the Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat
by David Dosa, M.D.
In spite of it\’s serious subject matter, this book was a light read- I finished it in two days. The author is a doctor who works at a nursing home that provides end of life care, where many of the patients have dementia. This nursing home welcomes animals- there are six cats in residence (also a bird, I think but that didn\’t get much mention). The cats provide comfort and distraction to the residents. One of them, Oscar, caught the attention of visiting family members and staff- he\’s not a very social cat, but when a patient is within a few hours of death, Oscar enters the room and sits on the bed until the end. The doctor was skeptical about this at first, until he started asking details and opinions from those who had seen Oscar performing his vigils. He couldn\’t deny there was something unusual- and very comforting- in the cat\’s behavior. Most of the book is actually stories about patients and their families, especially how they come to terms with later stages of Alzheimer\’s, and make difficult decisions about care and treatment. The cat kind of feels like a side note for most of this. I found it all very thoughtful and compassionate, a good read even though it\’s not mainly about the cat, as the cover might lead you to expect. There is some speculation near the end about how Oscar could actually know when someone was near death- he never appeared to be wrong- and maybe it was from a scenting a chemical given off by cell death. Like how dogs can sniff cancer. There\’s also mention of cases where people have been ill, and their cat sits with them unusually close, for longer periods, sometimes never leaving the bed. Certainly seems like they can sense more than we often give them credit for.
Rating: 3/5 225 pages, 2010