Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: April 28, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Oscar, the cat who can predict when nursing home patients die, has received quite a bit of press over the last few years.   Oscar, one of several resident cats at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island, seems to instinctively know when one of the patients at the facility is getting ready to die.   After over fifty correct calls by Oscar, Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University, began to investigate this phenomenon and, in 2007, published an article about it in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Making Rounds with Oscar – The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat is the result of Dosa’s interviews with family members and of patients and staff members at Steere House.   Dosa, who admits that he doesn’t know much about cats, and who is initially skeptical about Oscar’s abilities, hears a common thread in all the interviews:  over and over, patients and staff members tell Dosa how much Oscar’s presence has meant to them and their families during their time at the nursing facility.  Oscar provides comfort and quiet, gentle support when nothing or noone else can.

This cat’s extraordinary talents will come as no surprise to cat lovers, nor will they question Oscar’s abilities.  He truly is a remarkable cat, and he, and the other cats who live at the nursing home, clearly demonstrate how having cats at a nursing home can have a wonderfully calming and beneficial effect on the patients, staff and visitors.

Sadly, the title of the book is a bit misleading.  If you were expecting to learn more about Oscar’s extraordinary abilities and how he knows when someone is about to die, you will be disappointed.  The majority of this book is devoted to dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the devastating effect these diseases have not only on the patient who is suffering from them, but also on the patient’s family members and caregivers.  As such, the book surely is a wonderful resource for families who are dealing with this heartbreaking disease in a loved one, but it will leave cat lovers feel a little cheated.

I really wanted to like this book.  I love the idea of a nursing home with resident cats.  There have been numerous accounts of how patients who stopped responding to and recognizing loved ones will still respond to animals.  This has been written about exceptionally well by Jon Katz in his book Izzy and Lenore about Izzy, his hospice trained dog.  Dosa, too, acknowledges that he believes that animals are a way for these patients to still connect, but, in my opinion, falls short of exploring the premise more deeply.

This is, perhaps not surprisingly, given Dosa’s medical specialty, primarily a book about dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and it addresses those topics well and in great depth.  However, Oscar, the star of the book and its title, an exceptional cat with the special ability to not only predict death, but to comfort a dying patient through his or her final moments, does not get the attention he deserves.  I had hoped that the book would take a look at a possible scientific explanation behind Oscar’s abilities, and perhaps, also address the spiritual dimension of why this gifted cat does what he does.  This is a good book, full of compassion, caring and hope, but it left me wanting more.

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8 Comments on Book Review: Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa, M.D.

  1. I would love to win a copy of your book. My interest in it lies with the fact that I have a therapy cat named Dexter and I see every time I take him out how he connects with the people he visits so I can kind of relate to the response that Oscar must get from patients and their families. Dexter’s love and tender approach has brought people to tears. We visit nursing homes (general population as well at dementia/Alzheimers patients), in home visits with people who are homebound, hospice settings, Easter Seals camps and reading programs with kids at inner city libraries. We are a registered pet partner team through the Delta Society. Dexter has a gift and I feel it is my responsibility to share that gift with others. He truly was born to be a therapy cat as he loves to go out and purrs then entire time we are visiting. The world needs more pets like Oscar and Dexter!

  2. I would really like a chance to win this book.
    My mom had Altzheimer’s for 15 years and since I
    am now approaching the age when she first got it
    I am very scared that I may get it as well. My mom’s
    3 other siblings also had Altzheimer’s so the chances
    are just to high for me. Thank you.

  3. Marjorie, I’m sorry about your mother – it’s such a devastating disease. Animals seem to be able to get through to patients even when human caregivers can’t. I hope you can convince your mother to get a cat.

  4. That’s a really interesting point, Bernadette – that Oscar may be emotionally distant because his “work” with the dying is draining for him.

  5. Thanks for reading and letting us know–I had heard that it was short on Oscar and long on dementia from a reviewer on NPR, but it’s good to hear it from a cat lover.

    We know that our animals can sense things about us and can communicate with us in ways we don’t even understand but, like humans with extrasensory perception abilities, I wonder if Oscar is cognizant of the emotions of the people around him. I remember a comment about Oscar from the very beginning that he was emotionally distant and not very well-liked, and I’ve often wondered if that wasn’t in part due to the emotional burden of what he was perceiving and dealing with. Imagine walking down a hallway of people and being able to sense who would soon die…I’m not sure I could put up a happy face in view of that.

  6. Hello,
    Please enter me in your contest to win a copy of Making Rounds with Oscar. My mother is in the first stages of Alzheimer’s and I have been trying to convince her to get a furry friend to help her through the bad times. I think this book could help not only me by knowing more about the disease, but I could also tell mom how much a cat could help her get through the rough patches.

    Thank you,


  7. Gosh, I am sure glad you did this review of this book. I had almost bought it and now I am glad I didn’t. When I get a book about a cat or dog or animal, I want it to be about that cat or dog. That is too bad. Since I won the last book, I won’t enter this contest. Good luck to someone.
    Have a great week end.

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