We get letters... How to care for and recognize a zombie


"Evil Girl" asks:

I am afraid that I might have a friend who has been zombie for the last 9 years at least. How long can a zombie survive if given the proper care? Is 9 years reasonable for someone to survive with no soul and no personality? Love the site, I'm finding it very helpful.

We're glad you're finding the site helpful.  You have two questions, first is your friend a zombie.  Sometimes it is obvious as in the picture of the zombie to the left.  Note the pale, greyish-green, speckled skin tone, vacant, unintelligent stare and unnatural hair color. 

Sometimes you have to do some troubleshooting.  Continued after the jump

First thing you need to understand is that we are lazy.  So, we've included a handy overview of zombie symptoms reprinted from our FAQ:

Symptom:  He was recently dead.

Disclaimer:  People only become zombies after they die.  If he was definitely dead for about 10-20 hours and then started walking around this might be a strong indicator.  However, there have been some pretty well-known historical cases of people rising from the dead so this isn't a sure thing.


Symptom:  He has large areas of decaying flesh or open wounds.  Wounds may be oozing a thick black substance instead of blood.

Disclaimer:  Some people have horrible hygiene.  What looks like decaying flesh may just be dirt or old food. Honestly, we've known some people who think spraying their clothes with Fabreze every few days is a substitute for a shower (with soap!).


Symptom:  You just saw him lose a limb or half of his torso and it doesn't seem to bother him.

Disclaimer:  Don't run around calling disabled vets zombies.  We aren't talking about genetic or surgical disabilities.  Zombies can be typically ripped in half and continue to drag themselves along with their remaining limbs as if nothing happened.  They don't feel pain and don't bleed.


Symptom: He no longer can display rational thought and does not respond to any type of communication.

Disclaimer:  This applies to most people at some point, so it might be safer to ignore this symptom for now.


Symptom:  He has a need to feed on your flesh.

Disclaimer:  This is a tough one to justify for anyone.  If he isn't a zombie, you might want to just stay away and call the authorities.

Ultimate Disclaimer:  We think we have a group of zombies locked in a conference room, but the only real symptoms we can see are that they are unintelligible, irrational and the short one smells like old socks and cat pee.  They swear they are just our legal team, but we really can't be sure.  In any case, you look like an exceptionally intelligent, compassionate and responsible group of people.  Especially you.  Yeah, the one reading this right now. Yes, you, that's right.  Hi.  You understand that we are not responsible for your actions because, as I just said, you are an exceptionally intelligent, compassionate, responsible and (I'm just talking about you here) very good looking individual.  You won't go around threatening anyone who isn't an actual zombie, because that just isn't who you are. You're not "that guy."  You don't roll that way.  Good for you.  Thanks.  Glad you're on our side... for now anyway.  Wait!  What's that behind you! Oh, never mind.  It was nothing.  Probably.

That was easy.  Didn't even break a sweat copying and pasting that.

OK.  You've checked the symptoms and are reasonably sure your friend is a zombie.  How long can they last?

One of the interesting thing about zombies is that they don't actually decay.  Normally, dead creatures decay through the action of various bacteria, insects, worms and other critters which break down the body by ingestion.

None of these are able to gain a foothold in your typical zombie and, except for dirt and surface matter, it remains a remarkably clean and sterile environment.  Although there has been some scientific research into this phenomenon, it isn't entirely understood.

Much research was conducted by various consumer companies back in the 70's with short-lived products such as Lysol Z. They were ultimately discontinued when it was discovered that spraying an aerosol version of a highly-infectious disease may leave your house smelling lemony-fresh but doesn't do much for repeat business.

So, although your zombie friend won't decay she will wear out.  Remember, zombies are not alive. Their cells don't die, but they don't regenerate or grow new tissue either. 

We've all seen what happens when a zombie has been scratching at a wall for weeks without rest-- its fingers (and the wall) start to wear down.  The same thing happens at the internal bone joints.  Eventually the cartilage is destroyed and the bone joints don't quite fit together anymore. 

The familiar puppet-on-a-string appearance of well-worn zombies is the result.  The arms and head just flop around and the legs might be sticking out at odd angles.  Some pro athletes and older folks who have had hip replacements generally last longer without becoming floppy.

Muscles and skin can also develop small tears during normal use eventually resulting in a complete break and loss of function.  Zombies that are clumsy at their best become more uncoordinated as they age.

Keep it isolated 

Properly cared for, a zombie can last for years or even decades if you can keep it immobile.  Princeton University has had Einstein's zombie head in a jar since 1955.   One key to its longevity has been to keep the jar in a dark, soundproof box as much as possible.  A zombie without stimulus may as well be an actual corpse-- it won't move unless it senses a nearby human.  Not surprisingly, it still rolls its eyes and mashes its teeth when trotted out for visiting dignitaries!

Keep it cool

As people in the far north know, zombies can be frozen without ill effect.  Every spring the flowers bloom, the birds migrate back and the previous fall's zombies defrost.  Although it seems that there may be some damage caused by expanding ice crystals evidence seems to be that the long-term damage is minimal.

As always, ifyouwereazombie.com asks you to seek help from a trained professional.  This advice is meant as an informal guideline only and should not be used as a practical guide.

Comments (8) Add Comment
Evil Girl

Thank you for your useful advise. I think upon further examination, my friend wasn't really a zombie... I wish I had read the FAQs before... well, let's just say taking matters into my own hands. Next time I'll know better.


First post!


What an adorable zommmy! Did you teach it to stick it's tongue out like that or was it a drowning victim? Cute!!! LOL :-)


Chris- Is it possible to be alive but under zombie control? I used to know a guy who failed calculus four times in a row and then got mono from a girl in Colorado. Could he have been under zombie mind control at the time?

I'm puzzled.

alexis leon

i dont belive in zombies but i think they rock.


I think my neighbors are zombies... mainly because they wont let me leech off their wireless internet anymore. Alright alright, what i really want to do is I want to label them as zombies. Any way to pull that off? Like a sign that says "EVIL Zombies live here" or "Dont talk to zombies, AKA the Johnsons, they eat people"


I think my neighbors are zombies... mainly because they wont let me leech off their wireless internet anymore. Alright alright, what i really want to do is I want to label them as zombies. Any way to pull that off? Like a sign that says "EVIL Zombies live here" or "Dont talk to zombies, AKA the Johnsons, they eat people"


can you infect a zombie with rabies

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