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Will You be Eaten by Your Pet?

Will You be Eaten by Your Pet?

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This article explores the unsettling phenomenon of pet scavenging on human remains when individuals die alone at home. It highlights the challenges this poses for forensic investigators and introduces a pioneering study conducted by Swiss researchers.

In the shadows of an uncomfortable reality lies a phenomenon that most would rather turn a blind eye to—when individuals die alone at home, there exists a chilling possibility that their pet may resort to consuming their remains. This disturbing behavior spans across the spectrum of household companions, from dogs tearing at faces to cats delving into chest cavities, and even hamsters constructing nests from strips of their owner’s skin. Forensic anthropologist Carolyn Rando bluntly asserts, “Corpse scavenging by pets is just a fact of life.”

Beyond the macabre nature of such instances, this phenomenon presents a formidable challenge for investigators. Determining the cause of death becomes exponentially complex when internal organs are missing due to animal consumption, and crucial evidence can be obliterated, making it difficult to ascertain whether toxins were involved or if a potential sexual crime had occurred.

A New Frontier in Forensics:

In an effort to shed light on this grim aspect of forensic investigation, Swiss researchers have undertaken a pioneering study. By compiling and analyzing dozens of published reports on corpse scavenging by pets, they have developed a comprehensive guide tailored for law enforcement, forensic pathologists, and crime scene investigators. This guide seeks to assist professionals in discerning whether a pet scavenged a body, identifying the type of pet involved, and establishing protocols to account for the impact of pets on crime scene evidence.

Understanding the Guide:

The guide delves into various aspects, providing valuable insights for those grappling with the challenges posed by pets feasting on human remains. It outlines distinctive patterns of scavenging behavior exhibited by different animals, offering clues to investigators about the nature and identity of the culprit. The document also provides recommendations on how to navigate investigations where pets have played a role, ensuring a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of the circumstances surrounding a death.

Practical Advice for Pet Owners:

For individuals concerned about the unsettling prospect of becoming posthumous meals for their pets, forensic anthropologist Carolyn Rando offers a pragmatic suggestion—regular check-ins from someone familiar with the deceased and their animals. Such oversight can potentially prevent pets from resorting to scavenging and allow for a more dignified resolution to a tragic situation.

A Surprising Perspective:

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Amidst the morbidity of the topic, forensic pathologist Roger Byard introduces an unexpected viewpoint. He reflects on the idea that, in some instances, the bodies of the deceased may inadvertently sustain their pets, providing nourishment during a challenging period. Byard humorously remarks, “If it kept my old golden retriever going after I died, I’d be quite happy for it to have a feed.”


The intricate dance between pets and forensic investigations has long been overshadowed by the disturbing reality of corpse scavenging. However, the Swiss study and its resulting guide represent a significant step forward in unraveling this complex relationship. As investigators strive to overcome the challenges posed by pets in crime scenes, the hope is that this newfound knowledge will pave the way for more effective and accurate forensic practices, offering a modicum of solace to those grappling with the dark nuances of death and its aftermath.

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