Oscar: Angel Cat or Mocking Demon?

This is Oscar.  If you’re reading this article….chances are he doesn’t like you.  Oscar is partial to those on the fringes of life.  The souls who are lingering on death’s doorstep, waiting for someone to open the door and let them in.  Souls that are unaware of their surroundings due to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Oscar was born in 2005 and adopted by the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island.  In 2007, Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor at Brown University who works with several Steere House patients, wrote an article that was featured in the New England Journal of Medicine.  An article telling the story of Oscar and his ethereal ability to predict the impending death of terminally ill patients.

Oscar’s M.O.?  Apparently Oscar observed the patient and sniffed the air all around them.  If he walked out of the room, you could sigh with relief.  If he turned around in a circle and laid down next to the patient…then you ccould expect that patient to be dead within hours.

Explanations for this ability include that the cat can smell ketones, the biochemicals released by dying cells, or the lack of movement in near-terminal patients.

Oscar usually stayed with his patient until the morgue came to collect the body.  If the family put him outside of the room, he’d pace back and forth, howling in protest.  I guess Oscar is proof positive that we all have a purpose.  Even those who may hiss and bite.

Like my cat, Tess.  I’m not quite sure what her purpose is, but I’m fairly certain it has something to do with teaching me the lesson of commitment and consistency.  She’s also a walking reminder for me to take my meds.  Motherhood didn’t exactly agree with Tess.  We had her fixed immediately after the birthin’….and somehow…she got permanently stuck in postpartum depression that ain’t going nowhere any time soon.  She’ll walk through the room and just kill the joy.  When she makes poo in her litter box…she gets OUT and scratches on the outside of the box and on the floor instead of putting litter over her stinkin’ atomic mess.  When I catch her in the act, I remind her of her blooming stupidity by dragging her box and setting it outside the back door with a disgusted “GAWD!”  Then I commence to fumigating the laundry room.  I have a sensitive sense of smell, you see.

Apparently there were people who didn’t see Oscar’s purpose either.  In the fall of 2007, Oscar turned up dead.  And not from natural causes.  Apparently it was a case of feline homicide.  Not verified but hinted at by the Steere House:

Oscar, the nursing home cat who could seemingly sense the impending death of patients, was found dead early yesterday. The cat gained recent notoriety when reports of his ability to detect the impending death of the terminally ill became public. Seemingly aware that death was at hand, Oscar would reportedly climb into the bed of patients during their final hours.

Officials at the facility would not reveal the cause of death, but did acknowledge rumors that the cat was becoming increasingly unpopular among the patients. One knowledgeable source – who agreed to speak with us on the condition of anonymity – confirmed increasing animosity toward the animal, and that a dented bedpan was found near the body.

Patients in the terminal ward became increasingly upset at the sight of the cat, prompting administrators to move Oscar to another floor. After an unexpected death on that floor, Oscar quickly became quite unwelcome there too. “Good riddance.” said patient Gertrude Feinman, when told of the cat’s demise. “It would just sit there and stare at you – with this look on his face like ‘you’re next'”.

I know some of you are out there laughing at the thought of a senile old person beating the brakes off a cat with a filthy bedpan.  I’m trying really hard not to grin here too.  But we all should just stop it.

So was Oscar’s gift a blessing or a curse?  I would sit and contemplate this….but my cat is giving me the stink eye and that makes me nervous in a way I don’t really have words for.

I must go now.


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