Death comes on little cat feet

July 26th, 2007

Since he was adopted by staff members as a kitten two years ago, Oscar the Cat has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families.

Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone. For his work, he is highly regarded by the physicians and staff at Steere House and by the families of the residents whom he serves. A plaque from a local hospice agency hanging in the corridor reads: “For his compassionate hospice care, this plaque is awarded to Oscar the Cat.”

According to Steere House Staff and the New England Journel of Medicine, which featured an article on him in their last issue, Oscar is punctual, arriving to curl up beside the patient one to two hours before the time of death and leaving soon after the patient takes their last breath.

Reported as otherwise independent and unaffectionate, Oscar prefers to keep to himself. While doctors theorize that his instinct could be the result of a heightened sense of and attraction to chemical scents released by the human body in the hours preceding death, no one knows for sure.