Nursing Home Cat Finds his Purpose in Comforting the Dying

Dr David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor at Brown University, said that five years of records showed that one nursing home's feline friend (Oscar) can predict when death is nearing for the residents, sometimes better than the nurses can. The cat, now five and generally unsociable, was adopted as a kitten at the nursing which specialises in caring for people with severe dementia.

The tortoiseshell and white cat spends its days pacing from room to room, rarely spending any time with patients except those with just hours to live. If kept outside the room of a dying patient, Oscar will scratch on the door trying to get in.

Once nurses placed the cat on the bed of a patient they thought close to death but Oscar "charged out" and went to sit beside someone in another room. The cat's judgement was better than that of the nurses: the second patient died that evening, while the first lived for two more days.

Dr Dosa and other staff are so confident in Oscar's accuracy that they will alert family members when the cat jumps on to a bed and stretches out beside its occupant. "It's not like he dawdles. He'll slip out for two minutes, grab some kibble and then he's back at the patient's side. It's like he's literally on a vigil," Dr Dosa wrote.

The nursing home keeps five other cats, but none of the others have ever displayed a similar ability. Dr. Dosa does not have a scientific explanation, but suggests Oscar may be able to detect ketones, the distinctly-odoured biochemicals given off by dying cells. Friends and relatives of the nursing home residents have praised the cat for his abilities, and are comforted knowing that the cat will be there for their loved one when they pass. For more, read the story.


Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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