Thursday, July 26, 2007

"The cat's here; call in the family"

When Oscar the Cat visits residents of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, the staff jumps into action -- Oscar can sense within hours when someone is about to die.

In his two years living in Steere's end-stage dementia unit, Oscar has been at the bedside of more than 25 residents shortly before they died, according to Dr. David Dosa of Brown University in Providence.

He wrote about Oscar in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"It's not that the cat is consistently there first," Dr. Joan Teno, a professor of community health at Brown University, who sees patients in the unit. "But the cat always does manage to make an appearance, and it always seems to be in the last two hours."
Nursing home cat can sense death, ease passing (Reuters via Yahoo News)

The staff don't believe that anything supernatural is going on; rather, they posit that Oscar is sensitive to some kind of biochemical change that is taking place in the unit's patients as death approaches.

However, definitely check out Oscar's picture in the Yahoo News article cited above. He appears to be a very wise cat, with a great deal of Buddha-nature. You can just tell that the little guy has quite a bedside manner.

Related: Dosa, David M. A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat N Engl J Med 2007 357: 328-329

(crossposted from enrevanche)