Cat Living in Nursing Home Has Uncanny Ability to Predict Death - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 02-02-2010, 09:49 PM
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http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,584442,00.html



PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The scientist in Dr. David Dosa was skeptical when first told that Oscar, an aloof cat kept by a nursing home, regularly predicted patients' deaths by snuggling alongside them in their final hours.



Dosa's doubts eroded after he and his colleagues tallied about 50 correct calls made by Oscar over five years, a process he explains in a book released this week, "Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat." (Hyperion, $23.99)



The feline's bizarre talent astounds Dosa, but he finds Oscar's real worth in his fierce insistence on being present when others turn away from life's most uncomfortable topic: death.



"People actually were taking great comfort in this idea, that this animal was there and might be there when their loved ones eventually pass," Dosa said. "He was there when they couldn't be."



Dosa, 37, a geriatrician and professor at Brown University, works on the third floor of the Steere House, which treats patients with severe dementia. It's usually the last stop for people so ill they cannot speak, recognize their spouses and spend their days lost in fragments of memory.



He once feared that families would be horrified by the furry grim reaper, especially after Dosa made Oscar famous in a 2007 essay in the New England Journal of Medicine. Instead, he says many caregivers consider Oscar a comforting presence, and some have praised him in newspaper death notices and eulogies.





"Maybe they're seeing what they want to see," he said, "but what they're seeing is a comfort to them in a real difficult time in their lives."



The nursing home adopted Oscar, a medium-haired cat with a gray-and-brown back and white belly, in 2005 because its staff thinks pets make the Steere House a home. They play with visiting children and prove a welcome distraction for patients and doctors alike.



After a year, the staff noticed that Oscar would spend his days pacing from room to room. He sniffed and looked at the patients but rarely spent much time with anyone - except when they had just hours to live.



He's accurate enough that the staff - including Dosa - know it's time to call family members when Oscar stretches beside their patients, who are generally too ill to notice his presence. If kept outside the room of a dying patient, he'll scratch at doors and walls, trying to get in.Nurses once placed Oscar in the bed of a patient they thought gravely ill. Oscar wouldn't stay put, and the staff thought his streak was broken. Turns out, the medical professionals were wrong, and the patient rallied for two days. But in the final hours, Oscar held his bedside vigil without prompting.



Dosa does not explain Oscar scientifically in his book, although he theorizes the cat imitates the nurses who raised him or smells odors given off by dying cells, perhaps like some dogs who scientists say can detect cancer using their sense of scent.
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#2 Old 02-02-2010, 10:08 PM
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There was an episode of House based on this. I think House's explanation was that all the patients were warm due to fever or a heating blanket and the cat was just seeking warmth. :P



I think its interesting.

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#3 Old 02-02-2010, 10:14 PM
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Doesn't surprise me a bit. Animals have a better developed sixth sense than we do. There are seizure-predicting dogs, so why not a death-predicting cat?
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#4 Old 02-03-2010, 07:47 AM
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#5 Old 02-03-2010, 08:08 AM
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After a year, the staff noticed that Oscar would spend his days pacing from room to room. He sniffed and looked at the patients but rarely spent much time with anyone - except when they had just hours to live.





That's cos he's just after the morphine that they sweat out through their pores when they're close to death. When the nurses go out the room, he'll start licking the patients forehead and armpits. Junky kitty needs rehab.

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#6 Old 02-03-2010, 09:06 AM
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I like cats, but if this one started snuggling up to me I would run and scream like a little girl. Maybe this cat will get a part in the next "Final Destination" movie!

Peasant (1963-1972) and Fluffy (1970s?-1982- I think of you as 'Ambrose' now)- Your spirits outshone some humans I have known. Be happy forever.
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#7 Old 02-03-2010, 05:25 PM
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He once feared that families would be horrified by the furry grim reaper, especially after Dosa made Oscar famous in a 2007 essay in the New England Journal of Medicine. Instead, he says many caregivers consider Oscar a comforting presence, and some have praised him in newspaper death notices and eulogies.





aww dats noice. fame at last !!
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#8 Old 02-03-2010, 06:39 PM
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I had this experience with several of my animals. I could tell just by looking at them it was their time. None of them were ill either, it was just old age. I would then sit with them in my lap til they passed. I wasn't able to tell with every animal I've ever lived with, but I was never wrong about the ones I had this feeling for. I decided to call and cancel attending a birthday party the last time it happened. My dog wasn't ill, but somehow I knew her time was near, and she did die within an hour of my making that phone call. I have always been grateful I listened to that intuition and stayed home. I would have hated for her to have died alone.

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#9 Old 02-03-2010, 07:19 PM
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This is so beautiful. I love animals!



My cat is usually excessively hyper (he's still very young) but when myself or my boyfriend is sick, he sticks by our bed and cuddles until we're feeling better. It's awesome.
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#10 Old 02-04-2010, 04:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Tom View Post

I like cats, but if this one started snuggling up to me I would run and scream like a little girl. Maybe this cat will get a part in the next "Final Destination" movie!



Yeah, this would be the only time I would not welcome snuggle time with kitty!



I do think it's wonderful that Oscar, for whatever his reasons, is there and that it gives comfort to the families and loved ones.
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#11 Old 02-04-2010, 09:25 AM
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I'd say it's in the cat's sense of smell, as others have predicted. If dogs can find cancerous tumors and predict seizures, I'll bet a cat could sense death.

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#12 Old 02-04-2010, 12:51 PM
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But she didn't die alone. Oscar was there.



A very touching story. And it doesn't surprise me a bit.



Animals = amazing.
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