The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
The Stone-Age Tasaday Hoax, 1971
The Nobody For President Campaign, 1940 to Present
Monkeys pick cotton, a 19th-century urban legend
Stotham, Massachusetts: the town that didn't exist, 1920
Dead Body of Loch Ness Monster Found, 1972
Tube of liquor hidden in prohibition-era boot, 1920s
September Morn, the painting that shocked the censor, 1913
Van Gogh's ear exhibited, 1935
The boy with the golden tooth, 1593
Man flies by own lung power, 1934
Oscar, the death-predicting cat
image The latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 357, Number 4) contains a short article about Oscar, a cat that seems to possess the ability to predict when people are about to die. Oscar's home is the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, so he has many chances to be around dying people. When patients are about to die, he curls up next to them and happily sleeps there, until they're dead. Then he quietly exits the room. Most of the time the dying patients are so sick they don't even know he's there. The article in the NEJM states:
Since he was adopted by staff members as a kitten, Oscar the Cat has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families. 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.
Oscar is a cute cat, but my first thought was whether Oscar could somehow be causing or hastening the deaths of the patients, though I can't imagine how this could be. An Associated Press article raises some other possibilities:
No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.
Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.
If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.
Normally I'm happy if a cat curls up with me, but in Oscar's case, I would be a little concerned. (Thanks, Big Gary)
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 25, 2007
Comments (81)
wow. i cant believe some of the comment, some of them are sick, and others are well written with thought. thank you.. Oscar was never in a documentory. I work at the nursing home that oscar lives in. first of all. he is not a spooky cat. he is a sweet quiet cat. no one thought this story would take off like it did.. I have seen oscar do this several times. It is unbelievable, but true. If you dont want to believe it, its ok. My personal thoughts on this is that animals still have instincts that us humans so long ago lost. they can sense things we cant. they can smell things we cant. Look at the dog who could tell when his owner was about to have a seizure. How can you explain that? Zoo and maegan, the elderly love to have animals around. we have a total of six cats in the building. Adrian parker, i love what you wrote!!!!

tez
Posted by tez  on  Sat Jul 28, 2007  at  08:40 PM
Tez sez: "I work at the nursing home that Oscar lives in"... hmmm... anything else you'd like to tell us, Tez, like where you were on the night of the 32nd when Mrs. Beasley wandered out in traffic and Mr. Oliphant drank the urine samples? Huh? Speak up. Take that cat mask off and speak up, dammit.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sat Jul 28, 2007  at  10:09 PM
Well, if nothing else, Oscar the Death-Predicting Cat is clearly Big News.

Why else would the CBS Evening News have spent 490 words on him the other night when they only spent 109 words on the FBI Director calling the Attorney General a liar?

Clearly, Oscar is the Biggest News Story of 2007. I mean, it's not as if there's a war on, or an administration that's out of control, or anything.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Jul 29, 2007  at  04:06 AM
Adrian Parker says:
"to pay pennance for that, God has relegated him to serve humans for 1 lifetime"

How would that serve anyone? I think that instead of a cat by their side, a dying person would much rather have God cure their illness.

Have an open mind, you say? Open your mind to the fact that most people are poor observers and analyzers of statistical data. That's why science has very strict protocols. I'm sure if this cat's actions were studied scientifically there would be a much different conclusion.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Sun Jul 29, 2007  at  06:19 AM
Al. Al. i feel bad for you actually, never seen so any haters on one site.. and if there was actually a God,, why would he make someone sick in the first place.. Dont reply.. i dont care what you think..
all i stated was what i have seen.. did i say anywhere what i thought of what oscar does.. i just stated i have seen him do what the article says. TAlk about closd minds...

get me out of here ... ..
Posted by tez  in  providence, Rhode Island  on  Sun Jul 29, 2007  at  09:36 AM
Tez sez: "We have a total of six cats in the building"... hmmm... and the kitty-litter boxes are... where? Six cats in a nursing home. Good idea. Don't get me wrong- I appreciate the whole companion-animal thing, but aren't these animals usually brought to the home on visits, rather than trucking their poop-and-kitty litter-tainted little footsies all over Grandma Spittle's nightie? Methinks Tez is the real DeathCat, and she's blaming poor, dander-and-flea machine Oscar. No, seriously, I like cats (with mustard), but animals should not be running around loose in a "sterile" environment. And, don't gimme no kitty-crap on this, catlovers; I used to be the Head of Security in a Retirement/Assisted-Living/Nursing community, with 500 residents, and a 60-bed nursing facility, and I never would have allowed some cat to be cruising for mices in the home, nor would the Nursing Supervisor, in my estimation. I probably would have chased out Tez, too, but I was a hard-case. Meow
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Jul 29, 2007  at  10:08 AM
Tez said:

"Al. Al. i feel bad for you actually, never seen so any haters on one site.."

Please provide example of the "hate" you claim to see.

"and if there was actually a God,, why would he make someone sick in the first place.. Dont reply.. i dont care what you think.."

Well, why God would make people sick in the first place is precisely the question Al was asking. Did you not understand that?

Why are you afraid of rational responses to your postings? If you "don't care" what people think about what you say, why do you tell it to them?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Jul 29, 2007  at  08:41 PM
Tez, the article states:

"His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families."

