"If you were hungry, wouldn’t you eat them?"
January 16, 2020 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Left alone, a human corpse will soon be feasted upon by maggots. Also, depending on the circumstances, by a cat.

It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.
(Karin Brulliard WaPo | SFGate)
Lest dog owners feel smug, it is important to note that previous research has described pet canines, as well as a hamster and a bird, that ate part of their deceased masters.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (79 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
h/t peeedro
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:27 PM on January 16


Good.
posted by MrJM at 2:31 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


And he's more than welcome to. It's just me and him, so if I die it would be all he had to eat until someone found me.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:32 PM on January 16 [38 favorites]


But would they prefer to eat my corpse over their regular food? I've had some cats that answered yes.
posted by Ziabatsu at 2:32 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


yeah, if I were dead and couldn't feed my kitties I'd rather they ate me than starved.
posted by supermedusa at 2:33 PM on January 16 [38 favorites]


When my uncle died in 1996, he was alone at his lake cottage in Wisconsin, accompanied only by his cat. My oldest cousin, having not heard from him for a couple of days, drove out to the lake and found him dead on the floor. The cat was sitting quietly next to him. I have never quite decided if the cat was keeping vigil or trying to figure out how to eat him. This puts a whole new light on that question.
posted by briank at 2:34 PM on January 16 [26 favorites]


Yeah, I read this at my library a few days ago. It's funny and interesting and written for kids.

The first chapter does answer that and don't worry, it includes that dogs have often tried to wake their owners with increasingly frantic results.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:37 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure my cat would take a couple of nibbles, and then complain that today he doesn't want to eat this sort of human.
posted by pompomtom at 2:39 PM on January 16 [58 favorites]


OK, but let's turn it around. If it came to that, you and Fluffy stranded in a snow-bound cabin, would you eat your pet?
posted by SPrintF at 2:40 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


> Left alone, a human corpse will soon be feasted upon by maggots

You're not truly being left alone if you're being pestered by maggots.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:41 PM on January 16 [24 favorites]


This is anecdata of course but I found it interesting... a friend of mine who did body removal for a few years said he never saw any evidence of pets (dog or cat) consuming their former owners. Universally, when he went into a home to remove a body, the animals were often found cowering or upset. Generally, but not always, he was removing bodies within a relatively short period of time - 1 to 3 days after death. He and I often wondered how long it'd take before the animal would overcome whatever anxiety it might have about eating the human and decide to have a nibble.
posted by Ashwagandha at 2:43 PM on January 16 [7 favorites]


Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead?

Ha, I'm pretty sure that under the right circumstances, my parrot (okay, my gf's parrot) would eat me even if I *hadn't* dropped dead. Like if I was just taped to a chair or whatever and couldn't get away, I feel like Harriet might think "Now's my chance" and just dig in. #gruesomethoughts
posted by 23skidoo at 2:46 PM on January 16 [16 favorites]


Every time my cat paws at my face when I'm sleeping I'm convinced that her main purpose is to get cuddles and the secondary purpose is to check to see if I'm still able to fill up the food dish.

I think it's super sweet.
posted by Neronomius at 2:50 PM on January 16 [9 favorites]


I've heard that your dog will eat you after you've been dead for 72 hours. I guess the familiar smell is gone, replaced by something far less savory. And, of course, they're probably ravenous and, dogs being dogs, they don't mind disgusting stuff. In my wilderness community, they're known to go all-in on stuff that the crows and vultures and whatnot have long since given up on.
posted by philip-random at 2:52 PM on January 16


This all seems pretty obvious. The more interesting question is how many of your coworkers would eat your corpse if left alone with it? No, I don't mean trapped with it. Just like, it's lunchtime, they didn't bring anything, don't have time to go get any, and there you are.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:52 PM on January 16 [26 favorites]


The more interesting question is how many of your coworkers would eat your corpse if left alone with it?

If you died actually IN the fridge, like with your own name somewhere prominent on your body? 100% someone would eat your corpse. Or at least steal an appendage.
posted by tclark at 2:57 PM on January 16 [54 favorites]


Oh, God, yes! The company fridge! *shudder* We've lost employees who just walked too close to that beast!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:02 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


(cw: death, human remains, depression, pet death)

Last year a family friend's sister passed away and I flew to the state where she lived to help settle her affairs....it was a far more grisly business than I imagined. She died at home and had been dead for at least 3-4 weeks, it appeared she had not left the apartment in months/over a year, her body had already been picked up by the funeral home by the time I got there, and the police who found her after a wellness check did not have her sister (my friend) ID her body in person. One of my family's biggest concerns was the fate of her two cats, which had been her only companions after her husband died. Knowing how long she had been dead I figured either the cats were dead, they had escaped, or if they were alive I did not want to know by what means they had survived.

