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  • (01. January 2010., 10:27:49)


Author Topic: Can This Cat Really Predict Death? - A puzzling feline  (Read 2882 times)

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During the European Dark Ages, cats were linked to black witchery and persecuted. They were regarded as harbingers of death.

But Oscar is not from the Dark Ages, nor does it live in the hut of a hex, but still is a harbinger of death more precise than a Swiss clock. This cat has the unusual quality of forecasting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours; in that moment the patient has less than 4 hours left to live. His accuracy, proven in 25 cases, has made the medical staff call family members once the tomcat chooses a patient.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when  patients are about to die. Many family members take some
solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one" said Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old cat was adopted ever since a little kitten by the personnel of the third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where patients suffering from neurodegenerative conditions (like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's) are treated.

After roughly six months, the staff observed the cat would make its own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses, sniffing and investigating patients, then sit beside those going to die in a few hours.

"Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. This is not a cat that's friendly to people," said Dosa.
"Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there," said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, an expert on care for the terminally ill.

She got convinced of Oscar's skill when the cat made its 13th correct forecast. In the case of one patient, Teno noticed the woman stopped eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a cyanotic hue (due to oxygen lack); these were signs of a close death. Oscar did not remain in the room, so Teno doubted its skill. But it happened that the patient died 10 hours later and during the patient's final two hours, Teno was informed the cat was at the woman's bedside.

Most of the dying patients are so ill they probably don't even realize the harbinger of death is there.

Most families appreciated the warning in advance, even if one wanted Oscar out of the room while their beloved died.

No one can explain the cat's behavior. Teno supposes the cat can smell telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses.

"If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person," said Nicholas Dodman, head of an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

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