Can Oscar The Cat Predict Your Death?

Oscar the Cat that can predict death

Coincidence or a power beyond our understanding? In Thursday’s issue of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. David Dosa wrote about Oscar (pictured above), a cat who has the uncanny ability to predict our dying days. Oscar is a cat whose not known for his friendly behavior, but he makes the rounds of patients just like the doctors. His job, it seems, is to comfort those who are about to pass away.

The hospital staff has observed 25 cases where Oscar would curl up next to patients who “died within hours”. The 2-year-old cat grew up in the dementia unit at Steere House, which treats people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses. One doctor says that he is better at predicting who will die than the staff that works there. Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University was convinced after Oscar’s 13th(!) correct call.

This story gave me many conflicting feelings — disbelief, sadness, fear, appreciation and wonder — in that order. If you were on your deathbed, would your welcome Oscar?

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don’t know he’s there, so patients aren’t aware he’s a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.

The hospital staff seems grateful for his help. Oscar was given a wall plaque for his “compassionate hospice care.”

Veterinarians are not sure of there is a scientific basis for his abilities or if his skills are more earthly. “His behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person.”

We’ve also provided excerpts from the copy of the full New England Journal article (which requires a paid subscription). Read highlights of Dr. Dosa’s thoughtful and poignant descriptions below after the survey. (Tissue box warning.)

Excerpts from the full New England Journal of Medicine article on Oscar:

Oscar the Cat awakens from his nap, opening a single eye to survey his kingdom. From atop the desk in the doctor’s charting area, the cat peers down the two wings of the nursing home’s advanced dementia unit. All quiet on the western and eastern fronts.. Slowly, he rises and extravagantly stretches his 2-year old frame, first backward and then forward. He sits up and considers his next move.

In the distance, a resident approaches. It is Mr. P., who has been living on the dementia unit’s third floor for 3 years now. She has long forgotten her family, even though they visit her almost daily. Moderately disheveled after eating her lunch, half of which she now wears on her shirt, Mrs. P. is taking one of many aimless strolls to nowhere. She glides toward Oscar, pushing her walker and muttering to herself with complete disregard for her surroundings. Perturbed, Oscar watches her carefully and, as she walks by, lets out a gentle hiss, a rattlesnake-like warning that say, ” leave me alone.” She passes him without a glance and continues down the hallway. Oscar is relieved. It is not yet Mrs. P’s time and he wants nothing to do with her.


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 besides 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… A young grandson ask 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.

(Source: AP via AOL)

Thanks to many readers for their tips.

17 Responses to “Can Oscar The Cat Predict Your Death?”

  1. catmom5 says:

    What a nice way to leave this world. Oscar is truly a gift and a blessing to those residents. Thanks, Oscar, for being such a sweet angel. Thanks, Itchmo, for sharing Oscar’s story with us.

  2. Merlin Marshall says:

    My first thought was that this was fascinating. If dogs can sniff out cancer, then why not a cat that knows when someone will die? My second thought is that this article kind of creeps me out. I never pictured the Grim Reaper as having 4 legs and purrs.

    I guess all in all, I’d rather be escorted to the other side by a cat than anything else, but still, I don’t think I want to visit Oscar!

  3. Gary says:

    And, animals can apparently know before a earthquake hits. Also, there’s been many instances when a animal knows when the owner is on the way home from work before the owner arrives home.

  4. Lynne says:

    “It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.”— Mark Twain

  5. Sky Eyes Woman says:

    It is a well-known fact that animals can hear, see and smell things we cannot. There’s no reason at all to think Oscar is not hearing, seeing or smelling something that makes him able to sense when a patient is about to die. We humans just don’t understand how his senses work.

  6. e wem says:

    My cats always know when I am emotionally wound up. They have also reacted to every serious illness. If I hit my hand they come running in and don’t leave until I act ‘normal’. When I had cat scratch fever (!)I woke up to see two serous looking kitties staring down on my face. One touched her paw to my cheek. They stayed right by my face through the night I had the high fever, serious, and neither playful nor demanding.

    Perhaps it is just the stress reaction of not being right; any stress changes the hormones. I am sure that cats with their amazing sense of smell quickly learn to associate changes.

