26 July 2007

Does Cat Predict Deaths of Patients?

I remember when my dad was sick my dog was overly warm and loving to him. I mean, my dog is generally a sweetpea but she showed a different sort of affection for my dad when he was sick. So this article really freaked me out and hit home.

I guess there's a cat in a hospice in Providence who tends to curl up next to patients in their final hours of life. Employees at the hospital say they've seen the cat do this nearly 25 times.

When Oscar the cat curls up on a patient's bed and stays there, the staff knows it's time to call the family. It usually means the patient has less than 4 hours to live.


Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death and most families are grateful for the advanced warning.

When Oscar is put outside a patients room who is near death he paces and meows his displeasure.

No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Doctors wonder if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behaviour of the nurses who raised him.

The 2-year-old cat was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at Steere House, which treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.

No comments: