Can a Cat Save Your Life by Telling You That You Have Cancer?

Sue and her cat
Sue McKenzie and her cat
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Every so often we read about a cat who saved the life of his owner. The owner is convinced that their life has been saved by their cat because their cat detected the cancer and then gave them a signal of some sort to tell their owner. Is this believable? Are the stories really about cat owners who want to believe that their cat has detected cancer and had the foresight and presence of mind to tell them that they have cancer which may be life-threatening or are the stories really about the hard fact that a cat can detect cancer perhaps by the scent that it gives off and then tell their owner about its existence?

The latest story to come off the Internet on this subject is one that took place in Scunthorpe in the North of England. A Scunthorpe woman, Sue McKenzie, is convinced that her cat (who incidentally is 24 years of age) told her that she had cancer by constantly patting her shoulder. Her cat would not leave her alone.

“My cat is never fussy, but he just wouldn’t leave me alone… I took him to the vets thinking that there was something wrong with him, but he was fine and the vet said he might be trying to tell me something… Then I found a lump in my neck.”

Sue firmly believes that animals do have another sense which is used to detect a serious illness in their human companion. She is very thankful because the cancer would have been a lot worse if her cat had not given her the signal that there was something wrong by constantly tapping her.

Sue is so grateful and she loves her cat so much that she plans to be cremated with him. I’m not sure that she can plan that but it is a very sweet thought.

I believe that cats can do this although I know of no hard scientific information which supports the idea. However, I’m sure that on occasions the cat’s guardian/caretaker interprets the behaviour of their cat in such a way that it fits in with their belief that their cat has picked up that they have cancer, or some other serious illness, and then told them about it. I believe that on occasions and perhaps on every occasion (I’m not sure) the cat’s owner is the most important player in this partnership under these circumstances. That is not to say cats can’t detect serious illnesses such as cancer. Perhaps cancer is a special case because its presence may alter the person’s scent.

What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “Can a Cat Save Your Life by Telling You That You Have Cancer?”

  1. I’ve written on here before about a work colleague, whose cat raised concerns by constantly sniffing around her breast and armpit area, then hissing at her. He would apparently try to gently bite the area after smelling it first. This was such unsual behaviour for this highly affectionate cat, that it prompted my friend to have a check-up and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Within a week she had a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy treatment. She later told me that despite the consultant’s reassurances, she only felt she’d got the all-clear when her cat’s behaviour returned to normal around her.

    Both she and I are convinced that he could smell something “bad” about the cancerous cells. Cats have a highly keen sense of smell and it’s already acknowledged that they can often detect subtle changes in our natural body scent due to pregnancy or illness, so I believe it’s possible they can also smell cancerous changes. Perhaps this is linked to them being a predator and helps them avoid eating potentially diseased prey?

    Study groups are already training dogs to recognise certain odours generated by cancerous cells, so it really isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that some cats will notice similar odour changes in their owners.

  2. Yes I totally believe that animals can sense their owners illnesses.
    There was a story a few years back about a cat alerting its owners to a gas leak within the house and waking them up to it a few hours after bedtime. They were all thankfully saved from death by gas inhalation due to the cat uncharacteristically prodding them by paw until they woke.
    So yes, I reckon animals can sense or smell a lot that of things that we can’t. After all a cats smell is hundreds of times stronger than ours and who’s to say that cancer smells really bad to them!

  3. I have heard stories such as this before, but it had to do with seizures. The cat knew before the human that they were going to have a seizure and the cat would stand in front of them,knowing that the person was going to fall. They do have powerful senses that let them know about various weather conditions, earthquakes-some type of senses that react to waves,smells, noises, perhaps atmospheric pressure and sounds and smells that humans may be aware of but not before the dog or cat is. If the guardian is paying attention, it is very easy to see that when you are sick or sad and crying, they tune in right away by approaching and sometimes staying right with you until you are well or they sense that all is OK before they leave.

    • I’ve also read about cats alerting their owners to oncoming seizures and diabetes.

      Last year a family in the U.K. adopted a rescue cat who seems to knows when their diabetic daughter’s blood sugar levels drop dangerously low. Apparently the little girl is prone to night hypos and the cat has raised the alarm at least 40 times in the first five months of living with the family. What I find most curious about this particular story is that on some occasions when the cat raises the alarm, she’s not able to enter the girl’s bedroom, but still knows there is a problem and alerts the parents instead. I know humans can sometimes detect an acetone smell on the breath of a diabetic whose blood sugar is too low, so perahps the cat can smell that even when she’s not in the same room as the little girl?

      There are lots of reported incidents of cats detecting illnesses in humans, so perhaps it’s time for some scientific research or study group focusing on this subject?

  4. I just finished reading a book written by a doctor who treated patients in a home for dementia. One of the cats who lived there would always lie on the person’s bed, and within hours that person died. The name of the book is Oscar. I will send the link for more details.


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