Here’s one of those periodic cat stories which turn up in the papers and always end up charming me; this time it’s Oscar the rescue cat, who has a sixth sense that is pretty amazing, by the sounds of things. Here’s the report from the Guardian:
Oscar the rescue cat is not simply a welcome feline companion at the Steere nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island. According to a new report in a medical journal he has a remarkable, morbid talent – predicting when patients will die.
When the two-year-old grey and white cat curls up next to an elderly resident, staff now realise, this means they are likely to die in the next few hours.
Such is Oscar’s apparent accuracy – 25 consecutive cases so far – that nurses at the US home now warn family members to rush to a patient’s beside as soon as the cat takes up residence there.
“He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,” said Dr. David Dosa, an expert in geriatric care who described the phenomenon in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one,” Dr Dosa added.
According to staff at the nursing home, Oscar began patrolling the wards around six months after he was adopted as a kitten, observing and sniffing at residents before occasionally choosing someone to sit by.
Oscar appeared to take the task seriously and was otherwise quite aloof, Dr Dosa said: “This is not a cat that’s friendly to people.”
The Steere home is a dementia centre which cares for people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other ailments.
Another doctor who works at the centre, Joan Teno of Brown University, based in Providence, said she became convinced of Oscar’s talent after he appeared to make a mistake.
Observing one patient, Dr Teno said she saw the woman was not eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.
However, Oscar would not stay inside the woman’s room and Dr Teno thought this meant his correct streak had been broken. Instead, it turned out her prediction was about 10 hours too early, and during the patient’s final two hours Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.
Scientists remain uncertain whether there is any predictive basis for Oscar’s talent, or if there are other factors at work, for example, an attraction to the warm blankets often placed on seriously ill residents.