back to article Cat senses impending death

A cat in Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, appears to sense when one of the elderly residents is about to die, Reuters reports. Oscar has been at Steere House for two years, during which he's settled down beside 25 old timers shortly before they passed away. Dr Joan Teno, a professor of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe it rolls around in poison.

    Oooh the Moggie of Doom !

  2. Jason Hall


    Mmmm... maybe a cat that lives with old people, might actually sit next to them regularly.

    Ooooh... and maybe some of the oldies actually die?

    Wow... correlation?!?!?!

    On a lighter note... maybe the old dears are being scared to death... oh noes... the cat of doom is come!

  3. Alan Gregson


    Are they sure the cat isn't killing the old timers?

    If that was a doctor who always arrived just prior to the demise of the patient there would be some serious questions asked.

  4. Colin Morris

    Cat rename?

    Think the cat should be renamed the Grim Reaper rather than Oscar!

    I'm glad this cat has no chance of sitting at the side of my bed. Anyone ever heard of the 'power of suggestion' ?


  5. Jonathan McCulloch

    Cause and Effect

    What they also appear to have missed is the self-fulfilling prophesy.

    People can attribute cause and effect where there is none, maybe owing to a couple of coincidences, and then when the cat then goes to sit near a wrinkly, the wrinkly believes his or her time is up, and duly obliges, thus strengthening the myth.


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe this is why the Egyptians held cats in such high esteem, but I can imagine the sheer terror felt by any of the residents should the cat so much as poke its nose through the door.

    Eeeek! Get out! I'm not ready to go!

  7. Bob Boswell

    cause and effect

    Has anyone thought to see if it the damned cat is the cause of death ?

    If the cat is evicted, does the elderly bod survive ?

    Perhaps the old dears are sufferering from a reaction to an allergen / pathogen ?.

    I know if it had that kind of reputation and sat on my bed it would get a swift kick.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Serial Cat

    Death by mothballs? Death by cat allergy? Maybe the cat sits next to an old person and discreetly sticks the claws in. We should be informed.

    p.s. When my cat died, suddenly but still in fine health, It was on ym mind for the two weeks before. Should I tell someone?

  9. John Woodhouse

    @ Colin Morris

    ...maybe they should rename it Shipman!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One Unloved Pussy Cat?

    Can you imagine, you pop in to visit your elderly relative and this pesky cat decides it wants to come and sit on your lap. You'd be frightened to leave the building in case you befall an accident.

    Please put the moggy in a crate and send to your favourite politician.....

  11. Stephen


    ...held cats in such high esteem because they were considered the guardians of Ra (the Sun god) as he died (sun set) and passed through the underworld to be reborn (sun rise).

    Hmmmm, if my moggy decides to come and sit near me (she's a typical cat...only comes near me when she wants food) then I am going to start writing out my will!

  12. AndyB

    Put them in a box

    with a radioactive atom and give the cat a Gieger counter.

  13. Dan


    You've all missed the point, this moggy has robot insides and is an instrument of the Lizard Alliance, killing off the old folks using fricking laser beams in its eyes!

    Alternatively, and to further Alan Gregson's comment, Harold Shipman was there when a lot of people died...

  14. Simon Greenwood

    Senses dinner

    Mmm... tasty granny's face.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only .....

    If only my cat could do this just before Windows die on me, at least I will have time to save all my work and get the Windows installation CD ready.

  16. Steve Evans

    For sale:

    Black and white male cat.

    One terrified previous owner

    Free to good home.

  17. oxo


    So Harold Shipman came back as a cat.. interesting

  18. Rob

    Believe it or not....

    ... not that uncommon.

    Egyptians revered cats as they are the guardians of the spirit world, to have a cat near you at the time of death is supposed to facilitate safe passage to the other side.

    On a scientific note, the theory that I subscribe to is that they can pick up on the electro-chemicals we transmit while we are living, obviously getting close to death that electo-chemical field starts to wan, hence the reason cats sense death.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This isn't so far fetched

    There are people with severe epilepsy whose dogs can tell (before they are even aware of it) that they're about to have a seizure.

  20. Marco

    Coincidences and allergies

    From what is being reported, Oscar only visits patients that later will die. It is not like it randomly visits patients and some of them die. And most of those the cat visits are already in a state in which they can't acknowledge the cat's presence, therefore a self-fulfilling prophecy is rather unlikey.

    An allergic reaction to the cat can also be counted out, as the hospital staff did not mention to find not any symptoms related to that.

    German Spiegel reports that at one point a doctor at the nursing home predicted the imminent death of a patient, but Oscar came by and left again. The doctor thought that this time the cat was wrong, but it turned out the doctor was mistaken. The patient lived for another ten hours and promptly, two hours before the actual death, Oscar showed up.

