Joan is my 14-year-old cat. She was the first to start curling up beside my bed pillow to my right. Because she rested there often, her fur gathered and I began placing a flannel shirt in the spot for her to lie on. Then Forest, my 8-year-old male, began curling up beside my pillow to my left. I placed a shirt in that spot for him.

The sleep-by-mom’s head routine morphed into scenarios that have made me smile, find peace, and feel honored — and fascinated.

I wake to the cats licking my forehead or eyebrows, depending on which cat I am facing. I reach my hands up to either side of my pillow while half asleep, and they commence surround-sound motors, purring me back to sleep. I find toes of a back paw pressed against my forehead, or a soft front paw touching my hand.

While Forest dislikes being covered up with blankets, Joan loves my blanket and sheet pulled up over her back when I tuck myself in.

I have now replaced the shirts that lined their stations with 24-inch square flannel quilts my mom made. Joan’s has a flower-print motif, while Forest’s has an appropriate monkey design on a field of blue.

When I rise in the morning, I leave their spots uncovered so they can snuggle beside my pillow throughout the day.

Joan always hops up to her post from the same side of the bed. Forest insists on arriving in a bold fashion beside Joan, causing her to growl. He then walks across me with paws to my face and neck and a furry belly tickling my nose.

Their presence and purring beside my pillow brings me peace, helping to lull me to sleep.

I am also honored that they lick (clean) me like I am their mom.

Then, recently something enchanting happened.

My pillow is an orthopedic type, made of foam and somewhat flat for neck support. While I rest my head and neck on it, Forest and Joan started to do the same. Perhaps they studied my behavior as I slept. Maybe they also find it supportive.

One morning I opened my eyes to see Forest with his face pressed into the pillow and his shoulder resting against it. Joan also started to rest her shoulder and head against the pillow. Sometimes they put one front leg on the pillow as though they are resting it over the arm of a chair.

Now three heads share my orthopedic pillow: mine, Joan’s, and Forest’s. Polite, they always leave space for me in the middle.

I open my eyes to pure love, and my ears to purring — and sometimes snoring.

Before I sleep and when I wake, I turn my head to one side, cup one furry head in my hand and say, "I love you." Then I turn to the other side and do the same. Along with "I love you" I share a kiss to their cheek, nose or forehead.

I swear that they smile back at me.

Forest’s sleepy, peaceful posture I have caught on camera to circulate via social media to friends.

He purrs while listening to my voice speaking to him as we share my pillow to rest our heads.

Though he loves to be held, Forest rarely wants to sleep on my lap. He also prefers the floor in an upside-down position where he can watch everything around him. To have him sleep beside my head, with his forehead against mine, is bonding time that I cherish.

How about you? Do your cats share your pillow? Does the purring wake you up or lull you to sleep? Tell us in the comments.

Read more from Tracy Ahrens.

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Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her book, "Raising My Furry Children," to your collection. Visit www.raisingmyfurrychildren.weebly.com