The Scavenging Patterns of Feral Cats on Human Remains in an Outdoor Setting

J Forensic Sci. 2020 May;65(3):948-952. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.14238. Epub 2019 Nov 8.


Two cases of feral cat (Felis catus) scavenging were documented at the Forensic Investigation Research Station in Whitewater, Colorado. Human remains at the facility are placed outside, observed daily, documented with field notes, and photographed; decomposition is scored on a Likert scale. Scavenger activity is monitored with game cameras. The cases documented included: preferential scavenging of the soft tissue of the shoulder and arm, differential consumption of tissue layers, superficial defects, and no macroscopic skeletal defects. This pattern more closely parallels the documented pattern of bobcat (Lynx rufus) scavenging than that of domestic cats. Scavenging among felids is relatively rare, as felids typically prefer to hunt. Such cases studied in detail are relatively few, spatially relative, and lack statistical robustness. While only two examples are reported here, these cases are rare overall, and this documentation may help field investigators understand the place of feral cats within a local scavenger guild.

Keywords: felids; feral cats; forensic anthropology; forensic science; scavenging; taphonomy.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild*
  • Body Remains*
  • Cats*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postmortem Changes