According to an article that was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a two-year-old cat that lives in Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, can correctly predict impending death among the residents. Oscar the cat has a habit of curling up next to patients who are in their final hours, and so far, he has been observed to be correct in 25 cases.
“He doesn’t make many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,” observed David Dosa, a professor at Brown University who carried out the research.
Since Oscar was adopted by staff members as a kitten, he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Normally unfriendly towards people, Oscar’s mere presence at a patient’s bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to notify families before their loved one dies. 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.
What do you think enables this cat to predict impending death among the residents of this nursing home with reasonable accuracy? Some people like to think that cats and other animals can be psychic, but I personally think that’s a bunch woo. However, I know that many mammals (and even a few bird species) have a very acute sense of smell, and are probably relying on smell to detect small biochemical changes in sweat or the patient’s breath, for example, that enables them predict health events in humans such as impending death (or seizures, or to detect malignant cancers, as others have asserted).
Certainly, animals and birds are known to have demonstrated the ability to sense an impending eathquake, tsunami or tornado, probably because they can hear or otherwise detect the associated vibrations in the earth that precede these events, so it makes sense that they can also smell biochemical changes that are associated with illnesses such as malignant cancers or that precede events such as seizures or death.