Anyone who has ever owned a cat can attest to how sometimes a cat just seems to “know” something that we don’t. We have all heard the stories of cats who have scratched at their owners, only for the owner to later discover that the area the cat scratched had a cancerous tumour. There are also the stories how a cat seemed to just know that something was wrong, only for their owner to later have a seizure or even die. With stories like these, it definitely seems plausible that a cat can sense illness and even impending death.
When I think of a cat correctly predicting death, I immediately think of Oscar. Oscar is a Rhode Island kitty who lives in a nursing facility. He is currently credited to have correctly predicted the death of over 50 patients there in the last five years. I first heard of Oscar when I read the book about his story, “Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat.” The book is very much worth reading for anyone who loves cats and the mystery that surrounds death. Though the book lacks a scientific explanation for Oscar’s gift, it really does make us wonder how he does it?
So what does science say in regards to how cats, or even other animals, really do what it is they do? Well, one thought is that a cat is just reading the subtle cues that we give off without even knowing it. In Oscar’s case, he may very well be able to read a patient’s subtle changes to know instantly something is very wrong. Thus, he does his best to comfort them. Another idea is that a cat’s sense of smell alerts them to a particular smell given off by either illness or impending death.
Both of these ideas seem very reasonable and a great way to put a scientific explanation to what is going on. However, illness and death still remain a mystery in so many ways, which leads me to believe that cats, including Oscar, know a little bit more about what is going on than we do. What do you think?