In the course of three days cleaning out her apartment I found one cat wrapped in a towel in the freezer, who had clearly died before being placed there. Still no sign of the other cat, which I assumed had somehow escaped, though I could not figure out how. The last day I was there I did a final check of the now-empty apartment and lo and behold there was the heretofore missing cat, sitting on a window sill like nothing had happened. We locked eyes and she froze, and by the time I pulled out my phone to call my family she had disappeared. Fearing I had seen a ghost (I don't usually believe in such things, but atheists:foxholes::skeptics:houses of death, I guess) I took out my phone and did manage to find and take a picture of her hiding behind the stove. After getting her food and water I called the local humane society, and someone was able to come trap her and take her to a shelter. I hope she had a good life....but the evidence of how she was able to survive for that long, some of which I had to clean up off the kitchen floor, will haunt me for a long time.
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 3:04 PM on January 16 [24 favorites]


The more interesting question is how many of your coworkers would eat your corpse if left alone with it?

Hey Marie, I know you are currently working the lead on that big merger we hope will save our company, but I'd decided that Doug the janitor can cover your questions for the lawyers for the next few days. That frees you up to get in there and cut up Gerald. Do you know how to barbecue? That's what we'd prefer.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:06 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


"If you were hungry, wouldn’t you eat them?"

Spending a lot of effort imagining what a famine is like, in detail, seems like something to avoid doing. I'm sure there comes a definite stage where there aren't any pets left.
posted by thelonius at 3:09 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


if we are to our pets as the concept of god is to people, i just find eating the body of god for survival to make so much more sense than this whole host business.. i mean, it's a wafer, what good is that gonna do? plus my church switched to grape juice as a gesture of solidarity with the AA folks who hold their weekly meetings downstairs so it's not even booze-dipped wafers

i'm going home tonight to confront my cat and say "eat me"
posted by elkevelvet at 3:12 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


You're not truly being left alone if you're being pestered by maggots.
posted by The corpse in the library


Heh.

posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson The more interesting question is how many of your coworkers would eat your corpse if left alone with it? No, I don't mean trapped with it. Just like, it's lunchtime, they didn't bring anything, don't have time to go get any, and there you are.

What's the workplace etiquette, for eating the last piece of a co-worker? Are you supposed to get a fresh corpse like you make a fresh pot if you drink the last of the coffee, or is it a "there's Bob in the kitchen, take as much as you want" situation?
posted by mattdidthat at 3:12 PM on January 16 [15 favorites]


The deeper question is, would they have to shovel up all of the me derived cat poo they found around the house and put it in the coffin with whatever was left?
posted by biffa at 3:13 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


I have never quite decided if the cat was keeping vigil or trying to figure out how to eat him.

Maybe waiting for his skin to loosen up enough for the hungry cat to get some purchase on it? Depending on how hot it is where you die, this can take three days or more.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:16 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


The deeper question is, would they have to shovel up all of the me derived cat poo they found around the house and put it in the coffin with whatever was left?

Escatology
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:18 PM on January 16 [19 favorites]


Previously on AskMe
posted by TedW at 3:21 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


My cat chews on my hand when she's hungry. I'd like for her to wait until I'm dead first.
posted by Jeanne at 3:25 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


cats can have little a human face as a survival meal

The act of eating my corpse will complete the ritual and my cat and I will be united as one in life and in death. IS THAT SO WRONG?!???!!
posted by meemzi at 3:29 PM on January 16 [13 favorites]


Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?

This is relevant to my interests.
posted by bonehead at 3:33 PM on January 16


Unless my wife is way more creepy than I think, I think I can rest assured that my Amazon catfish won't be tasting my delicious flesh.
posted by pipeski at 3:34 PM on January 16




my cat paws at my face when I'm sleeping

I think we're missing an opportunity here to give Felis Catus credit for the tremendous number of living people they don't eat.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:42 PM on January 16 [16 favorites]


The deeper question is, would they have to shovel up all of the me derived cat poo they found around the house and put it in the coffin with whatever was left?

That will surely be the subject of Johnny Wallflower's first Poop Month post.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:44 PM on January 16 [6 favorites]


posted by meemzi cats can have little a human face as a survival meal
The act of eating my corpse will complete the ritual and my cat and I will be united as one in life and in death.


Cats 2: Fancy Feast Boogaloo
posted by mattdidthat at 3:48 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]




Tender Vittles is People
posted by some loser at 4:01 PM on January 16 [8 favorites]


The Soylent Green New Deal
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:02 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


Lest dog owners feel smug, it is important to note that previous research has described pet canines, as well as a hamster and a bird, that ate part of their deceased masters.

