Postmortem predation by a clowder of domestic cats


A 69-year-old man was found lying on the floor at his home address. According to the police report every room was filled with refuse and “thirty or so cats” were resident in the house. The body showed signs of extensive post mortem animal predation with opening of the chest and abdominal cavities, loss of soft tissues of the face, loss of soft tissues and organs of the neck, loss of the lungs and heart, and injuries to the liver, right kidney, stomach, transverse colon and cecum. The cause of death could not be determined from the autopsy given the absence of certain vital organs such as the heart and lungs, and the presence of early putrefaction. The case shows that considerable soft tissue, bone and organ loss may occur when a number of animals work in concert. The collective term for such a group of cats is a clowder. The extent of post-mortem damage from animal activity therefore relies not only on the species involved, but also the numbers of participating animals.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  1. 1.

    Buschmann C, Solarino B, Püschel K, Czubaiko F, Heinze S, Tsokos M. Post-mortem decapitation by domestic dogs: three case reports and review of the literature. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2011;7:344–9.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Steadman DW, Worne H. Canine scavenging of human remains in an indoor setting. Forensic Sci Int. 2007;172:78–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Byard RW. Animals, autopsies and artefacts. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2011;7:309–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Byard RW. An unusual pattern of post-mortem injury caused by Australian fresh water yabbies (Cherax destructor). Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2020;16:373–6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Omond KJ, Winskog C, Cala A, Byard RW. Neonatal limb amputation – an unusual type of postmortem canine predation. J Forensic Sci. 2017;62:937–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Byard RW. Implications of genital mutilation at autopsy. J Forensic Sci. 2017;62:926–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Byard RW. Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and forensic practice. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2016;12:241–2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Gunawarden SA. Artefactual incised wounds due to post-mortem predation by the Sri Lankan water monitor (kabaragoya). Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2016;12:324–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Duband S, Forest F, Clemenson A, Debout M, Péoc’h M. Postmortem injuries inflicted by crawfish: morphological and histological aspects. Forensic Sci Int. 2011;206:e49–51.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Vanin S, Zancaner S. Post-mortal lesions in freshwater environment. Forensic Sci Int. 2011;212:e18–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Boglioli LR, Taff ML, Turkel SJ, Taylor JV, Peterson CD. Unusual infant death: dog attack or postmortem mutilation after child abuse? Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2000;21:389–94.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Lu X, Ke D, Zeng X, Gong G, Ci R. Status, ecology, and conservation of the Himalayan griffon Gyps Himalayensis (Aves, Accipitridae) in the Tibetan plateau. Ambio. 2009;38:166–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Byard RW, Tsokos M. Forensic issues in cases of Diogenes syndrome. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2007;28:177–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Byard RW. Diogenes or Havisham syndrome and the mortuary. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2014;10:1–2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Roger W. Byard.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Byard, R.W. Postmortem predation by a clowder of domestic cats. Forensic Sci Med Pathol (2020).

Download citation


  • Post-mortem predation
  • Animal activity
  • Cats
  • Clowder
  • Cause of death