Tears of Octopussy Rage
January 9, 2007 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to annoy an animal/person to death?

Greetings, metafilterinians!

I recall reading in a children's science book that it was possible to kill an octopus by:

a) Biting or cutting a nerve behind the eye of the octopus


b) Annoying the thing to death. The term used was "apoplectic" or "apoplexy" which is an old term for stroke. The book itself used the words "annoy/anger to death", presumably by causing stroke.

Is this possible? Is it just restricted to octopuses?
posted by snailer to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know it works on us, purely by sleep deprivation. Perhaps they have a shorter tolerance for no-rest?
posted by bonaldi at 6:16 AM on January 9, 2007

Best answer: One spring my old dog discovered a nest of baby bunnies in our backyard and got in the habit of snatching one every now and then to carry around in his mouth. He was really pretty gentle about it, and the bunny corpses never showed obvious signs of trauma. I think they just died from stress, or, in your terms, being annoyed.

This didn't last, of course. He later discovered, probably through an accidental nibble, that baby bunnies are filled with yummy blood and meats. Things just weren't the same after that. I think the annual renewal of the bunny holocaust became one of the greatest joys of his later life.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:18 AM on January 9, 2007 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, should have said, what the book mentioned by annoying the octopus were things like hiding behind rocks, poking it with sticks, flashing lights/colours at it. Generally pissing the thing off, in order to get it to die by apoplexy/anger.
posted by snailer at 6:19 AM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Inasmuch as stress may be a contributing factor to heart disease and stroke, I suppose you could say that you can annoy a person to death. But I think that's a stretch.
posted by amro at 6:24 AM on January 9, 2007

Your dog was probably breaking the bunnies' necks thirteenkiller. My dog did this to some kittens once.
posted by ND¢ at 7:16 AM on January 9, 2007

Poor bunnies . . . and there might have been some internal injuries leading to the bunnies' demises as well.

And I wonder about the term "annoying" and "angering." The bunnies most likely were scared to death, not necessarily annoyed or angered to death.

What about Chinese Water Torture?
posted by Sassyfras at 7:27 AM on January 9, 2007

At some point we had some little pet chickens at home when I was a kid. I remember my mother used to warn us against chasing the poor things, and she explained it saying it would give them "a heart attack."

I do remember they were easily frightened and would shake like crazy if you chased them a bit. I seem to remember one of them did die. I'm not sure, though. Memory might be playing tricks on me.

Purely anecdotal, but it's what I got.
posted by micayetoca at 7:28 AM on January 9, 2007

Yes, it is possible. Bats hibernate in the winter. If you disturb a hibernating bat to the point that it wakes up and flies away, it will probably die. This is because it can't find food, and has used too much of its stored energy getting away from you. For this reason, caves that are bat hibernaculums are closed in the winter.

From here:
Each human disturbance of a hibernation site causes many bats to arouse, often at great energetic cost. Even eastern pipistrelles, among the most tolerant of disturbance, waste 10 to 30 days of stored fat per arousal. Recent laboratory studies conducted by Donald Thomas of the University of Sherbrooke in Canada, indicate that each time a little brown bat is disturbed during hibernation, it expends fat sufficient to have lasted for 67 days.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:37 AM on January 9, 2007

Another thought - wouldn't being annoyed to death require great self-restraint?

Poor Black Spring is having to listen to Loud Mint Cruncher. Before he would go The Way of the Octopus, wouldn't he remove himself from the situation or choke Loud Mint Cruncher?

I think in order to be annoyed to death you would have to be in a situation where you could not stop the annoyance, leading to insanity and then destructive behavior resulting in your demise.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:39 AM on January 9, 2007

Way back in grade school a classmate brought his bunny (in a cage) to class for show-and-tell. He brought it outside for recess, and it drew an enormous crowd. The bunny ended up dying in its cage. Our teacher explained that it was probably due to the amount of stress it was under.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:45 AM on January 9, 2007

Kinda depends on your definition of annoying, doesn't it?

I've been on both ends of "play" which was just "teasing" to those dishing it out, and torture to those on the receiving end.
posted by Rash at 7:52 AM on January 9, 2007

I couldn't find any good (practical) information about this, but it seems this is the concept of "Chinese Water Torture". It would not require any *self* restraint, but rather outside restraints on the victim. I don't know if insanity or death have ever been proven to have been caused by water torture.
posted by nursegracer at 7:55 AM on January 9, 2007

As a kid I had several friends whose parakeets or other small house birds "died of fright," according to their parents, usually after being harassed by a cat or dog, or sibling. If that's the case, it seems plausible (IANAOctopusHarasser) that if you can fatally stress an animal in one go, you could also do it over time if you kept at it.
posted by sonofslim at 8:13 AM on January 9, 2007

Re: the little bunnies up above:

Little bunnies don't deal with stress very well. Their hearts have a tendency to go "boom boom boom boom boomPOP!" ... and that POP is the last thing they hear. So it's actually unlikely that their necks are broken it's that they're scared to death.

The same thing is likely to happen to any wild bunnies that get injured and 'rescued' by kids. Even my vet-student S.O. couldn't keep a little cottontail that we found injured alive.
posted by SpecialK at 8:39 AM on January 9, 2007

Similar to thirteenkiller, my cat used to torment mice. We would retrieve the cat, scold her, and occasionally the mice would be left on the back porch, crouching, seemingly perfectly OK but frozen - definitely alive, whiskers twitching, etc. The next morning, they'd be dead. We always just thought they'd had little tiny heart attacks.
posted by peep at 9:14 AM on January 9, 2007

One thing I can think of is death by Anger. Anger can kill...a rather slow death but through heart disease, ulcer, depression, etc. If you annoy someone and they get angry and your plan is to kill them, you're going to have a well designed plan. You have to be very dedicated, I'd think. Good luck with that.
posted by icollectpurses at 9:17 AM on January 9, 2007

It's possible that an organism could be annoyed into doing something stupid that gets it killed.

If one sentient creature annoys another to a great enough degree, the annoyee is likely to lash out at the annoyer, even if the latter is obviously stronger and more adept at violence than the former. So the offended party might get so irritated that it sticks its head in the mouth of the lion, as it were, and has it bitten off.

Or, maybe the victim doesn't lash out; maybe he/she/it flees, but does so in such a manner (running into a tree, fleeing from the available food supply, etc.) that guarantees his/her/its death.
posted by Clay201 at 9:52 AM on January 9, 2007

It's probably a lot easier to annoy an octopus to death than a person. They seem to have a very delicate constitution.
posted by clh at 11:01 AM on January 9, 2007

We've lost pet mice to stress. Wild (filthy, horrible) mice in our home snuck into my daughter's bedroom to steal pet food from her pet mice while we were away. One of the pet mice passed away (even though they had food and water) and the other was far more twitchy and nervous.

At least, that's our theory, with droppings and scattered seed to support it.
posted by Gucky at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2007

This is possible with horses, for what it's worth. Small stomach maladies can often cause death, because horses' stomachs are so sensitive and they have no words to assuage the pain by rationalizing it. They are known to pace, not eat or drink, and slam their bodies into walls when they have a pain that they can do nothing about.

I imagine other animals that are as large or larger also have enough power to be sufficiently self-destructive to kill themselves if driven to it by outward or inward annoyances.

Please don't.
posted by koeselitz at 12:45 PM on January 9, 2007

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