Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oscar - a spooky feline

Apparently Oscar , pictured, seems to know when residents at a nursing home are about to die :

A US cat with an apparent ability to sense when a nursing home's residents are about to die is baffling doctors.
Oscar has a habit of curling up next to patients at the home in Providence, Rhode Island, in their final hours.

The two-year-old cat has been correct in 25 cases so far and staff now alert the families of residents when he sits down next to their ailing loved one.

The case is the subject of a study in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Doctors say that when Oscar settles next to a patient, it can mean he or she may have as little as two hours to live.

"He doesn't make many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," David Dosa, a professor at Brown University who carried out the research, told the Associated Press news agency.

Oscar was adopted as a kitten at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre.

The cat is said to do his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses at the home, but is not generally friendly to patients.

Although most families are grateful for the warning Oscar seems to provide, some relatives ask that the pet be taken away while they say their last goodbyes to their loved ones.

When put outside the room, Oscar is said to pace up and down meowing in protest.

Thomas Graves, a feline expert from the University of Illinois, told the BBC: "Cats often can sense when their owners are sick or when another animal is sick.
"They can sense when the weather will change, they're famous for being sensitive to premonitions of earthquakes."

A doctor who treats patients at the home said she believed there was probably a biochemical explanation, rather than the cat being psychic.

I can imagine that may freak out some of the people there, a sense of unease as he prowls around, hoping he does not settle by their side.

I think if I was about to die I would find a cat curled up by my side quite calming.