Oscar, Cat Fortune Teller

My second sister told me over a month ago about a cat fortuneteller that can predict when death is near, I promised her then that I’d post the story, but it slipped my mind.

When my sister told me the story, I thought it’s amazing because, if you’ve worked with sick patients, then you’d be able to tell when their time is near, but not down to specific hours as in the case of Oscar the cat. During my mom illness, we took turn staying up with her, and the night that she passed, I was the one, the only thing that I’d tell that it was about time was her heart rate, it slipped below 40 beats per minute, and her breathing pattern suddenly changed, I knew it was time.

oscar1.jpgCat’s “Sixth Sense” Predicting Death? I think this is an amazing story, Oscar, a hospice cat at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I. seems to have a sixth sense that when he senses that their time is near, he goes to the room, jumps onto the bed, curls up next to the patient, and purrs. His actions can sometimes help alert the staff to notify family members in time for them to get to the nursing home to tell their loved ones goodbye.

The 2-year-old cat provides welcome company for grieving family members and staff keeping their bedside vigil; sometimes he fills in for family members who haven’t yet arrived at the bedside.

His prediction, more than 25 cases at 100% accuracy. Oscar typically arrives at a dying patient’s bedside a few hours before death, but sometimes a half day before. According to Dr. Dosa, “We know from some objective findings when death is imminent. For instance, if respirations grow difficult in a very sick patient, doctors may tell loved ones death will probably occur soon.” Even from the doctor’s prediction, this of course, there’s no time frame, could be hours or days.

Dr. David Dosa has submitted an article to The New England Journal of Medicine describing how Oscar can predict death, is in the July 26, 2007 issue of the journal.

So how does he know when death is near?

Dr. Dosa: The cat, however, might be picking up on specific odors surrounding death.

Dr. Teno: I think there are certain chemicals released when someone is dying, and he is smelling and sensing those. Another possibility, I think he is following the patterning behavior of the staff. This is an excellent nursing home. If a dying person is alone, the staff will actually go in so the patient is not alone. They will hold a vigil.

Dr. Goldman, a certified applied animal behaviorist in Laguna Beach, Calif.: Cats have a superb sense of smell. In Oscar’s case, keeping a dying resident company may also be learned behavior. There has been ample opportunity for him to make an association between ‘that’ smell [and death].

Dr. Estep, a certified applied animal behaviorist in Littleton, Colo.: One of the things that happen with people who are dying is that they are not moving around much. Maybe the cat is picking up on the fact that the person on the bed is very quiet. It may not be smell or sounds, but just the lack of movement.

I’m not a doctor nor work in the medical field, therefore can’t offer any medical explanation as to how he knows. But since I love ghost story and believe in spirit, my thought is that he might be able to see those that come to pick up the near death person, which we’d not be able to see. Another thought is that the spirit of the near death person might have left the body, might still be closed by, and Oscar is there to keep the person company.

Regardless of whichever hypothesis is correct, we’d never know the truth because Oscar can’t tell us of how he knows, but one thing that we can’t deny; he is one amazing cat.