The not-so-grim reaper… Oscar the cat…

From the “Devilishly hard to explain.” department, we have the story of the cat that has the (scary or comforting, depending on what kind of person you are) ability to determine when patients of the nursing home he does his rounds in are about to die:

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.

“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. – [Yahoo/AP]

I’ve always liked cats. Actually I love animals in general, but I’ve always admired the laid back, “I’ll do as I darn well please, don’t mess wit’ me” attitude that many cats possess. Here in the US, I think many cats are often spoiled, and are pampered way too much, often to the point of unhealthiness.

Growing up as a young boy in a developing country, cats were generally much different animals. They played hard and worked even harder. I have personally witnessed one of our cats do battle with a rather unfortunate poisonous snake that dared intrude upon it’s domain. Well it was actually our house, but by the way our cat acted, it might as well have been his.

Ancient Egyptians viewed cats as sacred creatures. The Japanese Maneki Neko (or Beckoning Cat) is considered a symbol of good luck. Cats have been considered creatures of great auspice in many cultures. Even in the US, cats, especially black ones, have become synonymous with the supernatural. But apart from their trademark familiar but aloof demeanor (especially for a domesticated animal), I have personally seen little evidence to warrant this special treatment.

This is one of the first documented cases of feline “clairvoyance” that I have ever come across. Or at least that I can remember. I’m actually kinda hoping they find out something about Oscar that will give us some new insight into what makes cats so special.

Oscar the cat predicts patients’ deaths – [Yahoo/AP]


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