There’s a cat who can predict people’s death, cats and rats who can sniff out landmines, and a tiny dog who saved a baby from a rattlesnake – these were some of the headlines that grabbed the world’s attention the past few days.
For lack of human heroes, the world is seeing animals with superpowers!
Oscar, the cat at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, walks past an activity room at the facility.
@News item 1: In Providence, Rhode Island, there’s a report about a cat named Oscar who seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.
“He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,” said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one,” said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.
The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.
After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He’d sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.
Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. “This is not a cat that’s friendly to people,” he said.
Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill
@ News item 2: In Bogota, Colombia, for the past year, a special Colombian police unit has been locking rats in cages with cats as part of a project to train the rodents to sniff out the more than 100,000 landmines planted mostly by leftist rebels across this conflict-wracked Andean country.
A rat and cat are seen in a cage at a police station in Bogota, Colombia.
Bringing the rats face to face with an enemy allows them to stay more focused once they are released, veterinarian Luisa Mendez, who’s been working with the animals for two years, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“Here the cats play with the rats instead of attacking them,” Mendez said. “The cats wear shields on their nails so they can’t cause any injuries and as a result the rats feel comfortable playing around them.”
The rodents are taught to freeze in front of mines, but had difficulty staying put for fear of being attacked by predators.
Col. Javier Cifuentes, who oversees the project, said the rats’ success rate in mine detection is 96 percent. Unlike dogs, the rats weigh a lot less and therefore don’t trigger explosions.
Colombia is home to the world’s largest number of land mine victims. Last year, there were 1,108 victims, or about one every eight hours, the government says. Nearly a quarter of the victims die from their injuries.
@News item 3: In Masonville, Colorada, Zoey, a tiny Chihuahua, proved that in times of danger she could be a pillbull. She proved this last week when a rattlesnake lunged at her owners’ 1-year-old grandson.
Denise Long holds her grandson, Booker West, 1, as he pets Zoey, held by Monty Long in the backyard of their home near Masonville, Colorado.
Booker West was splashing his hands in a birdbath in his grandparents’ northern Colorado back yard when the snake slithered up to the toddler, rattled and struck. Five-pound Zoey jumped in the way and took the bites.
“She got in between Booker and the snake, and that’s when I heard her yipe,” said Monty Long, the boy’s grandfather.
The dog required treatment and for a time it appeared she might not survive. But she did, and now all’s well that ends well.
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