It was only a matter of time before somebody decided to cash in on Oscar. Oscar the death cat, whom Greg wrote about here, lives in a Rhode Island nursing home. His skill is a reported ability to sense when a resident is about to die. As the shade looms, Oscar hies to the patient’s room and lies on the beds until death comes.
David Dosa, a doctor at the nursing home, wrote a touching but funny article about Oscar, “A day in the life of Oscar the cat,” which you can—and should—access free from the New England Journal of Medicine. It’s short but intriguing.
Here are some pictures of Oscar at work:
Dosa’s article describes how Oscar works:
Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully in her bed, her breathing steady but shallow. She is surrounded by photographs of her grandchildren and one from her wedding day. Despite these keepsakes, she is alone. Oscar jumps onto her bed and again sniffs the air. He pauses to consider the situation, and then turns around twice before curling up beside Mrs. K.
One hour passes. Oscar waits. A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar’s presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.’s chart off the medical-records rack and begins to make phone calls.
Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, “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.
Now as skeptics we should be deeply suspicious. How can a cat know when one sick person is not going to die, but another will? And there alternative theories: my own was that Oscar was somehow actually killing the patients. Don’t ask me how, for we mere hoomans can’t possibly comprehend the mind of a cat.
The point was that this was never tested scientifically, which would involve statistical analysis of those who lived and died, whether Oscar was present or not, whether there were “clever Hans” behaviors of the nursing-home staff, and so on.
But today I just want to report that Dosa has written a book about Oscar. As reported by The Sun, it’s called Making the Rounds with Oscar: the Extraordinary Gifts of an Ordinary Cat (link is to the Amazon site). Note how, in the book’s description, Oscar’s horrific behavior is turned into something warm and fuzzy—how comforting his presence is. If Oscar walked into my room or my relative’s room, I’d be freaked out.
Here’s Dosa blurbing the book on Fox News:
There’s going to be a movie, of course; I suggest that Oscar be played by Maru, who bears a striking resemblance.
And, finally, a cartoon showing why all doctors should be cats: