Colombian woman in Madrid eaten by her domestic cats

NEWS AND COMMENT: The headline sounds awful and impossible but it is essentially true in that a 79-year-old Colombian woman died in her apartment about three months ago it is believed and she had cats. The cats were full-time indoor cats and all of a sudden there was nobody there to look after them and so they turned to the body of their owner for sustenance; which is why the headlines state that the woman was eaten from the waist up by her pet cats.

The apartment block where Clara lived
The apartment block where Clara lived

This has happened before because I can remember similar headlines about a year ago when the news media were chewing over the possibility that domestic cats eat people. And their imaginations ran riot for a week while they joked about the possibility of domestic cats eating people. They don't eat people as we fully well know. But the story is incredibly sad, not really for the lady who passed (although that is sad enough) but for her seven cats. Five of them had died of starvation and two had survived by eating her.

The woman's name is Clara Ines Tobon. She was a Colombian living in Spain. They believe that she died from Covid-19. The alarms were raised in the usual way: smells emerging from her apartment from a decaying body. And there were flies too.

The police asked firefighters to force entry into the apartment on Monday through one of her windows and they found her dead in one of the rooms. The two surviving cats were taken to a local animal rescue centre. One neighbour said to the Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo: "A police officer said it was the worst thing he had ever seen since in his job."

Clara had been living in the apartment since 1996. Her family lives in Colombia. As I mentioned, this sort of event is not that unusual. 

Dog under similar circumstances

Apparently, in September 2019 a dog survived after their owner died of cancer by eating part of his body. This, too, happened in Spain and the man's body was undiscovered for about a month. When he was discovered, there was no flesh on his legs. Once again there was a rancid smell coming out of his apartment which notified neighbours that something was badly wrong.

The dog was taken to an animal rescue centre. They said that the man died of lymphatic cancer and that he was a chef aged 56.

Dying of starvation and dehydration

The Humane Society of America tells us that when an animal dies of starvation they suffer from tremendous pain. It is said that they suffer from a "myriad of painful symptoms throughout each stage of their physical deterioration."

When an animal dies of starvation chemicals known as ketones build up in their blood. They cause mild euphoria which act as an anaesthetic for the animal which I presume is a form of survival. The brain releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. This is the same chemical that is released when you do strenuous exercise.

The immune system is harmed because of an extreme deficiency of vitamins and minerals. Sometimes starving people die of immune-related diseases because of this.

There is, of course, a loss of body fat followed by a loss of muscle and general atrophy and ultimately organ failure. The liver degenerates, there may be skin lesions and anaemia.

The body becomes acutely dehydrated which itself causes a general degeneration of the body and brain as the electrolyte balance is disrupted. The brain cells dry out causing convulsions. The respiratory tract dries out resulting in thick secretions which can plug the lungs and cause death. The major organs stop working causing death.

The five cats that died of starvation and dehydration suffered acute pain for quite a while before they passed. May they rest in peace. We should think of them.

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