    The Spiegel report also said that the cat otherwise is not very social and keeps to itself.

  21. Matthew


    The cat knows that the coffin-dodger is about to kick the bucket and is getting first in the queue for nibbling on the corpse.

    Think about all the old folks who die alone at home, and are discovered 3 days later. The cat never starves....

  22. Matt W

    Dogs have been doing this for years

  23. Robert Long


    Maybe the cat is just coming to see why everyone's sitting around Grandma's bed. Cats are like that.

  24. Matthew Mell

    Wht belive its random

    Certain diseases and conditions are detectable by scent and other changes to biochemistry.

    Whats to say the cat isnt just picking up on these

  25. DZ-Jay

    There's a very easy biochemical explanation

    Dying old people smell like tuna. Doh.


  26. Dave

    Not the only cat

    We have a cat that will come and keep us company when we're ill. He seems to know, so I guess there are signals. Or he just knows that the sick person is likely to stay still and provide a nice, warm place to sleep for a few hours.

  27. Bill Fresher


    My dog used to be able to sense when I was about to blow a raspberry - he'd always get up and walk away just before I let rip.

  28. Les Matthew

    An unrelated cat story

    I got up one morning and into the bathroom for the brushing of teeth and a quick wash before getting off out to work.

    So there I was in the altogether having a wash with my dear old moggy weaving in and around my legs purring away. Woops, the soaps slips out of my hands and falls onto the floor. So I squat down to pick it up and suddenly the little sod takes a swipe at my dangly bits with claws extended. The shock makes me jump up in shock and I smack my head on the underside of the washand basin on the way up.

    Talk about a double whammy. ;)

  29. Jason Hall

    ooo - magic cat

    "On a scientific note, the theory that I subscribe to is that they can pick up on the electro-chemicals we transmit while we are living, obviously getting close to death that electo-chemical field starts to wan, hence the reason cats sense death."

    Scientific? Theory? No. Start again please.

    "From what is being reported, Oscar only visits patients that later will die. It is not like it randomly visits patients and some of them die."

    Erm... don't we all die?

    And if it is only being allowed in to see the ones in imminent death.. then it doesn't have any say in the matter - so no special powers need apply?

  30. dodge

    Run away!

    Being friendly to this moggie appears to be about as safe as being an acquaintance of Jessica "Murder, She Wrote" Fletcher.

    Cause of death? Moggie Morbidity.

  31. evil tom

    Damn right that cat isn't very social, Spiegel... the hell would it make you feel if your eternal duty as decreed by the sun god Ra - perhaps because of some digression in a previous existence (ie as Shipman) - is to remain at an old folks' home in Rhode Island and be the valet of the lost souls? I wouldn't be too social myself, come to think of it. That must be one serious cat.

    Tinkerbell the Cat from Next Door: "I'm going to chase birds, roll in some dirt, eat a few leaves of catnip and fall asleep on some fresh laundry. You?"

    DEATHCAT: "..."

    Tinkerbell Cat: "Suit yourself."

  32. Ash

    Fountain of Youth?

    Kill that cat, live forever.


  33. Ross Fleming

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc

    to coin the phrase..

  34. andy gibson


    I thought cats were well known to be able to see the grim reaper and predict death?

  35. Joe K

    The scientific explanation

    Cats eat souls.

    I would have thought that was obvious, that this moggy is doing side-work for the Reaper.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're evil

    Knowing cats, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the reason they curl up besides someone just before they die is to be the first to tuck into them as soon as they're gone. It's no different to the odd-bods who camp outside shops to bagsy the first Playstation 3, except they don't go home and feast on human flesh. Do they?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The cat killed them

    from them all being allergic to cats in their weakened state.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or maybe

    Maybe it's an antisocial cat and goes to see people who are essentially unable to move, but are still relatively warm (cat's do like warmth)... what they need to do is have a (controlled) fire in a room just for the cat, then it will prove that the cat is nothing to do with it and the old codgers will die anyway.

    I also like the lizard alliance theory though.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Bit Fiddler said:

    > he odd-bods who camp outside shops to bagsy the first

    >Playstation 3, except they don't go home and feast on

    >human flesh. Do they?

    You haven't seen some of these PS3 games, have you?

  40. Jonathan

    re: Familliars

    By andy gibson

    Posted Thursday 26th July 2007 11:26 GMT

    I thought cats were well known to be able to see the grim reaper and predict death?

    agreed - has this not been observed behaviour for centuries?

    ...except now we're looking to science to explaim it instead of dunking the cat's owner in the river and seeing if they live (before burning them at the stake)

  41. hugo tyson


    People who are imminently dying - of nursing-home type ailments, or just drawn-out old-age frailty - their organs start to fail, so their biochemistry changes, toxins aren't being removed, digestion stops, dehydration occurs, urination ceases, &c &c.... so they smell different. On their sweat, if they sweat, on their breath, farts if any, and general skin odour. Can't see there's anything more to it than that.

