Oscar the Cat Senses Which Nursing Home Patients Will Die
by Brian Vaszily, founder of IntenseExperiences.com
I currently have five cats. Really if you asked them, they have me. For most of my life, in fact, I've lived with at least one cat. I am also a dog person -- one of my best friends for most of my youth was my dog.
And so, based on many years of experience living, loving and learning from them, I can say with complete confidence what so many other pet-lovers attest to: both dogs and cats sense amazing things that most people don't allow themselves to sense. Things such as forthcoming weather, forthcoming dangers, forthcoming pain, and forthcoming joy. Even the apparently supernatural.
More and more I realize that, in their intuitive/instinctual way, dogs and cats actually know far more than we give them credit for. Perhaps in their way they know far more than we do, as we're too burdened with the weight of tons of information to let ourselves know like they do.
Therefore, I wasn't surprised at this recent news of Oscar the Cat -- though it was good to hear that the entire staff at Oscar's home are his witnesses.
No Doctor Comes Close to Oscar the Cat's Sense
In Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, the staff are convinced that Oscar, an adopted cat who lives there, senses which nursing home residents are going to die.
More specifically, he senses -- with almost perfect accuracy - when they have less than four hours to live.
This is far better than the predictions of anyone, including doctors, who work there.
Oscar has at least 25 successful predictions over a two year period where nursing home patients had died within four hours of his curling up next to them in their beds. It should be noted that his curling up next to residents is not typical:
"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University, said in an interview.
It appears that Oscar’s actions are intentional, as he can be seen wandering around the nursing home and then watching a resident carefully before deciding to curl up next to her or him. For family who have witnesed it, many have actually appreciated the cat's warmth and gentle purring next to their dying relative.
As for the patients, doctors say most of them are so ill they aren't aware of Oscar's presence. I personally wonder about this, though; perhaps on some level they are aware, and perhaps some utilize Oscar's visit as a guide to let go and move on.
When the person dies, Oscar usually leaves immediately thereafter.
Is it a Sixth Sense?
No one is sure how Oscar does it. Could it be "sixth sense"? Something in the patient's energy or vital signs that people can't quite detect? A specific scent?
Animal experts have tried to evaluate the situation and have come up with a variety of possible explanations. Many believe that Oscar is indeed attracted to a specific smell that is produced by dying patients. As a person is dying, certain chemicals are emitted that other humans don't (consciously) detect. The cat's considerably more acute sense of smell may detect it, however.
A British animal expert has reported to BBC News that she is certain the cat senses vital organs shutting down.
To explain why Oscar curls up with the patients before and during their death, many believe Oscar could just be mimicking the staff’s behavior, as they typically spend time with dying patients.
Whatever the reason, it is fascinating and leads me to a strong recommendation I have made before: unless you are allergic, don't like pets, or can't commit to treating them lovingly and responsibly, be sure to get yourself one or more cats or dogs ... and pay attention to them closely.
The experience will teach you many things you didn't know that you didn't know, including how to use your own senses (including the possible sixth) far more effectively.