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josrific's avatar

Why are dead bodies so heavy?

Asked by josrific (2575points) June 22nd, 2012

Some of you know that we just lost our dog last week. Before he passed he put his head in my hand. When he finally died it seemed that his head itself gained weight.

Well today one of our guinea pigs died. As I was taking care of her body I noticed how heavy it was. When she was alive she seemed very light. Is there a reason why dead bodies are so heavy?

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13 Answers

syz's avatar

Because of the lack of normal muscle tension. A body is easier (if awkward) to carry while in rigor. A flaccid dead body just sort of oozes through the path of least resistance, and makes it really hard to carry them. They seem heavier.

lillycoyote's avatar

Not that I’ve had any experience with hauling around dead bodies, I want you all to know that, but a 185 pound dead body, for example, isn’t any heavier than any other thing that weighs 185 pounds. Live, awake people provide some help, they hold on, they assist, I think. A 185 pound dead body is just like a 185 pound sack of anything else.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@dubsrayboo : I’m sorry you lost 2 dear pets in so short a time.

As the others have mentioned, the weight remains the same alive or dead. However, the bodies were more than completely relaxed when dead. They were utterly free of tension in any sense.

lillycoyote's avatar

@dubsrayboo I so very sorry about your guinea pig; I had a guinea pig when I was a kid and intended to give him a “Viking” funeral. I built a raft for him and I was going to set him and the whole thing on fire and send him off to sea but my parents wouldn’t permit that so I ended up burying him, on and with his little raft, in the back yard. He is still there.

And both my dear, long-lived cats, died at home. I knew Bugsy was dying, he had been dying for a while, but when the end came, when Bugsy was 18, I took one of my father’s quilted flannel shirts and laid it on the dining room table and laid Bugsy on it and he died in my arms. I lined a basket I had with blankets and put him in there before rigor set in.

A couple of years later, my dear Casper, at the age of 21, who was dying of terminal cancer, fibrosarcoma, curled and snuggled up, in the crook of my elbow, with his head nestled in my armpit, one last time, and when I woke up in the morning, he was dead. Rigor had already set in and that was incredibly painful and upsetting. My once alive and wonderful, full of personality cat was now dead and stiff; but he seemed light as a feather; he didn’t seem heavy to me at all.

Thammuz's avatar

It’s the difference between carrying 20 Kg worth of a single block of, say, wood, and carrying 20 litres of water in a flexible container. The weight tends to slide off you because of gravity, so you can’t balance it properly and it feels much heavier.

It’s actually just as heavy, as any scale would testify, but the fact that you can’t maximize your efficiency means you will waste more energy than usual.

Buttonstc's avatar

And the perfect illustration of the origin of the phrase: “dead weight”

AshlynM's avatar

It would be about the same as if you were sleeping or in a coma.

cookieman's avatar

I just has the ahem pleasure of learning this first hand as I found my nephew’s full-grown American bulldog dead last week.

I wrapped him in a blanket and lugged the 110lb. body down three flights of stairs and into the trunk of my car – alone.

That was an adventure.

Thammuz's avatar

@AshlynM Actually, when you sleep you do still have passive reactions to outside stimuli. Carryig a sleeping body is not the same as carrying a dead body.

cazzie's avatar

@Thammuz is exactly right. Things weigh what the weigh, but when something is able to kinetically react, it will feel lighter and often your reaction to how it moves and wiggles, as in the case of the guinea pig, masks it actual feeling of mass in your hand. It is, of course, a perception ‘slight of hand’ if you will.

Being a small person who has to carry a lot of things, I notice how much the shape of an item has to do with how difficult it is to carry, regardless of weight. It may feel that a larger, more awkward box is heavier to lift than a smaller box of the same weight.

snowgirl's avatar

Okay, I’ve been searching high and low on the web and all I’m finding are physics debates by people with no personal experience to draw from. My sweet cat escaped the house and we have been searching for days. Today I was told about a dead cat near my home and to be honest, I could not identify it properly due to the accident that it likely died of. However, I needed to know if this was my cat; she is microchipped. A neighbor – a complete stranger – helped me wrap and bag this kitty so I can take it where it can be scanned. The bag felt enormously heavy, at least 12–15 lbs. My cat only weighed 6–8 lbs. I called Animal Control and asked if they would come for this cat, because I really am not sure it’s mine. The Animal Control Sherif told me that dead animals were much, much heavier. How much heavier? Twice as heavy? I am desperately seeking solid information. I appreciate, but really don’t need Relativity theories right now or stories of humans who lost weight as their souls ascended. Sorry. I’m very distraught. I just need to know if this cat is mine so I can bury her or keep searching for her. Thank you.

Buttonstc's avatar

Isn’t that why you are taking the body to be scanned for a microchip? That will give you the definitive answer. The weight ) or its lack ) is really a side issue and won’t really give you a definite answer the way a scan would.

I’m sorry for your lost kitty and hope that this body is not her

Welcome to Fluther BTW and if you have any other questions feel free to ask. But it’s usually best to start a brand new question rather than tacking onto the end of a previous similar question because it may get overlooked that way.

Just look on the home page and click on the place for ask a question.

syz's avatar

Dead animals are not “much, much heavier”. There is merely, sometimes, a perception of additional weight because they are more difficult to carry (as discussed in all of the previous posts). If your cat weighed 6 lbs and the bagged body is 12, then it is not your cat.

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