The following exceptional cats have made headlines for their unusual accomplishments and proclivities.
Oscar – the Death-Predicting Cat
Oscar has lived at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Providence, Rhode Island, since he was a kitten. Oscar achieved fame several years ago when geriatrician David Dosa published an account of Oscar’s remarkable ability.
Oscar is not particularly sociable – until a patient is on the verge of death. Oscar snuggles up beside the dying individual, maintaining his vigil until the patient passes away. If denied access to the patient, Oscar will scratch frantically at the door.
Thus far Oscar has predicted approximately 50 deaths at the nursing home. His accuracy is so high that when Oscar jumps on a patient’s bed, staff alert the patient’s family. Many families have found Oscar’s presence comforting, and have praised him in eulogies and newspaper obituaries.
Experts have not determined how Oscar senses impending death, but Dosa believes the cat uses his powerful sense of smell to detect the small biochemicals changes that precede death.
Howie – the Incredible Journeying Cat
When his owner, Kirsten, went on an overseas trip, Howie the Persian was left in the care of her grandparents, but he soon disappeared from their home. The following year, a ragged stray appeared on Kirsten’s doorstep. After cleaning up the injured, scrawny animal, Kirsten and her family realized that it was Howie, who had travelled 1,000 miles through the harsh Australian outback to return home. No one knows how the cat managed to survive his remarkable solo journey.
Cuty Boy – the World’s Smartest Cat
Cuty Boy, a Persian from Dubai, has been featured in numerous media stories, which claim that the cat can solve a variety of complicated math problems. Cuty Boy gives answers by bumping owner Hema Mohan Chandra’s face with his nose the correct number of times, though for problems yielding high-number answers, the cat selects an answer card by twitching his tail.
According to cat expert Sarah Hartwell, Cuty Boy is responding to unconscious cuing rather than solving math problems on his own. He has become so adept at reading human body language that he picks up on very small motions such as a slight facial twitch when he reaches the right number of taps or the correct answer card. Cuty Boy also appears to understand phrases in 8 languages. However, although the cat may have learned the meanings of many individual words, he probably relies on involuntary cuing for much of his language interpretation as well.
Support for Hartwell’s hypothesis comes from the fact that Cuty Boy appears to dislike performing in public, likely because tension alters his owner’s body language and distractions make it more difficult to pick up on subtle cues. Thus, while Cuty Boy’s achievements are remarkable, they likely stem from perceptive rather than mathematical abilities, though it is impossible to discount the more miraculous possibility that Cuty Boy is a math genius.
Scarlett – the Heroic Mother Cat
Scarlett, a brave calico, was featured in headlines around the world in 1996 when, despite sustaining severe injuries, she rushed into the flames of a burning building again and again to save her kittens. With her eyes blistered shut, Scarlett identified her kittens using her nose, counting the five to make sure that she’d saved them all before collapsing into unconsciousness.
The little cat family was brought to the North Shore Animal League by firefighter David Giannelli, where their injuries were treated. One kitten died, but the mother and the other four survived. Due to worldwide media attention, the Animal League fielded over 7,000 adoption requests. The kittens were adopted out in pairs and Scarlett, who required ongoing care due to her injuries, went to Karen Wellen, a compassionate woman who was happy to take on a special needs cat.
Scarlett lived for another 12 years in the loving home of her adoptive family and continued to make headlines for quite some time. She was featured in numerous articles and books, and on the TV program Animal Planet. The Scarlett Room, which showcases animals available for adoption, and an animal heroism award have been created in her name.
MacCavity – the Mysterious Bus Riding Cat
Macavity is the nickname for a mystery cat in the UK that rides the 331 bus several times each week. He usually arrives at the same time, at his usual stop, and gets off near a local fish and chips shop. The white cat, which has one blue eye and one orange eye, has been described as an ideal passenger by fellow commuter Paul Brennan, who notes that the cat “sits quietly [and] minds his own business.”
Since Macavity, there have been a few other bus-riding cats, including Casper (video below) and Dodger.
- Canfield, J.; Hansen, M.V.; Becker, M.; & Kline, C. (1999). Chicken Soup for the Cat and Dog Lover’s Soul. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications Inc.
- Choron, S.; Choron, H.; & Moore, A. (2007). Planet Cat: A CAT-alog. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
- Hartwell, S. (2007). “Feline Medical Curiosities: Miscellaneous.” MessyBeast.com.
- Leonard, T. (1 February 2010). “Cat Predicts 50 Deaths in RI Nursing Home.” Telegraph.co.uk.
- North Shore Animal League America. (15 October 2008). “Scarlett Passes Away.” NSALAmerica.org.
- The Daily Mail. (12 April 2007). “Mystery Cat Takes Regular Bus to the Shops.” DailyMail.co.uk.