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Dogs, cats, other pets: would they eat you if you died?
Would your dog, cat, or other pet eat you if you died? The truth about if — and how soon — our animal friends start to see us in a different light.
Things would be so much simpler if we could converse with our pets and really know for certain how they think and what they feel. As it is, we’re always left squinting at the dividing line between understanding and anthropomorphism. And we’re left wondering what a pet’s affection means and how deep it runs. Which is to say, would they eat us if we die?
Erika Englehaupt of National Geographic decided to dig through case studies to find a clear answer. And she sort of did. You may not like it. She examined 20 cases of what’s euphemistically called “indoor scavenging” published in scientific journals, and also a 2015 study that compiled 63 such reports.
Okay, let’s be clear. Some of this is disturbing. You have been warned.
There’s a basic scenario in these cases: Someone with a pet dies alone and is undiscovered for a period of time. By the time the body is discovered, there are parts missing and a pet is just sitting there, usually perfectly normally.
Who's Worse, Dogs or Cats?
Most of the cases Englehaupt reviewed were of dogs, by a large margin, though there were some cases in which cats were implicated. Cats have a reputation for eating their dead owners, and Englehaupt has heard from EMTs that it’s pretty common, but most of the documentation is canine-related. There are even a few reports of hamsters and birds chowing down. (BuzzFeed reports a particularly grotesque case in which a hamster made a burrow in a drawer from human skin, fat, and muscle tissue.)
It may just be that cats are more chill than dogs in this as in everything else. There’s a report from the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine about a 2010 case where an aneurysm victim’s face had been eaten overnight by her dog while her cats didn’t so much as a nibble.
What’s on the Menu?
It depends first of all on how much flesh is exposed. Typically, the face is eaten first, starting with the more detachable bits like the nose and lips. 73% of the cases Englehaupt looked at reported face bites, with only 15% involving the abdomen. Certainly, the longer the pet goes without proper food, the more it eats.
Forensic anthropologist Carolyn Rando, Ph.D. tells 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.” There was that 2007 case in which that a Chow and a Labrador survived for a month on their owner's body, leaving only bits of bone and the top of the skull.
But Only After a Respectful Mourning Period, Right?
Um, depends. Usually, but…
In a 1997 case, when police retrieved the body of a man who’d committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth, they noticed bite marks around what remained of his face. As they transported his normal-acting, cooperative German shepherd to an animal sanctuary, the dog vomited up what was clearly his owner’s skin and beard hair.
The 2015 study found that in 24% of all the cases they examined, dogs had begun eating their masters in under 24 hours — and some of them even chose to do so in spite of having normal dog food available.
A factor may be a specific dog’s nature. The forensic examiner in the above 1997 case, Markus Rothschild, suggests, “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.” This may be more likely to occur in an anxiety-prone, fearful canine, according to Rando, “So it’s not necessarily that the dog wants to eat, but eating gets stimulated when they taste blood.”
It may also be as simple as the appeal of fresh meat. Anyone who’s cut up fresh chicken for a pet knows how much more they like that than they do canned or dry food.
Some dogs may not even wait until you’re dead — passed-out drunk may be good enough. Rando describes a 1994 study to Buzzfeed: “The case involves a middle-aged woman who got too drunk and passed out. Her dog, a red setter, had started biting her face while she was unconscious. She later died, but the dog couldn't even wait a whole day to munch on his owner — and started chewing on her face within 16 hours of the woman last being seen alive.”
But Surely My Snugglebug Wouldn’t Eat Me.
Oh, yes, he would. Researchers have found no connection between an animal’s reported closeness to its owner and its likelihood of consuming his or her body. Instinct — or hunger — apparently trumps love, according to Rando. Whatever that really means to a pet.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.