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Posted by on Jul 28, 2007 in Society | 7 comments

Heard About Oscar the Hospice Cat?

Dying people at a Rhode Island nursing home get warm fuzzy purring in their last few hours.

AP: Oscar the Cat Predicts Patients’ Deaths

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.

David M. Dosa, M.D., M.P.H., “A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat” in The New England Journal of Medicine, 357:328-329 (July 26, 2007)

Washington Post Chat with Dr. David Dosa

Max the Utahn: Clairvoyant Utah cat comforts dying

Max, the cat that’s always in a penguin suit, has more mystique than his friends at the Alpine Valley Care Center realize. Center employees believe the 8-year-old feline can tell when people are ill or about to die — and he behaves accordingly.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • doxy

    I Can Haz Cheezeburger put a LOLcat up on this one.

    http://icanhascheezburger.com/2007/07/26/iz-sykik/

  • christine

    I read about this the other day. IMNSHO, it’s both comforting and disturbing when these creatures can tell when something is going to happen. It’s comforting in that it can give families time to come say final goodbyes. It’s disturbing in that they know something we don’t and can’t explain it either.

    I’ve read of where some dogs can smell cancer in people, or when one of their humans will have an epileptic seizure. If we humans could only understand….

  • domajot

    From my own experience with a Labrador Retriever, I firmly believe that animals can sense ‘something’. I don’t think we need to jump to condculsions about what that something is, however. Without needing the ability to predict imminenet death, the cat could just be reacting to certain breathing patterns for example.

    At the same time, we don’t need to understand it in order to appreceitate it. Comfort given is comfort appreciated.

  • kritter

    Being a cat owner I’ve always thought that cats could tell when important events were happening-when we were moving or leaving for vacation, they always seemed to know. I have one cat that always sticks by my side when I’m sick. This just takes it to the next level.

  • Lynx

    Amazingly enough, this cat is now world famous. Most of the major news outlets in Spain have carried the story, with a lot of speculation as to how he does it. Interestingly there isn’t a lot of talk about it being a hoax, most people, especially those of us who have lived with cats, aren’t entirely surprised that a cat could do something like this. It could be that the cat detects certain chemical changes. After all, he seems to detect it in the last two hours, I suppose at that point the person might already be shutting down and that could give off some signal. It’d be very interesting to find out what that signal is.

    kritter, many people (including myself) report their cats being close by when they are sick, and there are a whole slew of studies that find that pets help with the healing process. Some hospitals have started keeping animals, especially cats and gentle dogs, around to accompany the sick. Cats purring has even been associated with faster recovery of things like broken bones. They really are quite remarkable. This cat might be special, but maybe not so much, who knows what you would find if you put cats inside many different nursing homes. Even if they don’t predict death, it would still be a good idea, if only for the company.

  • Rudi

    Is the cat making medical diagnosis or just driving the patients in a car.
    Toonces the Driving Cat
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toonces_the_Driving_Cat

  • kritter

    Lynx- Yes, I’ve heard of the therapeutic value of companion animals- they can help with stress and blood pressure as well as comfort a sick person. Also therapists use animals with abused kids to bring them out of their shells.

    I think we are just starting to learn about the unique abilities (many we don’t understand because we don’t possess them ourselves) of animals. I guess we could explain the unexplainable as a chemical reaction, but I think they have a 6th sense and have developed a means of communicating it with us.

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