The Strange Case of the Croydon Cat Killer: Producing Predators in the Multi-Species Metropolis

Authors: ILANAH TAVES*, University of Cambridge
Topics: Animal Geographies
Keywords: Croydon Cat Killer, predation, multi-species metropolis
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Embassy Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

From September 2015 onwards, the deaths of hundreds of pet cats in London and the UK have been attributed to the actions of one or more killers responsible for mutilating and dismembering animals and leaving their body parts as calling cards. Because the earliest purported killings were in South London, the culprit was identified as the ‘Croydon cat killer’, though an apparently expanding range took the killer into London suburbs and even the UK as a whole. In September 2018, the police operation to catch the ‘Croydon cat killer’ was called off, and the cat deaths attributed to the actions of motor cars and foxes. This paper considers the lessons to be learned from this beyond the suggestion that this is a classic case of a ‘moral panic’. We are interested instead in what the case of the ‘Croydon cat killer’ says about our relations with other animals in the city. We explore the logic, optics, and politics of ‘predation’. Predation refers to both the biological interaction wherein one species preys on others, but also to the most depraved attacks on fellow human beings, such as the actions of serial killers. In one register, predation is animal, normal and natural; in the other predation is human, perverted and vicious. Yet, the narratives of predation nevertheless blur, with implications for how we live with other animals in shared cities. We are concerned, finally, with the role of such narratives in making this multi-species metropolis more viable to our nonhuman animal neighbours.

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