Oscar the Cat
So when a patient told me today that the biggest news story this past week (okay, these past two weeks) is about a cat named Oscar who can sense when nursing home residents are about to die, I perked up.
I've always thought that cats were intuitive, but basically selfish, and that dogs were there to serve. Now, apparently, scientists think that like both cats and dogs can be extremely empathetic.
Unwilling to go with second hand information, I Googled Oscar the cat. CNN informs us that Oscar lives in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence Rhode Island. He knows the residents and sneaks in and curls up next to them in their final hours.
Apparently he's been right in 25 cases and staff now calls family members when Oscar gets comfortable. That usually means the resident he's chosen to snuggle with has under 4 hours of life as we know it left.
CNN quotes Dr. David Dosa who wrote up the phenomenon in the New England Journal of Medicine as saying that family members are happy that the cat is there to comfort their loved ones.
Oscar surprisingly doesn't especially take to people. He makes his own rounds in the center, just like doctors. According to Dosa, he sniffs and observes patients, then sits beside people who "wind up dying in a few hours." Sounds suspicious to me.
But there's more, and nothing malevolent about it. "Most families are grateful for the advance warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure."
My take is about as unscientific as a take can be, and for sure the animal rights people will take issue. But some people will agree with me. Religious people.
My take is that the very purpose of some creatures, if not all of them, is to make humankind happy. They're here on earth for our benefit.
Sure we have to pay big time for shots and licenses, and they're a huge time investment. (Well maybe not cats as much). And they order us around, make us walk them when we're tired, take over our favorite chairs.
But we therapy docs have been recommending pets forever. We know they're psychologically good for people. They're comforting. We prescribe pets for psychological comfort.
CNN also links to another news story about 840 cats who were saved from becoming dinner. Would that have made them comfort food? Just wondering.