Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The cat who could smell death

This week's episode of House featured a cat who predicted patient death, indicated by who she chose to nap with.

We've hear of dogs that can sniff out tumours but a cat that can sniff out people at death's door? The House episode is reminiscent of a "Perspective" piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 [pdf] about one Oscar the cat at a Rhode Island care facility.
Oscar the Cat has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families.
Unlike House's typical last minute stroke of genius, no concrete explanation is given for Oscar's 'predictions'. Still, the staff seem convinced of his powers. Is there something to it, or just a classic case of confirmation bias?

Incidentally, if you're interested in a doctor's take House's weekly mystery, check out this blog.


Anonymous Coward said...

I think the odds of a cat sleeping with someone who will die in a retirement home is high to start with. Somebody should check if the people dying have any type of allergies...

rob said...

IT'S THE CAT. IT'S A KILLING MACHINE. I would be extremely nice to it.