    I think it also shows concern. If one of my cats has a physical problem, like landing wrong from a jump, or a coughing episode, the others crowd around with the same concern they show me (usually to be swatted by the victim).

    If I was in a nursing home in my last hours I would be so grateful for the company of a furry kittie

  7. ~Martha~ says:

    This is one of the most endearing stories (about the most beautiful of cats) I have ever read. As previously mentioned, it should not surprise us in the least. Bless Oscar for his awareness and the nursing care facility for allowing Oscar to share his knowledge and comfort.

    (Some nursing home administrators wouldn’t even allow the cat on the property! I know from personal experience.)

    I do somehow believe that even tho the patient is probably not “aware of the cat laying next to him”, he is comforted in some way just the same.

  8. Jenny Bark says:

    I agree with all of you. We all know there is no limit to the amount of love our beautiful babies can give us and they ask for so little.

  9. mittens says:

    this is not an uncommon sort of story- there was one exactly like it on tv a few years back about a cat in a nursing home who also managed to have the knack for picking out the next person to go beyond the veil.

    they’re sacred creatures endowed by their mother with psychic gifts because they are willing and able to listen.

    all my cats are about the same age- 20- and they’ve been passing on one by one for the past 2 years. before each one has died , i have had dreams about their dying-before they showed signs in life of illness. it’s their gift to me- they know how their dying will be so difficult for me. it’s like theyre sending up flairs so i can prepare myself.

  10. Carole says:

    I have been a nurse for many years..Have worked in nursing homes. I have heard stories like this before. We know that animals know when earthquakes and tsunamis near. I have no trouble believing Oscar knows when these old souls are dying. I think God gave them some “knowing” in some form that we just do not understand. The remark was made that these patients probably didn’t know Oscar was even there..I wonder if maybe they DO, & Oscar is there to ease & comfort them out of this world! What a wonderful kitty!Animals are such a blessing to the elderly. We need more like Oscar in our nursing facilities!

  11. Lorri says:

    I’d rather have a furry friend by my side, then be alone, or have people there for the wrong reasons.
    I can’t image anything I’d rather have greet me on the other side then some of my favorite pets who have gone before me.

  12. Sandy says:

    My cats and dog all knew the day my dad died that he would die…We didn’t know. Dad was under hospice at my home and many days were the same…but that day …they all came in the room 1 at a time…didnt get on the bed. My dog put his head on the bed…They didnt stay long and never went back in that room till dad was removed :( Makes me sad and yet what a gift..its like they all said goodbye

  13. Furball Mom says:

    There is no doubt that animals sense when something “isn’t right” with their human brothers. My big, male cat knows the instant that I am ill….sometimes before I do! He will call me, rub against my legs, put his four-paws up on my leg until I sit down. He then gets in my lap, purrs and licks my hand or arm. It is the most comforting thing in the world to me…….in fact I call him “my comfort bag.” He will stay there until I make him get down and then he follows me around. This goes on until I’m 100% again! Once that happens, he goes back to his natural personality….wanting things on his terms only! After reading about Oscar, I’m going to get worried if he carries on for too long a time!! lol

  14. Donna says:

    Oscar is a guide. Known as an earth angel. He knows his purpose. Blessings to Oscar.

  15. The Grouch says:

    I’ve had cats all my life, and I think I understand the little buggers pretty well. Don’t anthropomorphise cats–their minds are quite alien (that’s what makes them interesting). I figure it like this: Oscar really, really, hates crazy people. (He works in a dementia ward, remember?) So when one of them dies, he likes to savor the moment. Purrrrr….

  16. klondike says:

    This is a great story. I think Oscar detects the death based on some tangible clues that we may not have the ability to perceive, but I also think Oscar ‘cares’ and chooses to stand vigil with those patients.

  17. Copycat Death Cat Named Buckwheat | Itchmo says:

    […] called.Sign up for our daily email digest or subscribe in a RSS reader.Last week, we posted about Oscar, a cat who was able to predict a patient’s death. Now, a Seattle nursing home is saying that they have their own feline predictor of […]

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