Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?
When I die, will my cat eat my eyeballs?
No, your cat won’t eat your eyeballs. Not right away, at least.
Don’t worry, Snickers McMuffin hasn’t been biding his time, glaring at you from behind the couch, waiting for you to take your last breath to be all, “Spartans! Tonight, we dine in hell!”
For hours, even days, after your death, Snickers will expect you to rise from the dead and fill his normal food bowl with his normal food. He won’t be diving straight for the human flesh. But a cat has got to eat, and you are the person who feeds him. This is the cat-human compact. Death doesn’t free you from performing your contractual obligations. If you have a heart attack in your living room and no one finds you before you miss your coffee date with Sheila next Thursday, a hungry and impatient Snickers McMuffin may abandon his empty food bowl and come check out what your corpse has to offer.
Cats tend to consume human parts that are soft and exposed, like the face and neck, with special focus on the mouth and nose. Don’t rule out some chomps on the eyeballs—but Snickers is more likely to go for the softer, easier-access choices. Think: eyelids, lips, or tongue.
“Why would my beloved do that?” you ask. Let’s keep in mind that, as much you adore your domesticated meowkins, that sucker is an opportunistic killer that shares 95.6 percent of its DNA with lions. Cats (in the United States alone) slaughter up to 3.7 billion birds every year. If you count other cute little mammals like mice, rabbits, and voles, the death toll might rise to 20 billion. This is an abject massacre—a bloodbath of adorable forest creatures perpetrated by our feline overlords. Mr. Cuddlesworth is a sweetheart, you say? “He watches TV with me!” No, ma’am. Mr. Cuddlesworth is a predator.
The good news (for your dead body) is that some pets with slithery, sinister reputations might not have the capacity (or interest) to eat their owners. Snakes and lizards, for example, won’t eat you postmortem—unless you happen to own a full-grown Komodo dragon.
But that’s the end of the good news. Your dog will totally eat you. “Oh no!” you say. “Not man’s best friend!” Oh yes. Fifi Fluff will attack your corpse without remorse. There are cases where forensics experts first suspect a violent murder has occurred, only to discover that the damage was Ms. Fluff attacking the dead body postmortem.
Your dog might not nip and tear at you because she’s starving, however. More likely Fifi Fluff will be attempting to wake you up. Something has happened to her human. She’s probably anxious and tense. In this situation, a dog might nibble the lips off her owner, just like you bite your nails or refresh your social media feed. We all have our anxiety busters!
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One very sad case involved a woman in her forties who was known to be an alcoholic. Often, when she was intoxicated and unconscious, her red setter would lick her face and bite her legs to try to rouse her. After she died, the flesh was found missing from her nose and mouth. The setter had tried to rouse her human again and again, with increasing force, but couldn’t wake her.
Forensic case studies—did you know that “forensic veterinarian” is a job?—tend to focus on the destructive patterns of larger dogs: for example, the German shepherd that took out both his owner’s eyes or the husky that ate her owner’s toes. But the size of the dog doesn’t matter when it comes to postmortem mutilation. Take the story of Rumpelstiltskin the chihuahua. His new owner posted a picture on a message board to show him off, and added some “bonus info” which was that “his [old] owner was dead for a considerable time before anyone noticed and he did eat his human to stay alive.” Rumpelstiltskin sounds like a bold little survivalist to me.
Somehow, a dog being anxious and overwhelmed makes us feel better about the whole corpse-eating thing. We develop bonds with our pets. We want them to be upset when we die, not licking their chops. But why do we have that expectation? Our pets eat dead animals, just like humans eat dead animals (okay fine, not you vegetarians). Many wild animals will also scavenge a corpse. Even some of the creatures we think of as the most skilled predators—lions, wolves, bears—will happily chow down if they encounter a dead animal in their territory. Especially if they’re starving. Food is food and you’re dead. Let them enjoy their meal and go about their lives, now with a slightly macabre pedigree. Viva Rumpelstiltskin!