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Did a cat really kill this woman?

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Question: Did a cat really kill this woman?
Answer: Although this is not really a frequently-asked question, the subject is one that reinforces the fear (or hatred) some people have about cats.

The question I received by email involved a story told to my correspondent about a cat, seriously pissed-off because he had been banished to another room by his owner during a dinner party (he was accustomed to dining at the table with his owner.)

She wrote, "According to my source a 24 year old woman bled to death after the cat had severed her throat while she slept! She said the family entered the bedroom and found the cat sitting on the floor, washing it's face as the young woman lay dying in the bed.

I have always loved cats and have had them nearly all of my years and this "tale" has literally blown me away. Can this really be true? My source said it happened in her Ohio neighborhood in the early 1920's.

How can I find out if this is or is not true?"

My reply:

While I'm sure your source believes the truth of her story, I find it very hard to believe. This sounds like one of those "urban legends" that grow up over the years, sometimes from an incident only remotely resembling the end story, and sometimes from yarns that grew from the telling.

It is virtually impossible for me to confirm or dispute a story about something that happened in the 1920s, and if I were you, I'd take it with a grain of salt. People have been found dead on many occasions, with their loyal cats nearby, but that in itself is proof only of the devotion cats have for their human companions, and not evidence that the cats were responsible for the deaths.

Perhaps your source was a young child at the time this supposedly happened; perhaps the woman died of an aneurism and blood from her nose flowed down her neck; perhaps the child heard this story from adults or from other imaginative children, and the story grew from there.

Even if someone was a young child in 1925, they'd be in their mid-eighties now, and memories either become faded or are embellished by imagination that sometimes comes with advanced age. My own mother used to recite a poem that she claimed to have written as a child. Years after her death, I found it quoted on the Internet, sourced to a well-known poet in my mom's youth.

I could speculate for hours, but my advice to you is to relax your worries. This sort of thing is *extremely* unlikely. In the first place, cats do not carry a grudge and lay in wait for their victim. They're more inclined to lash out with claws at the time of their "anger."

Second, although it is theoretically possible for a cat to claw a human throat deep enough to slash the jugular vein, it simply goes against the grain to believe a cat would do this to a sleeping human companion. In fact, on searching Google for "killer cat," the most common hits were a series of books written for children, by author Anne Fine, along with numerous web pages about cats killing wildlife or other cats. I have only seen one (possibly) verified story of a cat scratch leading to death, and that was a case of an elderly woman with extremely thin skin and weak veins, who was accidentally scratched on the leg by her cat when he was asking to be picked up.

You and I are about the same age, and we have much better things to do with life (like enjoying our kitties) than worrying about such nonsense. I'm sure you will agree.

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