Making the rounds with Oscar by Dr David Dosa is a very interesting and revealing book. David is sceptical about the stories he hears on the third flood of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, where he is a Geriatric Consultant for people living with dementia – in particular Alzheimer’s .

Steere House has four resident felines, plus a rabbit, but only Oscar seems to know when one of the residents is about to die. With uncanny precision, he enters the room of a resident, sniffs the air and curls up alongside them until they pass from this world to the next.

It was thought that Oscar was merely compassionate and that in remaining with the resident, he gave them a degree of comfort until they breathed their last.

When David Dosa began his research by asking family members for their views on Oscar’s presence, almost all of them said that they felt he was not only there for their parent or relative, but that he was also there for them, giving them comfort and affection too. It was almost as if he was empathising with the bereaved family members.

David Dosa started writing his book with a degree of scepticism but in talking to family members, he came to realise and understand, that Oscar did appear to have a sixth sense that the other cats at Steere House didn’t share.

No one really knows how Oscar knows when one of the residents of Steere House is about to die, but it thought that as the body begins its decline, chemicals are released which Oscar can detect. There is often an aroma of sweet violets in a room when someone has died but whatever it is that Oscar can sense, it is undetectable to humans.

David’s book deals with the decaying progress that Alzheimer’s causes and the case studies that he relates are very moving. To watch someone you love and have spent most of your life with slowly unlearn everything they ever knew until in the end, they don’t even recognise their own loved ones, is a very sad experience.

The one constant throughout is that Oscar has a vital role to play. When he goes into a resident’s room, the nursing staff know they have time to call the family so that they can spend what little time is left, while Oscar snuggles up to their parent, partner or family member, his purrs give comfort to them as well.

For anyone who understands animals, or wants to understand better the enigma that cats are (and that’s a paradox to start with!) this book gives an insight into that. Living with cats for the past 25 years and having them care for me at different times in my life, I’m not surprised at Oscar’s behaviour – but it would be reassuring to know that when one is about to leave this earth for the next step of our journey, that our passage may be eased by the gentle purrs of a loving feline companion curled up along side us.

This book is published by Headline Books (,uk) and is available in hardback and paperback at any good book store, or and

The ISBN number is: 978-0-7553-1813-1.

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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