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Do cats have a sixth sense?

Posted Friday, July 27, 2007, at 8:15 AM

Yesterday my daughter emailed me a cat story which has since made the news, big time. I hope the Providence Rhode Island nursing home where the cat lives is not deluged with reporters from all over the country!

It seems that a cat named Oscar has a remarkable record in predicting when death is near. In fact, he's being called the "death cat," a rather morbid name for what seems to be a compassionate attitude on the part of a feline. He jumps up on the bed of residents and lies down beside them about four hours before they die. He seems to have "predicted" the deaths correctly in 25 cases in the two years that he's been a companion animal in the facility.

Now the kitty is famous, and we can only hope that this fame doesn't screw up the kitten's "job," which he reportedly takes very seriously.

You can see the story on CNN.com/2007/US/07/25/death.cat.ap/index.html.

It reminds me of my mother's little yellow and white cat named Esmerelda. We nicknamed her "Nurse Maid Cat," because she took diligent care of mom in her last two years of recuperating from drastic cancer surgery.

Esmerelda would come meow at Mom to remind her it was bedtime, and the little cat would lead her down the hall to bed, stopping and looking back if she was slow (which she always was). Esmerelda slept on an old sweatshirt that Mom placed on the foot of her bed.

Whenever my sister packed our mother's wounds, the little cat would sit up by Mom's head and "talk" to her. How my mother loved her!

After Mom died last year, Esmerelda mourned with the rest of the family. It took a long time for her to return to her pre-sick house attachment for my sister.

My own cats seem to know when I'm sick. One year I spent the entire Christmas vacation with some kind of flu bug that knocked me out. My two cats literally camped out on my lap, as I leaned back in my recliner under blankets.

I really do believe that cats (and dogs, too) have a sixth sense that tells them when something is wrong with their humans.

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My two cats know when I'm sick, too. A few years ago ago I had a pretty major surgery on my abdomen. I came home with a large surgical incision. The male cat came over to me and gently patted my tummy exactly on the spot. Just a few months ago I had a similar, but more serious surgery. Once again he came to me as soon as I came home and gently patted the exact spot.

The female takes the day shift and stays right with me all day while the male takes over the night shift. They never leave my side. Later, when I'm up during the day they'll tell me when it's time for a nap. As I get better they relax their vigil and begin resuming their normal cat duties.

The new dogs don't seem to notice. Home from the hospital I had to be careful to keep them from jumping right on my middle with all four paws.

The cats just think the dogs are soooo obsequious.

-- Posted by Ducky on Fri, Jul 27, 2007, at 12:23 PM

After reading your stories I am ready to get me a cat, it sounds that they are more senitive and compassionate that a lot of people that I know. My daughter has two and she spends as much money on those two that most people do on their kids.

-- Posted by rusty nail on Fri, Jul 27, 2007, at 2:34 PM

My dogs are much more expensive than the cats, because the dogs have to have all that outside protection - Interceptor for heartworms, Frontline for ticks, fleas, and etc..., rabies and distemper shots, tapeworm pills.....The list goes on and on.

The cats stay inside, so their cost is pretty minimal.

I like dogs and cats equally well but for different reasons. When it comes to chasing a frisbee, a cat is pretty much a bust!

I had a friend who said that male cats (whether neutered or otherwise) are better lap cats. Has anyone heard that?

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Jul 27, 2007, at 2:42 PM

I believe any animal can sense a lot more than we know...

-- Posted by LUFER on Fri, Jul 27, 2007, at 4:21 PM

Cats rule,dogs drool and too many of any animal is just uncool.(especially cats).

Nobody plans to be the crazy cat lady,that's why when the humane society busts them for hoarding they are genuinely shocked.Who knew that 300 cats in a 12x 60 one bedroom trailor was wrong?

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Fri, Jul 27, 2007, at 4:33 PM

There is no question that many animals have intuitive powers that are far beyond those attributed to humans. Oscar's ability is not unusual. Rupert Sheldrake, an English biologist, has written extensively about the extra sensory powers of animals. His book on the subject is, "Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals: An Investigation" by Rupert Sheldrake.