  42. Matthew Brown

    Don't hurt me, but...

    Did anyone else think this could make a very sick lolcat image?

    "I'm in your nursing home, euthanasing your relatives."

  43. Thomas Swann

    I can't be the only one...

    ... who is thinking of Bubba Ho-Tep right now can I?

    "Mr President... we're gonna kill us a kitty."

  44. Peter

    Harrold Shipmane re-incarnated ?

    'course that only works if he has died :-), can't be bothered to look

  45. Nigel Rook

    As any Pratchett fan will tell you...

    ...cats can see the big hooded chap with the scythe. Clearly Oscar is just following a friend around.

  46. thomasthetanker


    Reminds me of Trainspotting

  47. Lickass McClippers

    I iz in ur bed...

    ...waitin fer u to dyz, kthxbai...

  48. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Incomplete data and the miraculous coincidence.

    This sounds like a classic case of the human mind seeking patterns in coincidences and a bit of confirmation bias to boot. The article doesn't mention all the old codgers who miraculously failed to die when the cat came and lay down next to them, for example. I'm sure if you include that data then the apparent pattern completely disappears.

  49. jai

    Re: I can't be the only one...

    fear not - you're in safe company here. all this talk of egyptians was also making me think of the film. gonna have to watch that film again soon

  50. Bryce Prewitt

    I see something very tragic here. Very tragic indeed.

    It's called beating a dead horse, and you lot are doing it with your terribly repetitive jokes.

  51. Sam

    Cat needs a bed

    Clearly the cat is just trying to get the bed before another old codger arrives

  52. Marco

    Re: ooo - magic cat

    "'From what is being reported, Oscar only visits patients that later will die. It is not like it randomly visits patients and some of them die.'

    Erm... don't we all die?

    And if it is only being allowed in to see the ones in imminent death.. then it doesn't have any say in the matter - so no special powers need apply?"

    Mr. Hall, are you just trying to splice hair?

    Make my above sentence "that die soon after" and note that the cat apparently can roam rather freely in the nursing home.

    And if you go nitpicking about this any further, I will see that Oscar pays a visit to you.

  53. Marco

    There is one more thing

    Beside all the arguing how the cat senses it, if we take that for granted by now, there is one more question: Why does it feel obliged to stay with the dying patients?

  54. sabroni Silver badge

    Science doesn't know

    If cats can smell when people are going to die then why haven't scientists managed to make a electronic sniffer that can do the same thing? This will become the standard "scientific" explanation for this story though because it sounds reasonable.

    Likewise, showers of frogs or fish, relatively frequently reported, are supposedly caused by waterspouts that suck the animals up, though we have no evidence that that's what happens.

    Though the simplest solution is the most likely, the most likely solution isn't definitely the correct one.

    Without proper analysis of when the cat goes where, we're all just guesing. Be honest, we don't know if the cat senses death and if it does, no one knows how. It's fun to guess though. (i'm torn between "it's people's perceptions" and "the cat sees the reaper" myself...)

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't know about you....

    ..but I'd stay the fuck away from that cat!

  56. Charissa Cotrill

    Rather comforting, really

    I hope I have a cat like this around when my time is up (assuming I survive to old age). It would be nice to know I have a few hours to get things in order and say goodbye.

  57. Colin Guthrie

    Living in a box

    Cats? Death? Old folks home (box)? Hmmmmmm, how do I know it really happened unless I can see it?


  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get the damn cat away from me !

    get it away .. GET IT AWAAAAAY . Aarrgllll ( dies of heart-attack )

    thats how cats get a bad name...

    besides who says the cat isn't a shape shifting wizard ... anyone read harry potter lately ?

  59. Nev

    Cats steal your breath while you sleep...

    ...don't these supposed "doctors" know anything?

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Necrophiliac cats

    I always felt there was something not right about cats.

    This particular one should be apprehended immediately and rendered to the appropriate authorities. I am sure the Jesuits still know how to work a rack to save a life, and it would be most interesting to find out who eventually is exorcised. (Probably the DoD).

  61. xjy

    The pleasant face of death

    Most commenters haven't noticed that at least one granny welcomed Oscar as helping her to go to heaven.

    Death is often a welcome caller. People get tired of fighting to live. Maybe the cat feels the inner peace radiating from those about to die and quite ready for it.

    We can at least be sure that there are lots of signals - chemical and behavioural - that are too subtle for most of us to catch (ie we´ve unlearned how to be conscious of perceiving them) but that are plain as day to animals tuned to those particular vibrations.

    If I don't have pussy when I go, then I'd like a kitty, please!

  62. Wizbit

    Les Matthew - ouch

    Not sure why I kept reading the comments, but glad I did... could hardly breath for laughing.

