Predicting Imminent Death

It is fairly common to hear of cases of people who were able to predict that their death was coming shortly before they passed away. It included a personal experience with my grandfather who seemed to have known it a month in advance. While it is a phenomenon which is difficult to explain, with many people being sceptical claiming that such predictions tend to be a coincidence, some animals were found to be able to predict deaths with noteworthy accuracy.

A relatively recent story is that of a cat called Oscar, who lives at a nursing home in Rhode Island and enjoys walking around the patients' rooms without interacting much with them. However, it was noticed that the cat is very friendly towards patients who are about to die and his prolonged presence by their bedside would often be an indicator of the patient being about to pass away within several hours. To date, Oscar had accurately predicted approximately 100 deaths. In 2007, there was a rumour that the cat had been killed by the elderly residents due to an apparent assumption that he was the one causing deaths. Fortunately, it was later confirmed that the rumour is not true as Oscar is still alive.

A prevailing theory which attempts to explain the cat's unusual ability is the hypothesis that he is able to detect the smell of chemicals released before death, which cannot usually be detected by humans. Many cases of other animals, such as dogs howling (see this article), have also been reported, and even some humans believe they are able to detect the smell of someone else's impending death, although they often attribute it to psychic abilities, which I am personally sceptical about.

Scientists have recently found that loss of smell in a person can often suggest their approaching death, predicting it more accurately than diagnosis of a serious disease such as cancer. This is because the nerve which is responsible for the sense of smell in humans is the only part of the nervous system which continually gets regenerated by stem cells. Thus, the loss of smell can indicate that the body has entered a stage where it is no longer able to repair itself, ultimately resulting in death. However, the hypothesis of human bodies releasing chemicals and/or pheromones prior to their death, which can be detected by other creatures, has not yet been verified and research still continues.


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