Friday, February 08, 2008

Canadian journalist David Warren on Oscar the deathcat!

Oscar is the cat who was written up in the New England Journal if Medicine for predicting when people in an old age home would die. (I say he did it by scent.)

Anyway, David Warren, acknowledging Oscar, commented amusingly on catly skills in general:
... I had adopted, or rather been adopted by (unlike dogs, cats choose their masters), one of these cats. I named him Ferdinand, after Magellan, the Portuguese explorer in the Spanish service, for his cathemeral activities took him on a circuit of considerable extent.

He was the sort of cat I would myself choose for a voyage of circumnavigation. It would have to be a cat, as I am persuaded by nautical memoirists from Joshua Slocum to Lorenzo Ricciardi, that goats make poor sailors. The virtues of cats, at sea, are attested by many of the feline voyagers themselves, from Trim, the famous cat of the famous Captain Flinders; to Mrs Chippy, aboard Shackleton’s Endurance; to Pwe, the “ineffective hunter of albatrosses” who crewed with Miles and Beryl Smeeton.

Don't like cats? I will try to find you something about dogs then.

Actually, I have often thought that it would be better to find a dog who could do what Oscar does. A dog can be much more easily trained to alert people to a situation than a cat. And I BET goats make poor sailors!

Home personnel knew only by the change in Oscar's behaviour that a patient's death was imminent , not because the cat thought it his business to alert them.

See also: Can people simply decide when to die?