You’ve spent years, maybe even decades giving the best care to your feline. You’ve fed them, cleaned them, taken them to the vet, bought them toys, pet them ceaselessly, and forgave them time and time again for being an asshole.
Then, one day, you’re eating a sandwich for lunch at your kitchen table. A chunk of it gets caught in your throat, clogs your windpipe, and you fall to the floor – dead via sandwich. Will your cat, who you’ve spent years catering to their every whim and need, cry for help or frantically attempt to revive you by licking your blue face? Nah. According to a 2019 study by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, your cat will probably just eat you … starting with your arms.
The study took place at a body farm at Colorado Mesa University’s Forensic Investigation Research Station. For those of you who didn’t have a grotesque fascination with Sally Mann’s photo essay on the matter, body farms are research facilities where donated bodies are used to study the process of decomposition. Scientists observe insect activity, climate effect, and how the decomposition impacts the surrounding environment. The research is especially helpful for law enforcement and forensic science purposes.
Interestingly, this particular study happened unexpectedly. The facility is surrounded by a 10-foot high chain-link fence, topped with razor wire, and extending two feet underground. This perimeter barrier mostly prevents animals from getting in and compromising the research. However, cats, as we know, aren’t ones to be intimidated by things like security measures.
According to the Washington Post, while going through camera footage, a student was surprised to see two cats munching on the arms of some of the corpses. The felines were feasting on areas of the bodies that were in the early stages of decomposition, while avoiding areas that were showing further signs of decay, like leaking bodily fluids. Picky eaters, amirite? Possibly one of the most off-putting aspects is that both cats fed on the soft arm and shoulder tissue. All. The. Way. To. The. Bone.
Cats, it turns out, are weird eaters. These two scavengers had more than 40 human snacks to choose from, yet every night the cats returned to dine on their same selections until the bodies became too decomposed for their sophisticated tastes. One feline stayed with its chosen corpse for 35 consecutive nights.
In fairness to felines, it’s not their fault. We know they’re assholes and yet we keep them around. Plus, they’re not the only ones that will dig in on a human corpse. Previous research showed dogs, hamsters, and birds have all partaken in such feasting. Circle of life, anyone?
Some of you might be eyeballing Whiskers suspiciously right about now, but let’s be honest. At the end of the day, our pets are still animals and they gotta do what they got to do. If you aren’t going to be around to pour kibble into their bowls, they have to find sustenance from somewhere, and you might still be their primary food source. After all, don’t we eat animals too when we’re hungry?
Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior researcher at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, had a good takeaway on her blog for anyone feeling a bit squeamish about whether they need to start watching their backs when Garfield and Odie walk into the room.
“If push came to shove, would your cat eat you? Yes. But so would your dog. Our pets have no moral code that prevents them from eating flesh, from biting the hand that fed them,” she wrote.
“They have no need to uphold a standard that — to many of us — reflects a deep and loving relationship and a line that should not be crossed. The irony is that many of us have difficulty discerning why we eat some animals and love others. But to our pets, if we are dead, it may be that in that moment we are just meat.”
She even recalled to the Washington Post a time when she worked at an animal shelter and a cat came in that had eaten the nose of her owner after they died.
“It’s not a behavior problem. It’s just a fact of life,” she said.