For the most part, it sounds like the doctor is trying to focus on the comfort that the cat can provide terminal patients. Which is good. I'm a big believer in the wonders of a fluffy, purring, shredding machine. But this?
When Oscar was about six months old the staff noticed that he would curl up to sleep with patients who were about to die.
So far he has accurately predicted about 50 deaths.
Sigh. I'd really like to know just what they mean by "accurately." Does the cat only hang out with people who are about to kick the bucket? Does everyone he sleeps near die within a certain amount of time? Cats sleep an awful lot... I realize he's at a nursing home and all, but are patients dropping like flies there? Or does he just sleep by himself until it's time for someone to kick the bucket?
I realize that it's just a fluff article with a cute picture of the DeathCat, but still.
"I don't think Oscar is that unique, but he is in a unique environment. Animals are remarkable in their ability to see things we don't, be it the dog that sniffs out cancer or the fish that predicts earthquakes. Animals know when they are needed."
Fish predict earthquakes? I actually googled this. And found another fluff article about Oscar, the earthquake-predicting fish.
By the way, an okay summation of the "animals predicting earthquakes" thing can be found here, courtesy of National Geographic. That Rupert Sheldrake is an advocate of this idea makes me a little suspicious to begin with.1
A reproducible connection between animal behavior and earthquakes could be made, he said, but "as the Chinese have discovered, not all earthquakes cause unusual animal behavior while others do. Only through research could we find out why there might be such differences."
So... animals can predict some earthquakes but not others? Now, I confess, I am no expert on earthquakes, so I could very well be wrong. But at its most basic, an earthquake is an earthquake is an earthquake. Either you've got seismic waves of some magnitude or you don't. Maybe you could argue that large earthquakes with a lot of foreshocks might be in a different category, but that's also the sort of thing you can observe with seismographs - and sadly, lots of little earthquakes aren't necessarily a predictor of a big one, or we'd be able to predict big earthquakes ourselves and wouldn't be worrying about what the animals think.
Honestly, I'd be willing to buy the idea of animals reacting to foreshocks if there were a decent explanation for it that's backed up with actual evidence or at the least a plausible mechanism. Animals interact with and observe the environment differently than us, so I can certainly believe that they can notice things that we don't and react to them. But when we're talking a situation where one time, dogs howled, an another time, a bunch of hibernating snakes woke up, and this other time the cattle were restless, the inconsistency really doesn't help the case. It just ends up sounding like a lot of confirmation bias to me, kind of like Oscar the DeathCat.
My new hypothesis is that animals named Oscar are psychic. My sample size of two confirms it.
1 - Yes, this is technically me committing a genetic fallacy, but darnit, people. I'm a writer, not a philosopher.