Measured Against Reality

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oscar, the "death kitty", "found murdered"

Via Orac I find the news that Oscar, the "death kitty" who could supposedly predict who would die (explained and debunked here, among others) has died. Or actually, maybe I should say was murdered:

Oscar, the nursing home cat who could seemingly sense the impending death of patients, was found dead early yesterday. The cat gained recent notoriety when reports of his ability to detect the impending death of the terminally ill became public. Seemingly aware that death was at hand, Oscar would reportedly climb into the bed of patients during their final hours.

Officials at the facility would not reveal the cause of death, but did acknowledge rumors that the cat was becoming increasingly unpopular among the patients. One knowledgeable source - who agreed to speak with us on the condition of anonymity - confirmed increasing animosity toward the animal, and that a dented bedpan was found near the body.

This is incredible. Someone actually killed a cat because they were afraid it could magically kill them. Although if it was murder (which hasn't been shown yet, though it's quite probable) the blame rests at least as much on the staff who perpetuated the insane and inane belief that the cat would predict death as the nursing home patient (or some "do-gooder" wishing to rid the patients of the scourge) who actually did the deed.

Some people seem to wonder why I care so much about science, skepticism, and rationality. "Surely it's ok if people want to believe in magical things, it makes the world more lively, more interesting. Besides, it doesn't hurt anyone," They say. And they couldn't be more wrong, on all counts. It dulls the mind, it makes people into gullible fools, and it can induce fears that cause people to do insane, unthinkable things, such as killing a harmless cat for no reason.

The truly sad thing is that this is a minor scene in the drama that is the folly of humanity. The lack of adequate skepticism has harmed so many, emotionally and physically, and has killed so many that they're beyond count. This little cat is just another victim to our irrationality. Yet another casualty that needn't have happened.

Next time someone asks you why rationality and skepticism are important, tell them about Oscar. Tell them about the cat that was killed because of the ludicrous delusions and superstition of the people around him. Then tell them of all the others, now and throughout history, irreparably harmed by belief. If they are not converted, then they have not a heart.

Rest in peace Oscar.

EDIT: I want to point out that I'm not a total idiot, (although I am admittedly an idiot), and did notice that the source called itself "pseudo-journalism", but thought that not only one but two Science Bloggers wouldn't just fall uncritically for it (and thought the source was more daily show and less onion), but apparently it isn't. Whoops. I feel that my rhetoric still stands, even if only in truthiness, and not in truth. Let's just pretend I was reacting as though it were true. So unless a comment has something to say besides "it's a fake!" it won't be posted. Sorry, I dislike too much redundancy.


  • you're an idiot

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:58 AM, August 19, 2007  

  • you realize the site you cite is "The Standard of Excellence in Pseudojournalism"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:07 AM, August 19, 2007  

  • Haha. That's a fake news story from The Daily Redundancy. Other startling articles from that same site include: 'Sectarian Church To Invest In Gaydar', and 'Running With Scissors Now Federal Offense'.

    By Blogger RipperM, at 8:10 AM, August 19, 2007  

  • Not skeptical enough about things we read on the Internet though, ehh?

    By Blogger Rightcoast, at 8:16 AM, August 19, 2007  

  • If I were you I would be cringing in embarrassment. Skeptic indeed!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:45 AM, August 19, 2007  

  • Anonymous #3, meh, everyone makes mistakes, I never claimed I was infallible or critical of everything I read (I found this at a source I consider very, very trustworthy), it's more annoying than anything, I thought it was a good post. But I suppose it is good that Oscar's still alive, hopefully this story won't prove prophetic.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 8:48 AM, August 19, 2007  

  • Don't worry Stu. The simple fact is that it really does seem likely that some superstitious idiot might actually try to do something stupid like trying to kill the cat before it 'kills' them.

    - doctorgoo

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:46 AM, August 19, 2007  

  • doctorgoo, that was something I thought too. Also, thanks for not railing on me!

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 11:54 AM, August 19, 2007  

  • curious about the legitimacy of tons of posts regarding oscar the cat's supposed death, i did the unthinkable.. i called the nursing home and asked. oscar the cat is just fine, reported the answering nurse, though she did sound a bit harassed. i felt bad, but my curiousity has been sated.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:29 AM, August 21, 2007  

  • The last full paragraph above the picture gave me goosebumps. You're such a great writer, Stuart.

    By Blogger Kat, at 12:02 AM, August 25, 2007  

  • Kat, I often think the same thing when I read your blog.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 7:30 AM, August 25, 2007  

  • While this example might be fake, there are real examples of cats being killed over superstition:

    Well, unless the Telegraph is satirical...?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:54 AM, September 04, 2007  

  • Two family members of mine work in that nursing home. Oscar is still doing alive and well today, and apparently enjoys taking rides on the janitor carts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:16 PM, November 03, 2008  

  • haha ur a stupid idiot guy dat story is fake dawg u fukn retard fag fukn

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:19 PM, February 21, 2010  

  • it is sad that another pussy cat has died. wh o killed that cat?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:04 PM, February 21, 2010  

  • I don't know why people could do that kind of thing to cat for the mystery gift that he had.

    By Anonymous pharmacy reviews, at 10:24 AM, January 12, 2012  

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