cemetary/back yard).

The hypothesis is that the neighbor cat got run over and managed to crawl under one of our bushes to die. . .but I am still wondering.

The suspected perp was neutered several years ago, btw.
posted by Danf at 8:54 AM on February 17, 2005

A kitty death match would be very gory. I would think that unless your sweetums was taking on the soon-to-be-dead cat right after he got hit by a car, he would have much more than a scratch. I would just go with the car story.
posted by dness2 at 9:00 AM on February 17, 2005

I love this question.

My business is located out "in the country", in a rural area outside of Portland. We're on a small, little-trafficked street down which the cars hurtle at breakneck speeds.

We've had a succession of shopcats. The cat who lasted longest, Yertl, stuck around for five years or more. During that time, she had many companions. They always ended up dead somehow or other.

We found it strange that all these other cats were dropping like flies but that Yertl survived unscathed. We began to suspect Yertl had a dark secret, that she was secretly doing the other cats in while we were away.

"Come here, little cat. Have you seen this asphalt strip? Isn't it lovely?" nudge splut "Oops. I'm sorry. Did you get squished?"

Death by hrududu was not the only fate for Yertl's hapless companions, but it was the most common. And when Yertl eventually did die (of some wasting disease), subsequent cats lived long and happy lives.

Coincidence? I think not!

On a more serious note: It seems perfectly possible that one cat would kill another, but only if the first cat were particularly aggressive and the second cat were particularly passive. If you never saw your cat actually fight with the neighbor cat (and if he bears no wounds now), and if the neighbor cat held his own in the previous "conversations", then it seems unlikely that your cat is a murder. Yet.

(And from experience, cats who have been clipped by cars often survive for some time before actually dying. Certainly long enough to crawl someplace and die.)
posted by jdroth at 9:01 AM on February 17, 2005 [2 favorites]

I would doubt that your cat killed the other. At least I've had cats all my life and I've never heard of that and I've had cats kill lots of stuff (birds, mice, snakes, voles, bugs, etc). As far as I've seen, cat have different fighting styles when fighting another cat, they're usually not trying to kill, they're trying to protect territory. And most cats will have enough self-preservation to run away when they know that they are losing. At worst someone will get a ripped ear or a scratched face not a broken neck.

On the other hand, xmutex is right, a cat is a killer. That's its job, that's what it has evolved to do. It has no morals or ethics or conscience and although I doubt that it killed the other cat, if it did, well that's nature.
posted by octothorpe at 9:04 AM on February 17, 2005

I think it would take an exceptionally stubborn cat to stay in a fight it was losing long enough to get killed. Not that cats aren't stubborn, but their instinct for self-preservation usually wins out.

I have to agree that it would be very, very obvious when your cat came home that it had been in a fight serious enough to kill the other cat.
posted by jjg at 9:06 AM on February 17, 2005

Was the other cat declawed or did it have its claws clipped really short? That could be one explanation for your cat not having many scratches.

And what the others said, that's nature.

Maybe you can find some sort of underground catfighting network and make some money off your badass kitty.
posted by bondcliff at 9:19 AM on February 17, 2005

What kind of condition (other than not breathing) was the dead cat in? I imagine the only way that one cat could really kill another is through massive blood-loss or by somehow smothering it.

If one of the cat-battle participants had ended up dead, the other cat would be in sorry shaped indeed.
posted by bshort at 9:26 AM on February 17, 2005

I very much doubt that your cat killed the other cat, but he will very likely be waging a gory path through other neighbourhood animals. One survey in the UK suggested that our 8 million cats kill 275 million animals per year here, including 55 million birds.

I'll back up jdroth's point about cats being able to get quite a distance from accidents before they die. When we were kids one of our cats disappeared and we eventually found it dead on next doors garage roof with a tire track across its stomach, 40 yards from the nearest road.

Be proud that your cat is the daddy of the local cats.
posted by biffa at 9:30 AM on February 17, 2005

I'll chime in and say I think the car theory is much more likely. Territorial cat-fights rarely (if ever?) end in death, instead finishing with one cat having asserted dominance and the other running off.
posted by Shane at 9:43 AM on February 17, 2005

The cat was identifiable as a cat but it's exact condition (wounds, etc.) were not ascertained because of it's deteriorated condition. Nor did I think my neighbor would be interested in the remains.

What is more interesting is the one of my cats went under this same bush to die, a few years ago, and I found another of my cats waiting to die, under it. (We usually have 2-4 cats around, the population depends on their life cycles and when other cats find us. We do not seek them out but we are soft-hearted, it seems.)
posted by Danf at 10:41 AM on February 17, 2005

Some cats, especially males, are more territorial than others and will absolutely kill their fellows. I had a cat (subsequently kept indoors) who killed and partially masticated two of his own children. Look: animals don't have moral sensibilities (well, primates, maybe), and projecting it onto them is kind of gross, imo.
posted by symbebekos at 11:03 AM on February 17, 2005

It's a fairly common phenomenon to find a dead cat when the snow retreats. I've found two cat corpses partially buried Ötzi-style in melting snowbanks. One of them seemed plow-related, but it's hard to know whether death came before street-cleaning or vice-versa. Heavy snow and/or cold seems to mess with cats-- either scrambling their traffic sense or their homing instinct and they die of exposure.

Sounds like the traffic hypothesis is right or the cat got disoriented in the snow and went under one of your bushes to wait out the storm where it froze. Housecats basically aren't capable of killing something as large as themselves, and cat fights are over too quickly for one of them to get killed. Remember, cats don't like to meet with resistance-- they'll terrorize something flees from them, but they'd rather not have a protracted fight with anything that won't back down. Contrast a curious dog sniffing a cat and getting cuffed against an exciting dog charging a cat.

A cat won't go twelve rounds-- if he can't win in the first, he's not going to box.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:25 AM on February 17, 2005

Another possibility is leukemia. It sounds like your neighbor might have been lackadaisical about cat care and neglected to get his cat vaccinated.

I think it is highly unlikely your cat killed the other cat.
posted by wezelboy at 12:05 PM on February 17, 2005

While in high school, I lived about 15 miles south of the capital of North Dakota. My friend Doz had cats in his barn- they were fed and everything every day, but were mostly left to their own devices.

They would regularly kill eachother and leave the bodies out on the lawn. You'd hear the bastard things screeching in the night, and the next morning, you'd find one splayed out with the back of it's head open and the soft brains eaten out.

On the fridge was taped a list of chores. On Doz's list was "clean up dead cats"... Always made me chuckle.
posted by fake at 5:51 PM on February 17, 2005

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