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article imageOscar the cat becomes gentle grim reaper

By Laura Trowbridge     Feb 2, 2010 in Health
An extraordinary cat living in a Rhode Island nursing home has been accurately predicting the upcoming deaths of patients for the past five years.
Oscar gained worldwide renown in 2007 after Dr. David Dorsa published an article that was picked up by the news media around the world, including one written by a Digital Journal writer.
Now Dr. Dorsa, a geriatrician at Rhode Island Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, has just had his book published this month about the amazing feline. "Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat" chronicles the many stories of Oscar's interaction with dying patients and their families.
Oscar bit Dr. Dorsa when they first met at Oscar's home, the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. “When I first met him, Oscar didn’t want anything to do with anybody,” says Dosa. “He spent most of his time hiding or finding a quiet place to sit in the sun.”
However, when a patient is nearing death Oscar always seems to sense this and will keep vigil over the person until they pass on. He mostly avoids anyone else, but the dying. His predictions of imminent death have been rarely wrong.
When nurses once placed the cat on the bed of a patient they thought close to death, 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.
The nursing home staff now know to contact the family if they see Oscar lying in bed with a patient. Time is usually quite short for that patient once Oscar appears.
Dr Dorsa said: "People were actually taking great comfort in this idea, that this animal was there and might be there when their loved ones eventually pass. He was there when they couldn't be."
Dorsa also explained: “End of life care is an important topic now as the health-care reform debate goes on. This book gives an inside look at how one works with families at the end of life – what they experience and what their thought processes are. And,” he adds, “it is much more readable and approachable because there is a cat involved.”
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