Oscar is the "mascot" for the dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Adopted by the Center as a kitten in 2005, Oscar is confined to the dementia unit, but seems to have pretty close to free range inside the ward. According to the article:
"When death is near, Oscar nearly always appears at the last hour or so. Yet he shows no special interest in patients who are simply in poor shape, or even patients who may be dying but who still have a few days. Animal behavior experts have no explanation for Oscar's ability to sense imminent death. They theorize that he might detect some subtle change in metabolism -- felines are as acutely sensitive to smells as dogs -- but are stumped as to why he would show interest."Oscar is the subject of an article by Dr. David M. Dosa, a geriatric specialist and an assistant professor at the Brown University School of Medicine in the New England Journal of Medicine, called "A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat."
I was hoping for something a little more scientific about the article, but the Globe story is where the scientific theorizing of Oscar's activities get the most ink. Possibilities raised were a general sense of empathy, or being drawn to a change in the patient's metabolism or "mental aura." I'm not sure how a scientist defines "mental aura," but it was a Tufts scientist who said it, so I'm printing it.