It would be much easier if we could truly communicate with our pets and find out what they are really thinking. Since we cannot, we are only left with a guess as to what goes through their minds, and because of this, it is a guess as to what their affection for us really means, and how deep it really runs. Because we have is wonderment, it is a question of, would they eat us if we were to die?
A study was conducted by Erika Englehaupt of National Geographic. She wanted an answer, so she started to dig through case studies to find one and what she found was disturbing. Englehaupt examined 20 cases that are known as “indoor scavenging” which were published in scientific journals, as well as she examined a study in 2015 that was a compilation of 63 reports on the subject.
There is a similarity to these cases and it is quite disturbing, so be aware.
What the cases boil down to are that in each case, a person dies alone with a pet in the home. The body is undiscovered for some time, and when it is finally discovered, it is very noticeable that parts of the body are missing and there is only one other living creature in the house, the pet, and the pet is just sitting there like nothing is wrong.
The question is, which type of pet is worse? A dog or a cat?
According to Englehaupt, the majority of the cases that were reviewed, involved dogs. It has been found that cats do have a reputation of eating their deceased owners, and she claims that EMT’s have conferred on this. However, most of the documentation done was related to the canine family. There were also some documents found that implicate hamsters and birds that have partaken in their owner’s flesh after death. One such case documented, on BuzzFeed, that a hamster had been found to have used human skin, fat and muscle tissue to make a burrow in a drawer. That is grotesque.
There was another report from the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine regarding a 2010 case where a victim who had passed away due to an aneurysm had their face eaten overnight by the pet dog, while the cats in the home did not have anything to do with it. There was zero evidence that the cats partook in any part of the body. Could it be because cats are naturally more docile than dogs?
So what do pets typically go for first?
It has also been researched as to what an animal will go for first on the body. The answer is, that it really depends on how much flesh is exposed, and what part of the flesh is exposed. Rule of thumb is, that the face is often the first to be munched on. The detachable body parts are the easiest, such as the nose and lips, which explains why 73% of the cases that Englehaupt read about, had reported that facial bites were noted and then there was a 15% involvement of the abdominal region that was happening.
According to forensic anthropologist Carolyn Rando, Ph.D., she was quoted, saying to BuzzFeed, “Yes, your pets will eat you when you die, and perhaps a bit sooner than is comfortable. They tend to go for the neck, face, and any exposed areas first, and then, if not discovered in time, they may proceed to eat the rest of you.”
In a 2007 case, a Chow dog and a Lab, were found to have survive on their deceased owner’s body for over a month before it was discovered. The dogs only left small bits of skull bones by the time officials got to the body.
Will the pets wait any length of time before they chow down? As a sort of mourning period?
It’s a good question, and the answer is, it depends. There was a case in 1997 that tells of a man who had committed suicide by gunshot in the mouth and when the body was discovered, authorities noticed bite marks on what remained of the face. The authorities retrieved the dog, a German Shepherd, and during transport, the dog happened to vomit up the owner’s beard and skin. There was no mistaking what the content was.
A 2015 study found that dogs were the ones who had begun to eat their owners in a short period of time, approximately within a 24 hour period of the death. This was found to be true, too, with the dog even having his own food in his dish available to him. There is some thought that this might have something to do with a dog’s natural instinct.
Forensic examiner, Markus Rothschild, discussed the above case and offered an explanation, “One possible explanation for such behavior is that a pet will try to help an unconscious owner first by licking or nudging, but when this fails to produce any results the behavior of the animal can become more frantic and in a state of panic, can lead to biting.” The thought is that the behavior could be more prevalent in dog’s that are high-anxiety dogs, or a fearful dog. It may not be that they necessarily want to “eat” their owner so much as it is that if they taste blood, blood stimulates the desire and act of eating, in canines.
Another theory is that it could be a simple answer of, that their owner is “fresh meat,” and most dog owners know how a dog will react when they smell fresh meat; beef, chicken or others. They prefer it over dry dog food any day.
Unfortunately, things may be a little more grim or disturbing for dog owners to know that this behavior doesn’t necessarily have to be just when you’re dead. Dogs may not even wait that long, but they could exhibit this type of behavior if you were to just be lying there passed out from an illness, or passed out drunk even.
There was another study in 1994 that involved a middle-aged woman who had had too much to drink and she passed out. She had a red setter dog and he started to bite her face while she was unconscious. The woman died later, but it was noted that the dog hadn’t even waited until his owner had actually died before he started to make her, his dinner. He had literally begun to chew on his owner’s face within just 16 hours of her being seen alive last.
So, if you want to believe your little furbaby wouldn’t jump on the chance for fresh meat if you were to die, that you two are too close, or you have some special bond that would prevent your cute little pet from devouring you if you died, you would be wrong. Researchers have not found any evidence that shows the pet’s closeness to its owner as any reason for an animal not to eat them. Whether it is due to instinct, hunger, either one of them will overrule the loyalty and love your pet feels for you. Whatever those emotions really mean to a pet, anyway.