This may not be new news to some of you, but I’d not heard of it before. There is a cat called Oscar in Providence, RI that has accurately predicted the death of over fifty terminally ill patients in the Steere House, a nursing home that treats those with severe dementia.
There’s a brand new book out about him this week by Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician, called Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat.
Oscar, being a typical cat, is very much of a loner, avoiding all living people. However, when death is imminent, he will hop up on the beds of the dying persons, usually within the last two hours, and cuddle with them until the patients die.
No one knows exactly how Oscar knows, but he is accurate enough that when the nurses see him in bed with a patient, they usually call the family. There is one case when the doctor called imminent death but Oscar would not stay put when he was put in the patient’s bed. He waited ten hours before he hopped up in the bed and stayed.
Some seem to think that Oscar is that way because they believe that he can smell odors that the body may be releasing as death approaches. These are odors that the human nose can’t detect. This is just a theory because no one has yet studied the dying this closely. It is a supposition that as humans die, certain chemical reactions are taking place.
Another theory is that the patient who is dying is not moving. Oscar detects this lack of movement.
Neither theory has been scientifically tested. How would one set up a double blind study anyway?
There has been enough interest in Oscar to make him the subject of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. That’s a rare honor for any non-human being. It really is a lovely article, if you have a few minutes, take the time to read it.
These are my thoughts on the matter of Oscar.
I believe that Oscar has a special mission. I believe more animals, if we would only pay attention to them, have special missions here on earth. In our rush to be “modern” and “scientific” and “superior to all other beings”, we have lost special connections to our animal friends on this planet.
In an action of synchronicity, somebody just happened to find the kitten Oscar in an animal shelter in 2005 and take him to the animal friendly hospice. However, Oscar was in no mood to befriend the living. His mission was to be with the dying, and however he knows it, he does know.
I believe, that Oscar is a spirit guide. Call this woo woo if you wish. I probably would have myself several years ago. But, hey, I’m a senior citizen now and I can believe what I want. It’s in the rule book. I believe the mission of Oscar is to be there to aid these humans who are unable to communicate. He is there to assure them that all is well and their journey to the next plane of existence is not one to be feared. These are people who lost their ability to communicate with humans months or even years earlier. But I believe that Oscar has a level of communication with the dying that we can only guess at. In spite of what is said, I believe animals show compassion to each other and to the humans who are sensitive enough to believe that. I believe animals mourn. There is much evidence to show that when animals lose their friends and their mates they suffer the loss.
Much observation has been made recently of interspecies interaction where those who are believed to be natural enemies somehow bond with each other. How long will it be before humans will admit their lack of superiority and realize every living being is a part of the whole undivided oneness of our planet, our galaxy, our universe?
There’s an important quote in the NEJM article that is, in my humble opinion, more accurate than any blind double-sided study that the scientific world could concoct. Oscar has taken up position in the bed of Mrs. K.
Her grandchild asks, “What is the cat doing here?” The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, “He is here to help Grandma get to heaven.” Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices. His job of guiding the spirit of Mrs. K. to wherever it needed to go is done. He can rest again and avoid the living until his next job becomes apparent. He is well taken care of and is free to roam the entire floor. At fifty deaths in five years, that averages out to less than one a month. His job is to wait until he is needed, but when he is needed, little will stop him from doing his job. Spirit guides are like that. I think. Namaste. Attic Annie
Update: I had lunch yesterday with a hospice nurse who has worked in this area of nursing for 38 years. She has personally known of five cats who have done the death vigil just like Oscar. Her story was very interesting. It’s kind of comforting thinking these animals are spirit guides so those who are served are aided in their transition. I think this is a fascinating topic to explore. What do you think? AA