Friday, July 27, 2007

Paulie Walnuts was right!!!!

This cat is creepier than the one staring at the picture of Christopher in the last episode of the Sopranos.

Grim rea-purr: The cat that can predict death

The footsteps down the corridor of the Steere House Nursing And Rehabilitation Centre are light but purposeful as Oscar makes his way towards the end of the hallway and stops outside room 310.

The door is pulled firmly shut and, untroubled, he sits down outside it, and waits some 25 minutes until a nurse's aide appears, her arms full of dirty linen.

"Ah, Oscar," she smiles, and with a nod, almost as if she were expecting him, allows him to pass into the room where a frail elderly lady, her body ravaged by cancer, is sleeping fitfully. Oscar sniffs ostentatiously around, resists the blandishments of the relatives gathered round the bedside, struts out and continues on his round. For the lady in room 310, the time has not yet come.

The patient in the next room into which Oscar pokes his grey-and-white head is not so lucky. This time, Oscar weighs the situation carefully, then leaps on to the bed and curls up beside the woman lying in it.

A few moments later he is spotted, snuggled up there, by a passing nurse who immediately raises the alarm, not kick-starting a security alert to rid the ward of an unwanted intruder but a frenetic flurry of activity as medical records are fetched, a priest is called, and relatives are alerted to the likelihood of the patient's imminent demise.

Because Oscar, as everyone in this nursing home is agreed, has special powers - more even than the doctors and palliative care specialists who come to tend to the terminally ill here.

For like a harbinger of bad news, Oscar is able to discern the exact moment at which the angel of death comes to stand at their bedside. It is an unusual skill, certainly. All the more so because Oscar is just a cat.

The fluffy, two-year-old, grey and white brindled pet was adopted by the dementia unit at the home in Rhode Island and named by its residents after a famous American hot dog brand.

Yet his skills of divination are beyond question - and have even been the subject of an article in as august a publication as the New England Journal Of Medicine. To date he has predicted the deaths of 25 patients, and done so with such accuracy that he has completely won the trust of even the initially incredulous medical staff.

"This cat really seems to know when patients are about to die," says Dr David Dosa, a geriatrician at Rhode Island hospital who also attends patients at Steere House.

"We started to see something was happening about 18 months ago and at first I think we were all very sceptical. But it's not an unusual occurrence for patients to die here, so we've had plenty of opportunities to witness and observe the phenomenon."

The first signals come as early as two days beforehand, when Oscar leaves his usual favourite solitary spots under a doctor's desk or sunbathing in the windows of an empty office and begins doing his rounds, padding round the corridors of the unit, visiting patients but never lingering.

"When somebody's not ready to die, he leaves," says Dr Dosa. "He doesn't settle in their room until the day they die. Sometimes it can be as much as four hours beforehand, but he's universally there, curled up on their bed, two hours before they take their last breath."

Oscar was just a kitten, a small, stray bundle of fur, when he arrived at the home in July 2005, and since then he has not failed to spot a single death. On occasions, his skills have been sorely tested, for example when a visiting palliative care expert, Dr Joan Teno of Brown University, noticed that a patient seemed to be running out of time.

"I think it was around the 13th patient," she says. "Their breathing had changed, and their extremities were cooling. We'd already noticed Oscar seemed to have form in predicting when someone was about to die so I asked if he'd been in. Mary the nurse said, 'No' and I said, 'Oh, let's put him in there and let him keep his streak going.'

"So we did. Oscar went in, sniffed around - and promptly left the room. The next morning I asked how things had gone overnight and was told the patient had died at 2.30am - about ten hours after I'd predicted. And Oscar had gone back into the room, and stayed there, two hours beforehand. So he's obviously a better prognosticator than I am."

As far as those who work there are aware, there is only one death at which Oscar has not been present - and that wasn't because he didn't notice it, but because relatives of the patient asked for him to be removed from the room.

Full article can be found here:

Maybe they are looking at this wrong. Maybe the cat is killing all these people.

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