Well, honestly, certain birds (cockatoos, quaker parrots) will try to eat you while you're still alive. I have the scars.They love ears.
posted by Splunge at 4:12 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


If we are what we eat, and you have a cat, maybe a certain notorious movie of recent release might be worth a watch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:19 PM on January 16


My favorite quote from the WaPo article:
[A]lthough the cats had a buffet of more than 40 bodies from which to choose, each one returned to the corpse it had selected again and again — one almost nightly for 35 nights straight.
“The main theory is that cats are, like, picky eaters. Once they find a food that they like, they’ll stick with it,” said Garcia, the lead author
Of course, this part could've been written more clearly:
To be clear, the bodies were there for this purpose. Both were donated to Colorado Mesa University’s Forensic Investigation Research Station
The bodies were there for purpose of scientific research, which cats took advantage of. I don't think anybody specified ahead of time they were going to be cat food.
posted by cheshyre at 4:21 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


I love my dog so goddamn much and he’s super old and blind and I know that he isn’t going to be with us for a whole lot longer but goddamn it man, like, if I drop dead I would want him to eat me up if he even just sorta felt like it! I love my dog and I’m dead. It would make me so happy to know that, if he really wanted to eat me, I had made his day better and his tail wag one more time.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:23 PM on January 16 [21 favorites]


posted by some loser Tender Vittles is People
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson The Soylent Green New Deal


A Meow Mix Proposal
posted by mattdidthat at 4:26 PM on January 16 [6 favorites]


My dog would not even hesitate. Which I’m thankful for because without her ruthless killer instinct, who knows whether she would have made it to the shelter where I found her.
posted by sallybrown at 4:27 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I've said it before and I'll say it again: I genuinely wish I could donate my body to Science Diet.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:29 PM on January 16 [20 favorites]


Monty Python once provides at least some of the answers to a few of life's questions: I present: The Lifeboat sketch (audio)

How we feeling, Captain?

Not too good. I...I feel so weak.

We can't hold out much longer.

Listen... chaps... there's still a chance. I'm... done for, I've got a gammy leg and I'm going fast;
I'll never get through. But some of you might. So... you'd better eat me.

Eat you, sir?

Yes. Eat me.

Yuck! With a gammy leg?

You needn't eat the leg, Thompson. There's still plenty of good meat. Look at that arm.
posted by but no cigar at 4:29 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


My cat is a baker and thinks my stomach is a big pile of dough.
posted by srboisvert at 4:41 PM on January 16 [9 favorites]


OK, but let's turn it around. If it came to that, you and Fluffy stranded in a snow-bound cabin, would you eat your pet?

Nope.
posted by Young Kullervo at 4:44 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


OK, but let's turn it around. If it came to that, you and Fluffy stranded in a snow-bound cabin, would you eat your pet?

Negative.
posted by Splunge at 4:51 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I don't know. Seems awfully suspicious. How come it's just the two of us? Can't think of a reason I'd be snowbound in a cabin with Fluffy. Was this scenario by any chance Fluffy's idea?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:58 PM on January 16 [19 favorites]


Also, what kind of an animal is Fluffy? Is Fluffy by any chance a trout?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:04 PM on January 16 [6 favorites]


Incidentally, Fluffy the Trout is my new sockpuppet name.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:35 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


There's no way my cat would eat me. She literally worships me as her god and protector and her lover.

In the event of starvation, there's no question I would eat her in a second.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:27 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


my cat ... literally worships me as her god and protector and her lover.

I don't believe I'd'a told that.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:35 PM on January 16 [9 favorites]


Inside voice, Slarty Bartfast. Inside voice stays inside.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:47 PM on January 16 [9 favorites]


Previously on MeFi. Your cat is not the only one who’ll take a bite.

(Not linking the specific story directly. Scroll down; you’ll find it.)
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:43 PM on January 16


In a recent paper, researchers describe the consumption of two different human corpses by two different cats, both of which displayed a taste for arm tissue.
Oddly enough I don't find the thought of flesh off my arms being eaten by animals after I'm dead all that disturbing, especially if they just nibble on the forearm a bit and leave the skeletal structure intact. My face, guts and thighs not so much.

I remember reading a horrific article somewhere (I think it might have been here) about a German shepherd that munched on the face of his dead owner and vomited up chunks of skin with beard hair attached in front of the munchee's mother.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:49 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


arm tissue

Gesundheit.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:15 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


Both started eating when the bodies were in early stages of decomposition...

Somewhere out on the internet is a story written by an ER nurse about a woman with Alzheimer's who lived with her adult son and multiple cats. At some point, the son had a stroke and lost consciousness half inside the open refrigerator. For a week, the woman - and the cats - tried to find food. After a few days, the woman fell and broke her hip near the fridge and collapsed on top of her son's body. When they were found and the nurse examined the son in the ER she found the cats' tooth marks on his body. The story gets much worse than that.

Inasmuch as I believe everything I read on the internet, cats will definitely eat you.
posted by bendy at 9:58 PM on January 16


If it comes down to just me and the cat, sure, the cat can eat me. But he had better finish what I put out for him first, damn it, and not immediately start tearing into my corpse as soon as he fails to detect a pulse. I don't want a relative or friend to come in five minutes after I die and find Sylwester sitting there with one of my eyes dangling out of his slobbery mouth.
posted by pracowity at 12:51 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


"Hey! If you were a hot dog, and you were starving, would you eat yourself?"
"What?"
"I know I would. First I'd smother myself in brown mustard and relish. I'd be so delicious. So would you?"
"I don't know."
"Don't jerk me around, Norm, it's a simple question. A baby could answer it. If you were a hot dog, and you were starving, would you eat yourself?"
"I guess so."
"Oh, you made a wise choice, my friend. If you had said no, I would've bitten your ear off."

(Aired the Saturday after Norm MacDonald got fired.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:04 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


My cat is rolling up on his 18th birthday, and feline diabetes has claimed all but one of his teeth--that proud straggler canine (feline?) tooth on the top right is still going strong, but he's otherwise relegated to gumming his food. Nevertheless, I have seen him pick a ham bone clean and consume an entire turkey leg. If I die first, I doubt he'll wait until the twitching stops before he goes to work.
posted by Mayor West at 6:09 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]




EVERYONE GO LISTEN TO THAT LUTOSLAWSKI SONG IMMEDIATELY

CORTEX ADD IT TO THE NEXT PODCAST

holy shit that was a bop
posted by youarenothere at 6:24 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


My aunt had a closed casket because her cats ate her face before her body was found.

This is not a family legend from years ago.

It happened in May 2019.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:41 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


I've heard that your dog will eat you after you've been dead for 72 hours.

Dogs will start chowing down on master's face within hours, and sometimes minutes of death. Sometimes they don't even wait for death before getting some good toe snacking in...
posted by FatherDagon at 8:27 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


This is one of those topics where it becomes clear my world view is fundamentally different from most people. A cat facing an eventual, desperate lack of food in a house with a dead person is ugly. A cat eating me and then getting rescued soon after, while still healthy and well fed? That's delightful. That's more or less the best possible outcome I could wish for upon death. The tone of this article and the twitter response are. . . hard to really understand.

If I could will my body to cat food, I'd happily do it. I'd rather be prepared fresh, roasted, and eaten by friends at my wake and then have my bones mounted and given away as souvenirs, but I gather most of my friends wouldn't enjoy it.
posted by eotvos at 10:38 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


I feed my neighbor's cats, and normally they accept pets from me. The big black tom cat hauled off and bit me. Be has long fangs. He rocked back to a sitting position, and I watxhed him taste my blood, smack his little cat lips, and eye me up and down. That had to be his come hither, you big delicious monkey, look.
posted by Oyéah at 11:41 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I am well aware that the most important function served by my very existence on earth is feeding the cats, so why should things be any different after my death?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:04 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]




The big black tom cat hauled off and bit me. Be has long fangs.

Doctor time. Cat bites can make you very ill.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:06 PM on January 17


ITYM Mynd you, cäät bites Kan be pretti nasti
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:47 PM on January 17


No, actually, I meant what I said. People tend to underestimate the possible outcomes of cat bites.
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/when-cats-bite-1-in-3-patients-bitten-in-hand-hospitalized-infections-common/
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:16 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


EVERYONE GO LISTEN TO THAT LUTOSLAWSKI SONG IMMEDIATELY
I think I'll wait until the cats are out of earshot. (One is currently sitting in my lap). I don't want to give - or reinforce - any ideas.
posted by cheshyre at 4:40 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


ITYM Mynd you, cäät bites Kan be pretti nasti

No, actually, I meant what I said.


Not contradicting you, I just think it's a shame to pass up an opportunity to insert a perfectly good 45-year-old pop culture reference into a conversation.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:49 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine inherited her cat from her uncle, who died in his sleep. This has apparently traumatised the cat, who will occasionally bat at her while she's sleeping until she moves or makes a noise.

Makes me wonder if there's a measurable psychological difference between cats who would quickly eat their human and those who would now.
posted by DebetEsse at 10:25 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Monty Python is never not funny. "ITYM", on the other hand, is never funny.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:37 AM on January 18


YMMV
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:31 AM on January 18


LOL
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:36 AM on January 20




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