For your information, my comments were directed at Adrian Parker. That said, I noticed you didn't have anything bad to say about the writers of the article who wrote what the staff "believes", so why would you be upset about my comments?

You then said:
"did i say anywhere what i thought of what oscar does"

Yes you did:

"I have seen oscar do this several times. It is unbelievable, but true."

I think we can be excused for thinking you believe it too.

I did comment on people's poor judgement in these matters, but the truth is, everybody, myself included, have personal biases when observing things. Properly conducted science eliminates these biases. That's why the New England Journal of Medicine shouldn't be publishing articles based on personal opinions. In fact, the NEJM is being harshly criticized in science blogs for starting this whole thing.

Cranky, thanks for trying to explain things. You echoed my thoughts exactly. I don't know why Tez had a so much trouble with it.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Sun Jul 29, 2007  at  10:59 PM
bull shit.
Posted by matthew  in  chicago  on  Mon Jul 30, 2007  at  05:06 AM
I dont think this is a "luck" i think this cat is influencing their deaths. Have they checked the cat for diseases? makes just as much sense that the cats "prolonged time" next to a person could make them die.
Posted by Just another Poster  on  Mon Jul 30, 2007  at  03:45 PM
Isn't it also likely that the cat prefers being with people who don't move a lot and the dying fit that description (so he stays with them longer.)
Posted by Joe  on  Mon Jul 30, 2007  at  03:51 PM
Wouldn't it unnecessarily freak out the elderly when the cat comes by to nap in their rooms ?
Posted by Joseph  in  Ohio  on  Mon Jul 30, 2007  at  05:05 PM
Why not just go for the obviouse? Why all the convoluted reasoning? The cat probobly picks up a scent that indicates the patient is in trouble, and the cat tries to "be there" for the patient, just as humans do. Oh..that would indicate the cat has emotions, a no-no to a behaviorist, even though 100% of the evidence points to this, as aknowledged in Charles Darwins book "the expression of emotion in man and animals" The cat is most likley simply trying to comfort the dieing.
Posted by bill wesley  in  san diego california  on  Mon Jul 30, 2007  at  05:47 PM
Bill Wesley said:

"Why not just go for the obviouse? Why all the convoluted reasoning? The cat probobly picks up a scent that indicates the patient is in trouble, and the cat tries to "be there" for the patient, just as humans do."

THAT'S what you think is "obviouse" [sic]?

You're making at least one assumption in that statement.

Can you please tell us which "behaviorists" say that animals don't have emotions? I'm not aware of ANYONE who would say that. Animals, at least animals like cats and dogs, clearly have emotions and I don't think I've ever heard anyone deny that. Please note that "having emotions" does NOT mean that they necessarily can detect impending death and try to comfort the dying person. I'm talking about emotions like hunger, anger, jealousy, happiness.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Jul 31, 2007  at  05:15 AM
I love to stroke cats as I read. I'm also severely allergic to cats (gasping for breath, choking etc).

Which is why, if I'm going to stroke a cat - I TAKE MY ANTI-HISTAMINES!!!!

Bring allergic to them doesn't mean you have to stay miles away from them. Just take your meds!
Posted by Kitty-Kat  in  London  on  Tue Jul 31, 2007  at  09:07 AM
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/7060
Posted by Tobester  in  New Jersey  on  Wed Aug 01, 2007  at  05:18 PM
i THINK THAT oSCAR IS THE DEVIL AS CAT AND HAVE COME TO TAKE THESES PEOPLE AWAY FROM LOVED ONES AND FRIENDS!!!
Posted by HMMMM  in  vIRGINIA  on  Wed Aug 08, 2007  at  06:51 PM
I have always had a cat. They have long been known to see things and sense things that humans can't. There is book after book, research after research already performed on the subject. It is not at all unusual to me that Oscar can sense death. As a nurse, I would think it is a wonderful thing to give family time to get there and be with their loved one. As far as having animals in this nursing home, that has been going on for years. Many nursing homes that I have visited have pets for their residents. It picks up their spirits. A nursing home IS NOT a STERILE environment, an operating room is. Being around cat's my entire life this story is not at all surprising to me and has merit. Cats are very interesting beings.
Posted by Marveliciousnurse  in  Durant, OK  on  Wed Dec 19, 2007  at  05:30 AM
Really, I think that after he saw so many people dieing he just knows how to run and hide when death comes to take him in
Posted by drug rehab facility  in  Phoenix  on  Tue Apr 22, 2008  at  02:29 PM
just saw it on HOUSE. they kept the whole storyline (adopted in a nursing center bu the hospital stuff etc)
cool
Posted by mike  in  limassol, cyprus  on  Sat May 02, 2009  at  05:21 PM
NICE COMMENTS BUTT I DONT THINK OSCAR IS POSSESEDBY A HUMAN HE IS NOT EVIL BUT ADORABLE AND CUTE I LOVE U OSCAR HE IS SO COOL BABY IF HUNTER BOLINGER LOOKS AT THIS I LOVE U BABY YR LIL BABY GIRL SAMANTHA KNIGHT EMAIL ME PEOPLE I LOVE YA HUNTER BOLINGER
Posted by samantha  in  nc  on  Wed Feb 03, 2010  at  07:43 PM
Comments: Page 3 of 3 pages  < 1 2 3
Commenting is no longer available for this post.
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.