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Horrifying Stories Of Animals Eating Their Owners

And other grisly details we learned about our pets from a forensic anthropologist. Warning: You'll never be able to look at a Maru video the same way again.

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Carolyn Rando, Ph.D., is a forensic anthropologist at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and CASE Academy. One of her favorite topics of research is animal scavengers. So, naturally, we asked her questions about pets eating their owners.

Dr. Carolyn Rando / Via UCL Institute of Archaeology

"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," Rando told BuzzFeed over email.

And what she revealed about their eating habits was morbidly fascinating. Here's what we learned:

Your dog just might try to eat you while you're passed out and drunk.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

Rando mentions a sordid case that was analyzed in a 1994 study published in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology.

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.

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In case you're wondering...

"Why would 'Fluffy' want to eat me after my death? In many cases, the simple answer is instinct," Rando said.

While we domesticated cats and dogs millennia ago, they still have some aspects of their wild ancestors.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

"When you die, the animal often becomes distressed and may attempt to ‘wake you up’; they will lick and nip at the face. Once they’ve licked enough, they may draw blood; this could trigger an instinctive behaviour, resulting in more wounding and eventually consumption of human tissue," she said.

But in some cases, dogs will eat you because they're just really hungry.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

Rando referenced a case discussed in a 2007 study published in ScienceDirect. This time, it was a middle-aged woman who had been eaten by not one but two dogs.

And the worst part? The dogs consumed her entire body. The only things left of the poor woman were small bone fragments, a piece of her skull, and some hair.

Rando said that the woman had been dead for a whole month before she was found. Officers at the scene arrived to find two bags full of dog food that had been ripped open and eaten. They had run out of their normal food, so they had to look elsewhere.

"The dogs appeared healthy," she said.

Dogs normally don't eat you immediately after you die. But there's always an exception to the rule.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

Unlike wild animals, there's usually a "waiting period" before a domesticated dog will ravish your body. But Rando said that didn't happen in a tragic case discussed in a 1997 study published in Forensic Science International.

A young man in his early thirties committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. "Within approximately 45 minutes of the shot, police arrived on scene," she said. The police found dog food and a rather friendly German shepherd who readily went with them.

And then this story gets even more gruesome. Within a few minutes, the dog began vomiting the remains of its owner, which included skin and hair.

"The gunshot upset the animal, causing it to panic somewhat. The dog likely went up to its owner, looking for 'comfort'... and then with the blood... well, it probably couldn't help itself," she said.

You're not safe with cats. They'll eat your face too.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

Rando references another case in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology study, but this time it involves a horde of cats.

She said, "This one is so sad: It quite upsets me!"

Again, it involves a man in his early thirties who committed suicide. When he was found three days later, his head, neck, and part of his arm were completely defleshed. "Right down to the bone," she said.

But here's the weird thing: He had 10 cats, and all of them had died too.

Apparently, he overdosed on prescription medicine. When his cats feasted on his face and body, they also died of poisoning.

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The reason for the cats' morbid appetite?

"Cats are a bit more complex, but that's partly down to the lower number of available published cases. But, it's likely the motivation is the same or similar to that of the dog's," Rando said.

But cats are still "superior," aloof beings, at least in the following case.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

"Here’s one that involves both a dog and cat," she said.

Rando referenced a case that was described in a 2010 study in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. In the case, a woman was found dead in her bathroom by her husband. She died of an aneurysm, but her nose and lips were missing.

"Quite interestingly, and a bit contrary to what people might think: All of the injuries found on the woman were caused by her dog; the cats had no part in it," she said. Like the other unusual cases that lacked a "waiting period," the dog had "preyed upon" the victim only a few hours after her death.

"As for why the cat didn't go in for a nibble, well, that's anyone's guess. But if I had to go out on a limb, I'd say either the cats couldn't be bothered or hadn't noticed yet," she said.

And hamsters are the worst of all. They might make their new dream home out of your decomposing body.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

"A personal favourite of mine, involves a hamster...In my experience, that hamster story is about as weird as they come," she said.

"[A 1995 study in Forensic Science International] details possibly the only documented case of animal scavenging by hamster. Like in nearly all the above cases, the victim was found dead in her home, with unusual marks and wounds on her face," Rando said.

The woman died of pneumonia, but some of the marks on her face were arranged in pairs. "After careful investigation, it was found that the woman owned a free-range, golden hamster," she said.

When investigators looked in an inconspicuous open drawer, they found a ghastly sight: the hamster's burrow. Its new home was made out of human skin, fat, and muscle tissue.

As for the hamster's motivation...

Dr. Carolyn Rando / Via UCL Institute of Archaeology

"Who knows," said Rando.

She added, though, that it's not uncommon for rodents to make a nest inside a human body, particularly the chest. "This provides a safe, closed environment for them," she said. Those cheeky rodents even use human hair and clothing to insulate their new homes.

But she said that's normally when the body is dried out and mummified, rather than "fresh" — so the free-range hamster is a bizarre case.

Rodents will also gnaw bones to get calcium and to grind down their front teeth, which never stop growing. In the above photo of a skull (yes, it's human), you can even see evidence of rodent gnawing near the foramen magnum, aka the big hole at the bottom of the skull.

But most of the time, this only happens when the bones are weathered and dry, according to a Journal of Forensic Science study described by Rando.

Contrary to popular opinion, "exotic" animals like snakes and lizards won't eat you.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

Ironically, many people fear lizards and snakes, which makes them unpopular choices as pets. But according to Rando, they usually don't even engage in scavenging behavior in the wild.

"I would say it's more likely for your cute cuddly pet to eat you after you've died," she said. And exotic pets are probably less likely to kill you too, considering there are more cases of dog attacks and serious infection after cat bites, said Rando.

Even if animals and insects didn't eat you, the human body is capable of "eating" itself completely.

Will Varner / Via BuzzFeed

"This is due to two processes: our gut flora [bacteria that live in our intestines and stomach, etc.] multiplying unchecked and consuming us from the inside; and secondly, our cells undergoing a process called ‘autolysis’ or ‘self-digestion’ whereby our enzymes essentially destroy our cells," she said.

"Most of us would like to think that our pets would not want to consume us after our deaths," said Rando, "but this is, of course, not always the case."

Science Writer

Contact Natasha Umer at natasha.umer@buzzfeed.com.

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Contact Will Varner at will.varner@buzzfeed.com.

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