The picturesque campus of Colorado Mesa University (CMU) stands in stark contrast to the school’s Forensic Investigation Research Station (FIRS), where a body farm is home to several decomposing corpses—and the two feral cats who fed on them.
In 2017, when CMU student and the co-author of a paper detailing these carnivorous kitties sat down to review research footage, she was stunned to see a feral cat eating one of the bodies. A few months later, another cat had taken to eating another corpse. They both managed to get down to the bone.
Per the November 2019 report in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, the cats also showed a preference for soft tissue, specifically in the shoulders and arms of the bodies. Strangely, cats are known as predators, but these feral specimens appeared perfectly content scavenging bodies in the early stages of decomposition.
At the time the footage was captured, 40 bodies were on display but both cats continually returned to the same corpse they initially dined on—“one almost nightly for 35 nights straight,” reports The Washington Post. Garcia told the Post that one of the theories as to why the cats returned to the same bodies is because cats are “picky eaters,” who “stick with” food once they try it and like it.
And it’s not just cats and dogs—there are reported cases of hamsters scavenging human bodies postmortem. Carolyn Rando, a forensic anthropologist at London’s UCL Institute of Archaeology, says that when an animal becomes distressed, it can attempt to rouse its owner by nudging the body and can begin to nibble if there’s no response. If blood is drawn, it’s very possible that “instinct” takes over and causes the animal to begin eating.
“Yes, your pets will eat you when you die, and perhaps a bit sooner than is comfortable,” Rando told BuzzFeed News in 2015, referring to the case where a dog began to eat its owner who was not dead, but merely passed out drunk. The woman ultimately died.
Our pets might be our best friends, but at the end of the day—it’s a dog eat human world out there.