Oscar the cat predicts 50 deaths in nursing home
Published 02/02/2010 | 05:00
A CAT with an uncanny ability to detect when nursing home patients are about to die has proven itself in about 50 cases by curling up with them in their final hours, according to a new book.
Dr David Dosa, a geriatrician, said five years of records showed that Oscar rarely made a mistake, sometimes proving medical staff wrong in their predictions over which patients were close to death.
The cat, now five and generally unsociable, was adopted as a kitten at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island, which specialises in caring for people with severe dementia.
Dr Dosa first publicised Oscar's gift in an article in the 'New England Journal of Medicine' in 2007. Since then, the cat has gone on to double the number of imminent deaths it has sensed.
The tortoiseshell and white cat spends its days pacing from room to room, rarely spending any time with patients, except those with just hours to live.
If kept outside the room of a dying patient, Oscar will scratch on the door trying to get in.
When nurses once placed the cat on the bed of a patient they thought close to death, Oscar "charged out" and went to sit beside someone else. The cat's judgment was better than that of the nurses -- the second patient died that evening, while the first lived for two more days.
In his book 'Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat', Dr Dosa suggests that Oscar is able -- like dogs, which can reportedly "smell" cancer -- to detect chemical changes that accompany death. Far from recoiling from Oscar's presence, relatives and friends of patients have felt comforted and sometimes praised the cat in newspaper death notices and eulogies. "People were actually taking great comfort in this idea. He was there when they couldn't be," said Dr Dosa. (© Daily Telegraph, London)