From SFGate.com — 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.“He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,” said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday’s issue of 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,” said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.
The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.
After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He’d sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours. [Read the rest of the story]
From the Sydney Herald — OSCAR the cat makes his grand entrances just as life is about to leave.
A hop onto the bed, a fastidious lick of the paws, then a snuggle beside a nursing home patient with little time left. Oscar’s purr, when keeping close company with the dying, is so intense it is almost a low rumble.
“He’s a cat with an uncanny instinct for death,” said David Dosa, assistant professor at the Brown University School of Medicine and a geriatric specialist. “He attends deaths. He’s pretty insistent on it.”
In the two years since Oscar was adopted into the dementia unit of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence he has maintained close vigil over the deaths of more than 25 patients, nursing staff and doctors say.
Dr Dosa had an essay on Oscar published yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Like any feline, Oscar gives a hefty portion of his day to sleep. He likes to doze on stacks of patient reports. Or on the desk at the nurses’ station. Or in the linen closet.
When awake, however, the mixed-breed cat shows a solemn dedication to duty, making regular “inspection” rounds of the unit, sauntering in and out of patient rooms – as if checking on the condition of the occupants.
When death is near, Oscar nearly always appears at the last hour or so. Yet he shows no special interest in patients who are simply in poor shape, or even patients who may be dying but who still have a few days. Authorities in animal behaviour have no explanation for Oscar’s ability to sense imminent death. They theorise that he might detect some subtle change in metabolism – felines are as acutely sensitive to smells as dogs – but are stumped as to why he would show interest.
In any event, when Oscar settles on a patient’s bed, caregivers take it as a sign that family members should be summoned immediately. [Read the rest of the story]