Japanese police believe they’ve identified the suspect in an attempted murder of an elderly woman, and the perp appears to be a stray cat, Sky News Australia is reporting.
When the daughter of 82-year-old Mayuko Matsumoto went to check in on her, she found the elderly woman bleeding profusely from multiple cuts to her face. Some of those cuts were deep and severe.
“When we found her, blood covered everything above her chin. Her face was soaked in blood. I didn’t know what happened.”
The elderly woman is disabled and unable to speak, so she couldn’t give authorities any information about what had happened to her. Authorities at first believed that someone had tried to murder her. However, her apartment showed no signs of forced entry, according to Japanese broadcaster NTV News.
Once the woman received emergency medical care and her wounds were cleaned up, it became apparent to authorities that she’d been attacked by an animal — almost certainly a domestic cat.
Animal control authorities checked out a number of neighborhood strays known to live around Ms. Matsumoto’s apartment and found traces of human blood on a number of them. As of this writing, the blood is being tested to determine if it came from Matsumoto.
So can a domestic can kill a human?
Speaking to Vice in 2015, Frank J. M. Verstraete, professor of surgical and radiological sciences at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said that cats can kill people through infection — that is, a bite or scratch becomes infected, eventually killing the person. Similarly, cats have fallen asleep on sleeping babies, causing suffocation. But as for a domestic cat fatally attacking and killing a human being, it’s never happened in recorded history.
In fact, Verstraete doesn’t think it’s possible.
“Domestication has been going on so long that I don’t think cats retain much of a killing instinct, other than watching bird feeders and the occasional rodent.”
Unlike domestic dogs, who have powerful jaws and have been known to kill humans, cats’ jaws simply aren’t powerful enough to deliver a fatal blow to a human being — even if they bite a vulnerable area such as the throat.
“[A cat’s bit force is] probably well below that of a dog. Dogs have a much more prominent temporal muscle.”
Verstraete notes that dogs often fracture their teeth throughout the course of biting enemies or prey. Domestic cats rarely fracture their teeth, suggesting that their bite force simply isn’t enough to be fatal to humans.
Nevertheless, in extremely specific conditions — such as an elderly person being scratched so deeply that they bleed to death if help doesn’t come soon enough — it is at least theoretically possible that a cat can kill a human, as the case in Japan shows.
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