OSCAR the cat makes his grand entrances just as life is about to leave.
A hop onto the bed, a fastidious lick of the paws, then a snuggle beside a nursing home patient with little time left. Oscar's purr, when keeping close company with the dying, is so intense it is almost a low rumble.
"He's a cat with an uncanny instinct for death," said David Dosa, assistant professor at the Brown University School of Medicine and a geriatric specialist. "He attends deaths. He's pretty insistent on it."
In the two years since Oscar was adopted into the dementia unit of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence he has maintained close vigil over the deaths of more than 25 patients, nursing staff and doctors say.
Dr Dosa had an essay on Oscar published yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine.