a wandering woman writes

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Running into home: Oscar the cat

When I stopped in the Casa de las Conchas Saturday morning to search Friday's El Mundo for an interview with Kathleen, I found not my American friend from Madrid but my little-known American birthplace shouting at me from the top of the paper's front page.

RHODE ISLAND the headline spelled out, loud and clear, right across the top of the portada.

It was one of those expat moments. You know those moments: when you find yourself double checking that you are where you think you are, working in the language you think you're working in. Could that say Rhode Island?

My diminutive home state made headlines in Europe this week. Here's the story in El Pais, and El Mundo, and if you prefer English, the BBC.

Seems the New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article by a geriatric physician working at Steele House, a nursing home in Providence. The article profiles the intriguing behavior of the cat who lives on the center's 3rd floor, a floor reserved for patients with advanced senile dementia. Oscar the cat has an uncanny knack for knowing when a patient is close to death along with a compassionate way of reacting to that sixth sense. He climbs up on the bed and lays alongside the patient until he or she passes away a few hours later.

Oscar has accurately predicted a patient's death in more than 25 cases. No one dies on the third floor of Steele House without spending a few hours with Oscar, who doesn't visit the patients on any other occasion. When Oscar climbs up into a bed, the 3rd floor nurses start making phone calls. A few hours later, the patient inevitably dies, surrounded by family, friends, and often, a priest.

If the nurses try to take Oscar out of the room before the patient dies, he paces outside the closed door and meows in frustration.

Give the story the explanation you like. Maybe he smells something chemical, as the physician suggests, or maybe he simply senses ... whatever.

I like the story, and I like Oscar.
That's he's a Rhode Islander is just icing on the cake.

Update, thanks to Laura, I can offer you this link to the full article. It's a beautiful read, a look at a day in the life of compassionate Oscar the cat.



  • Yes, this was a cool story, and definitely coincides with my own experiences with dying friends and family and companion critters, though Oscar seems to be specially sensitive.

    By Blogger jarvenpa, at 10:15 PM  

  • It does coincide, doesn't it? Even with memories of household critter when I've just been ill, or sad. I just love this story.
    Thanks for the comment, jarvenpa, and welcome!

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:44 PM  

  • My cat knows whenever I am sick. He becomes nicer and sleeps with me. It's nice cause half the time he is such a jerk when I am well... The Oscar story was all over the US News outlets...

    By Blogger Yarbz www.juggernuts.com, at 7:05 PM  

  • Oh you guys are really making me want a pet here.

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 8:33 PM  

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