Monday, February 8, 2010 1:41 PM

Oscar, the Feline Grim Reaper

I noticed a small news article in the paper last week concerning Oscar, the feline nursing home mascot who seems able to predict, within hours, when someone is going to die. I've read about him before, and now the Brown University professor who works at this facility has written a book about him (Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat) and his unusual talent.

This story interests me for a couple of reasons. One, it involves a cute cat that reminds me of Handsome, a stray that moved in with me and my roommate when I was in junior college. The other reason is that this nursing home is in Providence, RI, one of my favorite cities. While growing up, we lived very close to the Rhode Island line and I spent much time prowling around Pawtucket, Newport and Providence. Much of my best friend's family lived in that state, and my siblings have, at one time or another, resided there. Currently, the nephew to whom J. is closest lives in Providence.

It is, of course, an interest-grabbing story, and not just a little macabre. The author of the new book, Dr. David Dosa, had been recording Oscar's predictions for the past five years, and he has called it right 50 times. How does Oscar bring attention to the next soul to pass on? By curling up next to him or her and taking a nap. How neat is that?

If we think about it, it's not really all that uncanny. Animals can often sense things that we cannot, and often these things have to do with health. PBS had a program sometime last year (I think) about dogs that can sniff cancer in people before any diagnostic tests can detect it. And any pet lover knows that Fluffy and Fido can always tell when we've had a bad day, aren't feeling up to snuff or just need a cuddle. I know that whenever I'm sick and hanging out on the couch, I will always have at least one of the cats laying on or next to me. Scientists might say that the warmth of the feverish person is attracting them, but I know it's more than that. They know that you need them close, and they are happy to comply.

The next time we are visiting J.'s nephew, perhaps we'll drop in at this facility of Oscar's and get a glimpse of the clairvoyant cat. Well, maybe not--he needs to do his work without the spotlight glaring, after all. He's somewhere where he is really needed. How many of us can say that?
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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