Cat Has Ability to Sense Death

A cat’s uncanny ability has made him a treasured part of the team at the nursing home where he lives.


Oscar can apparently detect when the end is near for the home's elderly residents.

He goes into the dying patient's room and keeps them company until they slip away.

"He provides comfort when somebody's dying."


Staff at the Steere House nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island, say there's nothing unsettling about Oscar's gift.


"When people are close to the end and he perceives a need to be there, he's there for them," said Dr. David Dosa.


Oscar was adopted as a kitten from an animal shelter five years ago.

Little by little, his unique talent became apparent.

What makes Oscar's gift more striking is that he doesn't normally like being around people.


Jack McCullough is doubly aware of Oscar's gift.

The cat sat vigil when Jack's mother Marion died. And Oscar was present when Marion's sister Barbara also died at the home a year later.


People who might think it's weird, maybe in the position that I was in, that you're losing a family member and there's something comforting and warm and furry and purring next to the person that you love, it might change the way that you feel," said McCullough.


The special talent of Oscar the cat has been written about in a feature article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. And now the cat is the subject of a book.


In Making Rounds With Oscar, Dr. Dosa detailed the comfort that the cat brings to terminally ill patients and their families.


“Having Oscar here has helped us to alert family members that somebody might be close," he said.


And if you're skeptical, Dr. Dosa says there could be a scientific explanation for Oscar's ability to detect death.


"My feeling is that there's probably a smell or a pheromone or something that's released from cells perhaps as they're dying at the end of life," he said.


Regardless of whether it's science or supernatural, there are many families who are grateful for Oscar's unique gift.


"I do see it more as a beautiful thing than I do an odd thing," said McCullough.