Saturday, July 28, 2007

Oscar The Cat, Harbinger Of Death

There's a cute little cat in Rhode Island that can predict when someone is about to die.

Go ahead, roll your eyes. "Sure," you say. But the story was compelling enough to make it into the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine:

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/357/4/328

Video article: HERE

The cat's name is Oscar, and he resides on the third floor dementia unit of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was adopted as a kitten two years ago. He's cute, but he doesn't have a loving personality. In fact, it turns out he shuns most human contact. Except, that is, when you're about to die. Each day he makes his rounds like the doctors do, examining each patient for a few emotionless seconds then moving on to the next one. Many of the patients are so far gone they don't even realize they've been visited. But if Oscar stops and curls up in the patient's bed, the nurses and doctors have come to recognize that the patient will die within a few hours. Apparently he even becomes loving, nuzzling the dying patient and purring. At first they thought it was coincidence, but after the thirteenth death, they realized the cat was more than fluffy, cute, and aloof, he was actually a harbinger of death. Oscar has now predicted 25 deaths this way, sometimes surprising the doctors.

The article presents this as a good thing. Maybe it is. After all, it gives the nurses enough time to contact the patient's family and get them there. It also means the patient doesn't die alone; he at least will have a cat there to see him off.

I can only imagine the effect it has on the other patients, though. Good thing Oscar isn't very personable; I doubt the patients would care to have him jump on their bed and be best pals. If he spends much time there, your clock may be ticking. I'm a cat person. My family has four of them, all indoor cats, but I'd think twice about having mister-not-so-cuddly in my household pride of felines. If curling up on your bed and purring means you're going to die in your sleep, I shudder to think what coughing up a fur ball on your leg at 3AM would mean.

No, I think Oscar has definitely found his calling. Is it supernatural, or does Oscar only respond to a natural sense of smell or the behavior of nurses or patients? Who knows. Whatever the case, keep it up Oscar. Meow!


Image taken from HERE.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Totally believe it, I had a cat that could 'feel' pain- no matter what hurt, she would curl up on top of it and purr. SHe may have just been enjoying the increased heat the body generates at a wound site, but... I choose to think she was trying to make me feel better.

;-)

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