Friday, September 16, 2011

As Seen on House vs. the Reality of "Death Cats"

A nurse freaks out because a cat curled up next to her. She tells House that the cat is predicting her imminent death in the episode titled Here Kitty. The nurse has seen the cat repeatedly seek out the beds of certain patients in the nursing home. Those patients then soon die.

The episode may have been inspired by an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in which a physician who works with elderly patients told of A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat. The article included this section:

“A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses
to note Oscar’s presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and
returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.’s chart off the medical-records
rack and begins to make phone calls.”

The phone calls were to alert family members that their loved one might die very soon. The article about Oscar the Cat was written by Providence, Rhode Island, geriatrician David M. Dosa, M.D. who says Oscar has been remarkably accurate.

“He really doesn’t miss. What’s interesting about Oscar is that he is not 
particularly friendly most of the time. He really doesn’t hang out with patients 
or other people on the unit. He keeps to himself and does his cat thing. But 
when somebody is near the end, he seemingly becomes comfortable with 
people and spends a lot of time holding these vigils."

But Dr. Dosa disagree with House's ultimate explanation. While House suspects the heat of fevers attracts the cat, Dr. Dosa leans toward the cat's sense of smell detecting signs that humans and our machines can't pick up.

Read the full discussion in “House, M.D. vs. Reality

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