Do You Sleep With Your Senior Cats Near the End of Their Lives?


I got a surprising amount of comments on my article about whether people let their cats sleep with them on the bed. Thank you for all your comments! The comments made me wish I did let my cats sleep on the bed more often. I love it when they snuggle in bed with me, and I hate to kick them out. I am envious of those of you who are able to make it work.

However, I have a way of forgetting very important things in my life. I realized, after I posted the article, that I have actually spent a lot of time sleeping with my cats. While this doesn’t take place in the bedroom (usually), I have spent some very special and intense times caring for cats, including letting them sleep with me when ill and/or terminal. I did lose a lot of sleep, sometimes for months. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

I lost three cats within the last three years. In each case, I had a chance to care for these cats and to say good-bye before they passed on. Much of my quality time involved sleeping with these cats, either in the bedroom or out in the living room. These were some of the most special times in my life — I can honestly say that.

Here are their stories:

1. Jamie

My medium haired 21-year-old Jamie was diagnosed with an oral tumor a few years ago. He also had kidney disease. Jamie was a cat who adored sleeping on the bed with us throughout his life. As a newly adopted tiny kitten, he made his desire to be on the bed near our heads strongly known. Nothing made him happier. How could we deny him that in his last few months of life? We gave him everything that made him happy, including lots of bedtime.

When Jamie got weak in the legs and could no longer get on the bed, we took the bed off the frame and put the mattress on the floor so that he could still easily have his loved bed-sharing experience. I have many amazing memories of Jamie purring next to my head throughout the night during those last months. The night before he passed on, he woke me repeatedly — gently pawing at my wrist so that I would bring my hand on his head. If I fell asleep and my hand accidentally left him, he gently pawed my hand back to his body. I will never forget it.

2. Kali

Kali became ill with a tumor that originated from her cheekbone, though she had other health issues at age 17. Kali had always been a fiercely tender cat, and I swear that her love came blazing through strongly in the three months between diagnosis and when she passed peacefully in my arms. To give my husband a break and needed sleep, I slept in the living room on the futon cushions with Kali for every night of her last months. I put the cushions down on the floor and I used both cushions so that we both had enough room to snuggle.

Kali developed some very lovely behaviors that I had never seen from her before. She immediately crawled under the covers with me and would snuggle tight against me. Often, she would press her face hard against mine. This achingly tender experience was special and made more special by our time together on the futon cushions. We had always been close, but our bond deepened to an amazing new loving level during this time. Again, it’s a time I will never forget.

3. Karma

Only four months ago, my 15-year-old Karma was diagnosed with a tumor in her chin area. This time, I would not get months — only two weeks. This time, we also had to help her pass over. I slept with her on the futon cushions, again, every night. One morning at about 4 a.m., my husband was up early. I had restless, not-very-deep sleep. I was vaguely aware that Karma was gently bringing her face close to mine — something that she did not normally do (she showed her snuggling affection in other ways). My husband was alert enough to capture in on camera, and I am forever grateful for this photo of my sweet Karma.

On sleeping with cats

Did my sleep go out the window? Yes. It must be what new parents describe. In each of these cases, I felt as if I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep for months. My back hurt and odd kinks developed in my body. Often I’d wake up repeatedly in the night, either to care for my cat or to make sure she was okay. It takes a lot of mental awareness not to completely go crazy during these times, when we are worrying about our beloved friends. Yet, I had some of the most special times in my life in bed or on the living-room floor, caring for and sleeping with cats who had little time left.

How about you? Have you slept with and cared for your ill cats? How was the experience for you? Share your thoughts in comments, please.

More by Catherine Holm:

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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