I can has souls?

I couldn’t resist when I read this Guardian story about Oscar, the death predicting cat.

When the two-year-old grey and white cat curls up next to an elderly resident, staff now realise, this means they are likely to die in the next few hours.

Such is Oscar’s apparent accuracy – 25 consecutive cases so far – that nurses at the US home now warn family members to rush to a patient’s beside as soon as the cat takes up residence there.



  1. Feral Kitten

    I was having a discussion with a “Reiki Master” yesterday on MySpace, and they sent me that story when I called into question the mechanism behind Reiki. They wanted to know my thoughts on the mechanism behind this cat predicting peoples’ deaths. I thought it was just an attempt to change the subject, but I found it to be an interesting thing in its own right.

    I posed the hypothesis that the cat is not predicting anything but is in fact killing the patients. Perhaps there is something about the cat that when it sits on someone for a few hours, it puts enough stress on the system of one of these terminally ill elderly people that he causes them to die. We already know that cats secrete a particular glycoprotein that can cause a allergic reactions in sensitive people, maybe this or some other similar thing particular to this cat is toxic in a way that it won’t affect healthy people, but for the severely immuno-compromised, it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    Well, I thought it was fun, anyway, reinterpreting this heart warming story into something notably less heart warming.

  2. Spot The Dog

    Feral kittien – I think you are right. If we kill all the cats, people will live forever!

    Let’s test the hypothesis ASAP!

  3. Spot the Dog.

    best comment/pseudonym combo of the day

  4. When I read this, I thought of the dogs that can sniff particular types of cancer in people. But even that was a bit different than this, which is just strange.

    But, if true, it’d be the first cat that I wouldn’t want to see. Poor attention starved kitty… Killing people is no way to go about getting it.

  5. Feral Kitten


    Perhaps, but who would want to live in a world without cats! ^_^

    Also, if you actually managed to find funding for this study and began to carry it out, you’d have to deal with all of the comical ALF assassination attempts. Watch out! They’ll send a bomb to your neighbor which will then fail to explode. It’s all part of their ingenious plan to cause you to die laughing.

  6. Steven

    The elderly excrete catnip with death’s approach.

  7. It’s the Grim Reapcat!

  8. Hank Roberts

    You know, when you’re a cat who’s spent your life living in an eldercare facility, it’s just more work —- you have to suck a few minutes or an hour at most, from each one of a whole lot of people, to accumulate your quota, the cat’s mandated nine life spans.

    By contrast, imagine a cat in a childcare facility, say, or a neighborhood, where the little furry sweetheart can collect a year from each of 240 kids, and have the whole nine lives stored up, and nobody notices the loss.

    I thank my cats for sparing me the many long comatose months I’d otherwise have ended up spending in some high-priced nursing neglect home!

    And besides, cats _like_ being comatose. Just look at what they take, it’s almost all dead-to-the-world hours. That’s what they _do_best_ with the lifespan they’re accumulating.

    I don’t know why this stuff is so hard to figure out.

  9. this one is more appropriate.

  10. I recall reading something about dogs who can sense when their owners are about to have a seizure. The whole point of having the dog is so that the person can get to a safe place and reduce the likelihood of being injured. If there’s some credibility behind that idea, perhaps there is some credibility behind the idea that this cat can sense when someone is going to die, but I doubt it. Either that or the cat is a hitman, or hitcat hired by the family members of the victims so they can collect insurance. Talk about making a killing!

  11. The Ridger – That is a very evil looking cat. If I was elderly and that thing was heading my way, I’d grab my walker and take off!

  12. Rapcat JD

    Is it April Fool’s day somewhere? We’ve been talking about this in lab today…our conclusion is that since there’s no vaccine against this cat, it clearly doesn’t exist.

    We WOULD like to spin Oscar through a sucrose gradient, though!

  13. Dave C

    If the patients and all those around them believe in the predictive power of the cat then all the cat has to do is appear at any of the patients’ bedsides and the change in behaviour of those with the patient could indicate to a seriously ill patient that they are expected to die now. The patient could also believe they are about to die due to the cat’s appearance and so mentally be more accepting of this outcome.
    It could parallel with one of the prayer studies that found that some of those who were told that they were being prayed for took this as a sign that they were in dire straights and actually got worse.
    Maybe the cat’s reputation is so ingrained now that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy

  14. Or maybe, just maybe, the cat spends a lot of time with everyone, and it’s just more likely that the doctors at the nursing home will check up on someone who is more likely to die? The squeaky wheel notices the cat.

  15. skitzo

    If I worked there I would mess with the residents and put it in their room while they were sleeping.

  16. Janine

    Hank Roberts, what you are talking about is the basic plot of “Bubba Ho-Tep”. All you are missing is an elderly Elvis and a black JFK.

  17. Nah. If you’re in a old folks’ home, by definition you’re quite likely to die at any given moment. If you’re also quite likely to meet a puddycat, well, don’t be surprised if a lot of cat-strokers then keel over.

  18. My vote is that the patient moves less, so the cat can sleep peacefully.

    Oh, and the obvious part about the people in the facility ignoring any non-death related contact with the cat.

  19. Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD

    25 recent deaths in one old folk’s home? I think more than the cat needs investigating.

  20. Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD

    Hmmm, I wonder if there’s a link between Oscar and the spy squirrels recently captured in Iran…

  21. Imminent death must have an odor that cats like. This happened in my own home when my sister died of cancer. The cat, who hates noise and crowds, curled up on her lap and stayed there for hours as we titrated her morphine.
    I’m glad this article came out, because that really freaked us out.

  22. wildcardjack

    I think what we are seeing here is a matter of confirmation bias. People are noticing a correlation akin to a rain dance.

    I think that the only way to tell if there is something here is to tag the cat in such a way that you can track it’s movements. If there is no correlation after keeping good track, then you say “spooky feelings” and walk away.

    If there is a correlation, then you sweep in with a Cyrano chemical sniffer and document the settings associated with the passing of the people. There you should find causative correlations. Come on folks, this isn’t too hard a matter for science.

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