When the administrators of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, adopted six 'therapy' cats from an animal shelter, they had no idea that among them was one that possessed an uncanny sixth sense to predict the impending death of terminally ill patients.
Oscar the tabby cat's story begins in 2005, when the newly born kitten was placed on third floor of the nursing center, home to patients that are in the last stages of illnesses like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cancer. The kitten spent the first year lazing around and watching the bustling activity around him. Then, just before his first birthday, Oscar began visiting each of the 41-patients on the floor regularly, just like the doctors and nurses did.
Initially, the hospital staff did not pay much attention to the feline's behavior. However, after some of the people that Oscar was snuggled next to passed away, they began to notice a pattern - the cat only went close to those that were a few hours away from dying. Otherwise, he would curl up on a desk and spend the day sleeping.
To test if it was just a coincidence, the staff tried to place Oscar next to a patient they believed was close to dying. But the paranormal cat refused to stay put and decided to snuggle next to someone else. Turns out he was right because 'his' patient died that same evening, while the one whose death the nurses had thought was imminent, lived on for another two days.
Among the biggest believers in Oscar's paranormal powers is Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and Assistant Professor at Brown University. He is so convinced of Oscar's unusual 'gift' that he not only published a paper about him in the New England Journal of Medicine, but also wrote a book. Entitled "Making rounds with Oscar: The extraordinary gift of an ordinary cat’, the 2010 publication outlines the various pieces of evidence he has been able to gather about the cat's predicting powers. Also convinced is the hospital staff who has been using Oscar's foretelling abilities to inform family members so they can bid farewell to their loved ones before it's too late.
Of course, not everyone believes that Oscar has a sixth sense. Some feline experts think that his perfect timing may have to do with a certain smell that the cat has come to associate with death. Others speculate it may have to do with the lack of movement in people that are about to die.
Then there are the skeptics who maintain that Oscar's record is not as perfect as it has been made out to be. They think that the hospital staff and Dr. Dosa have simply 'cherry-picked' the occasions when Oscar has been accurate and ignored the ones when he has not. Fortunately, none of this negative chatter has affected nine-year-old Oscar who continues to provide comfort to sick people in their final hours!