A body farm — that’s a research facility that studies human decomposition — had a devastating break-in: feral cats showed up to munch on the cadavers.
The Forensic Investigation Research Station at Colorado Mesa University was prepared for hungry animals, Newsweek reports. The facility had infrared cameras already in place, which captured footage they’re now using to glean new insights into animal foraging behavior.
In this particular case, the cats nibbled on the bodies of a septuagenarian man and woman which had been placed in the facility five or six days earlier — and had died about two weeks before that.
“Both cats showed preference for bodies in relatively early decomposition,” the Colorado Mesa scientists wrote in research published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in November. “Scavenging began when the bodies showed early signs of decomposition and ended at the onset of moist decomposition.”
The scavengers stopped coming back when the bodies decomposed further, suggesting that feral cats are just as finicky as their domesticated cousins. And by studying the cadavers after they were done eating, the researchers may learn more about separating a cause-of-death injury from damage done by scavengers after the fact.
“Recognizing the scavenging patterns of a variety of animals is important for investigators to determine the origin of the damage and separate postmortem from perimortem damage,” reads the research.
READ MORE: Feral Cats Break Into Body Farm To Eat Decomposing Human Corpses [Newsweek]
More on body farms: Horrifying Study: Corpses Thrash Around for a Year After Death