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Hospital cat 'predicts' deaths

July 2007

It's been a hard day, you are not feeling too good, so you lie on your bed and try to relax. Oscar the cat arrives, hops up on the the bed and joins you, nuzzling you occasionally and purring softly. Does this help?

It depends. If you are on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island it means that you have a good chance of being dead in the next few hours. Oscar usually ignores the residents in the hospice, but something attracts the 2 year-old cat to dying patients, and his presence on the bed of a seriously ill inmate of the hospice is enough of a signal for staff to alert family of their relative's impending demise.

So far Oscar has 'predicted' the deaths of 25 patients, and staff regard the grey and white tabby as 'an almost absolute indicator of impending death' according to a report in the July edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Cats can often curl up with their human if they feel that person is in need of comfort, and staff at the hospice believe that Oscar may be doing the same. For the companionship that he has provided to patients during their last hours, Oscar has his own plaque at the hospice provided by a local agency.

Oscar takes his work seriously, and will often jump up onto the bed of patients to check their condition. Staff are used to it, and only pay serious attention if Oscar curls up and stays a while. Sometimes family members will ask that Oscar is taken out of the room whilst they pay their last respects. At such times Oscar is said to pace up and down outside the door, miaowing.

That a cat is able to forsee a person's death will come as no surprise to many who live with cats and know how remarkably sensitive they can be. Those who believe that cats are somehow psychically connected to the beyond will also have no trouble in accepting that there is something in the aura of a dying person that gives warning of their condition.

According to experts, it is probable that Oscar picks up on subtle changes in a dying person's temperature and body chemistry. For a given definition of an 'aura', it seems as though psychics and scientists are in agreement on this issue.


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