  63. Shane Lusby

    Couple of points not mentioned in the article

    Mentioned elsewhere is the cat only tends to hang out with people in the last two or four hours of their life. It doesn't tend to be social normally, so it doesnt appear that its just getting lucky.

    As for the 'seeing why everyone is gathering around grandma' again it seems to be in the other direction in a number of cases. Rather than the family coming for the final hours and then the cat showing up, the cat would show up and then the nurse would call the family. Want to talk about a freaky phone call? 'Hello, the cat of doom has said your relative is about to snuff it, can you make it over quickly?'

    As for the scared to death argument someone mentioned it is a dementia/alzheimer's ward and the staff are under the opinion the dying generally never know the cat is there. This one I do think is a bit open to question, but even if they know its there they may not be aware of its cat of doom status.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Faster pussycat. Kill, Kill!

    That's a pretty impressive cat with good intuition then, but I wonder what it thinks it is doing?

  65. Alan Donaly

    It's not what you think

    Cats look for places to lie up during the day if disturbed they will go elsewhere and not come back they sleep a lot most of the day and in

    your house they are constantly being annoyed in this case no one bothered him there since people generally won't go long without disturbing the cat if they are even slightly mobile even if asleep he more than likely watches for a bit if nothing moves even a hair he settles in until people once again chase him out. Or he could be the spirit of death I know I wouldn't want him in my room "shoo scat I am not ready to go".

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cause and effect

    Cats are evil creatures, and vermin.

    If all the people that the cat sits upon die, then it is killing them. That's how cause and effect works.

    Its probably carrying a virus from one of its bird victims that it repeatedly passes on to its human ones.

  67. Dave

    Cat and Mouse game?

    My cat is often seen alongside a dead mouse, and sometimes next to a mouse that will shortly be dead. I wonder if this is coincidence?

  68. Dave Cheetham

    What about the dog?

    Is there any truth in the rumour that the nursing home is bringing in a Labradour Retriever to check on the elderley residents as well.

    That way they don't just rely on the CAT scan, they have Lab reports too.

    Hey and please show some respect. Don't call them Wrinklys. Ageism is as offensive as racism to us old people.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and to Oscar goes to...

    Anyone accepting the bet?

    And bring that beast to a vet for health check.

  70. Chet Dowling

    Kevorki-cat is only offering assistance.

    My greatest fear is of becomming to feeble minded to pull the trigger.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comedy Gold

    Just think of the pranks you could do!

    - You could drug the cat and curl it up on someone else's bed while theyre having an afternoon nap.

    - You could put catnip on somebody's clothes and watch them panic as the cat follows them around all day.

    - Maybe you could bring an Alsatian to guard your bed?

    - You could sew a toy mouse to somebody's slipper and watch them run around as the cat attacks their ankles

    - You could kick the cat every time you see it so it wont come near you, although it might just follow you out of spite...

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More Comedy Gold

    - If you look on the beeb's article it says the moggie 'meows in protest' if its removed from its intended prey. You could burn a cd of a cat meowing and play it on loop outside one of the rooms with the door closed

    - Tell you what though, i wouldnt like to be the vet that has to take this kitty's temperature! Guaranteed you wouldnt outlive the day!

    - Imagine filming a documentary about it, all of a sudden this otherwise unsociable cat gets pally with the cameraman, you wouldnt want to fly home would you?

    - One final thought, who will the moggy turn to when its final hour comes? will it just sit on an empty bed hugging itself and looking uneasily at shadows?

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where does it sleep?

    You have to wonder if the hospital staff have thought of pooling together and getting it a little coffin shaped box to sleep in for dramatic effect.

  74. Law

    erm - i know

    Cat Allergies??

  75. laura

    This is what made me truelly love cats..

    I am in no doubt that this happened and that the cat somehow knew.

    When my grandfather was in a home there was a little white cat that used to wonder round the place.. it always used to come and visit the patients daily, it used to nap on their beds and cuddle up to them and in the evenings it would go back to its bed in reception..

    There was a man that was in the bed next to my grandfather, who during the night took a turn for the worse, while his family were away on vacation, the cat stayed on the bed with him all night (which it never normaly did).. i truelly believe that the cat was looking after him, protecting him, giving him company when he had no body.. and that night the man passed away and he wasnt alone.. and this wasnt the only person in the home that this happened to..

    Shame on anyone to call cats vermin or pests, they are much better than people could ever be.. if you had been in that cats position, would you have stayed with a stranger all night on his death bed or would you have walked away and left it to somebody else?? i can guarantee the answer from majority of people!

    Look after the cats that look after you - visit

  76. Kenneth

    What a gift!

    I'd certainly want a cat like that. After I got it I could give it to someone I dont like as a present

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