Sheldrake also coined the concept of "morphic resonance" to explain the well documented phenomena that people in different parts of the world can have the same thought or idea at the same time. Fascinating stuff. Sheldrake's website is, http://www.sheldrake.org

-- Posted by FJGuy on Fri, Jul 27, 2007, at 7:16 PM

I think Sheldrake coined the term "morphic resonance" and now 20 something years later it sounds scientific.Best I recall,he's more romantic than scientific with his telepathy theories, but from college Psych 101-no real empirical data to uphold his ideas. I enjoyed his dog book much more than L.Ron Hubbard and his convuluted "engram"/load of crap alien stories.I apologize to all Scientologists in Stoddard county if I seem to have scorned your beliefs. Don't be going all Sci-fi jihad on me now!

Is Sheldrake still alive? Wow,I thought I would NEVER use this stuff-just memorizing it for the test!

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Fri, Jul 27, 2007, at 9:40 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
There are Scientologists in Stoddard County? Gee, who knew??

I knew from experience that cats - and some dogs - were intuitive, but I've never read Sheldrake.

One of our local dog trainers is working on a project whereby dogs can sniff the presense of cancer in humans. You've probably seen some of it on the national news. Pretty interesting stuff. I hope something comes of that.

I think we haven't even begun to scratch the surface on the capabilities of these animals.

Rupert Sheldrake's research and ideas may seem odd to linear thinkers, but they are consistent with the way the world works, and the way that new discoveries are made. Can you imagine the ridicule endured by the first person who suggested making a clear hard substance out of sand? But glass is about 70% sand.

If linear thinkers had devised snowflakes then each one would be the same, just like a McDonald's hamburger is whether it is bought in Advance or Moscow or Paris. Yuck. Thank goodness nature isn't linear, so we are blessed with each snowflake being a unique creation. Think about it. How many straight lines are there in nature? Dang few. Take a 12" straight edge during a walk and compare it to every natural object you encounter. I'll bet dollars to donuts that you won't find anything that matches perfectly to the straight edge. Nature ain't straight, its curvy and goes all which way. You could say that Sheldrake thinks in curves, so he is open to considering and exploring ideas that to some people might seem a bit odd.

Sheldrakes's website even has an article that the research of one of his major detractors fully supports Sheldrake's investigation into the ability of dogs to sense when their "owner" leaves someplace to head home.(Please, if someone has a better word than "owner" let me know. Do you see the dog feeding or brushing or bathing or paying the doctor bills of its "owner"? NOOOOO. So if anything the dog is the master of its so-called "owner.")

It isn't just dogs and cats, etc. that have interesting abilities. Sheldrake has also investigated such things as the phenomena of a person sensing when someone is standing behind him or her, and people knowing when they are being stared at.

I don't see any similarity between Sheldrake and L Ron Hubbard. Sheldrake is a serious researcher, and Hubbard was a struggling science fiction writer who was smart enough to figure out there was more money and prestige in creating a religion.

We should thank Oscar for helping to stimulate interest in sensory abilities that may only seem mysterious because we don't understand how they work.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, Jul 28, 2007, at 2:23 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Well, my daughter would take issue with "owner" or "master," either one, if it was referring to the human. You'll get off the hook by calling the dog the "master."

I guess I'll have to google Sheldrake, so I can find out how to truly think outside the box. Anything to avoid thinking like the McDonald pattern......

I had a lady on my mail route that had 70 cats, she was known as the cat lady, any one that wanted to get rid of any cat just dropped them off at her house they were welcome and they were well taken care of she had a little vw and when she went to the pet store she loaded that car full of food what a gal her name was Edith Clark sure miss her.

-- Posted by rusty nail on Sat, Jul 28, 2007, at 3:30 PM

What happened to her cats when she died?

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Jul 28, 2007, at 5:20 PM

Sorry folks, but I just have this vision of Oscar cuddled up on the bed with his furry little paws covering the patient's mouth. Does someone actually WATCH this cat? Just curious. Guess I'm just a dog person.

-- Posted by letseatcake633 on Thu, Aug 2, 2007, at 8:27 PM

Hahahaha! I knew someone would come up with the idea that the cat was actually murdering the nursing home residents!!

Leave it to the cake lady to think outside the litter box!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Aug 2, 2007, at 9:31 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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