Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oscar, the Cat Angel of Death & Our Cat,“PS”

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about Oscar the cat who lives in a nursing home in Providence R.I. and has accurately predicted 50 times when a patient was about to die.

In 2007 Dr. David Dosa wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine about Oscar’s uncanny ability to sit with dying patients right before their death. Oscar is not particularly friendly and will not sit on beds of patients who are not about to meet the Grim Reaper.

Now Dr. Dosa is publishing a book about Oscar and how the cat, over five years, has correctly predicted which patients are within hours of death—in 50 cases—often trumping the opinions of the nursing staff. The book is called “Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat.”

The whole staff now knows to call family members in when Oscar stretches out beside one of their patients, (who are generally too ill to know he’s there.) If someone closes the cat out of a room of a dying patient, Oscar will scratch at the door trying to get in.

Dr. Dosa was worried that families would be horrified to see the furry angel of death lying on their loved one’s bed, but for most, Oscar provides comfort, and he recently received a wall plaque commending his “compassionate hospice care.”

What is the secret of his powers? How does he know? Everyone has a theory. Some devout Christians believe that Oscar is an angel in disguise, since angels can take many forms. On the other hand, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, who directs the animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, says it’s possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures, like a heated blanket placed on a dying person.

Dr. Dosa theorizes that Oscar may smell odors given off by dying cells, like some dogs who seem to be able to detect cancer with their noses. I think this is the most likely explanation.

Reading about Oscar reminded me of an incident that occurred about seven years ago with our dear departed cat “P.S.” (That’s a photo of P.S. near some flowers in the photo above. Oscar’s the one with the wings and halo.)

I was in New York City with my husband when I came down with a 104-degree temperature, chills, aches. I felt miserable, and when we got home, I walked in the kitchen door and straight up the stairs to crash on the bed, feeling too sick for anything else.

Our cat P.S. had been well trained never to enter our bedroom (because my husband really dislikes cats, most especially if they jump on the bed.) But this time she followed me right up the stairs and into the room and onto the bed, clearly concerned and wanting to help me. I hadn’t even come near her, but she must have smelled or sensed that I was really sick when I walked in.

When we put her out and closed the bedroom door, she scratched at it. This never happened before or since in the 18 years of her life. (PS is now planted in the garden under a small statue of a black cat and an azalea bush.)

Luckily, I did not pass away back in 2003. Antibiotics got me well, but I never figured out how the cat knew I was so sick that she’d defy everyone to try to come to me.

On May 7, 2008, in a special euthanasia room decorated with a memorial wall of pet photos, after long painful months of kidney failure and daily re-hydration, P.S. was put to sleep (with incredible tact and compassion) by the veterinary staff. I’m glad I could be with her as she took her last breath. I know she would have done the same for me.


腳亞子 said...


Khakjaan Wessington said...

All the Old Cat Ladies

By Khakjaan Wessington

“When nurses once placed the cat on the bed of a patient they thought close to death, Oscar "charged out" and went to sit beside someone in another room. The cat's judgement was better than that of the nurses: the second patient died that evening, while the first lived for two more days.”

-telegraph.co.uk 7:42PM GMT 01 Feb 2010


Amidst the tubes and wheeled beds
Is life. A tank of oxygen
Can anchor balloons—greens and reds,
A halo 'round the aged's pen.

With death on every side of us,
Inside us, bits we've dripped in stride
While edging near the terminus:
We fear to face the mortal slide.

She lived before, amongst the cats.
They tolerated human stench,
And oily garbage crowned with gnats,
Because she was their serving wench.

And now amongst the humans lives
A cat who serves—like them—the end
Of cages. Aging's worse than knives
They say: it wounds before it sends.

A school of dignified release
Where pupils watch with catlike eyes,
And sense when illness comes to cease
The woman with a house of flies.