Senior Cat stopped sleeping on my bed at night at exactly the same time I got a new comforter (about four and a half years ago).
Since my comforter is now over four years old and has a few snags here and there, I issued an invitation to Senior Cat (yes, I talk to our cats quite regularly) on my way to bed. I explained he should come and snuggle with me. It's okay (now).
He looked at me with his soulful eyes as if to say "No thanks, I'm good here." and never changed his routine.
You can tell he hurts by the way he walks and prefers not to snuggle these days. He seems to have the cushion on the back of the love seat molded to support the curves of his body and that is where he likes to stay.
His breathing is becoming more labored these days and his meow is almost non-existent.
I gaze into his eyes and look for any changes. Will he let us know when he is hurting too much? Will I be able to tell?
Any changes to his routine set off alarms and make me wonder if it is a sign that he is hurting in some new way.
He has adopted a pleasurable new snuggling routine. He finds me (often) sitting at the computer and he will sit beside me and squeak out a little noise (that used to be a meow). I will pick him up. He molds himself into the contours of my arms and neck. And purrs.
His purr is and always has been what I love most about him. When he first became sick, his purr became 'rusty' and he sounded like he needed a good 'lube job'. He went from that, to rarely purring at all.
The better he felt, the more he started to purr again. These days, he can turn up his purr so we can hear it across the room again. It does my heart good.
I continued to converse with my little black kitty, telling him he could come and snuggle up with me when I went to bed. One night, he followed me.
He changed his mind once he got into my room, but I think he fully understood the invitation was open and so was the door.
About a few weeks ago, I woke up to a little black purring machine staring me down in the middle of the night.
He sat there. And purred. I petted him and he purred louder. He acted like he wanted under my covers (it was particularly cold at the time) and I thought maybe he was feeling the night time chill and needed body heat.
He snuggled in and kneaded. And kneaded. And purred and kneaded. And purred some more. Then left.
The surprising part is, that seemed to be the first night of the rest of our lives. He has showed up, purring in my face every single night since then.
His purr is loud and insistent. He kneads and tries to snuggle, but he never stays.
Last night I felt the waves of exhaustion wash over me as he woke me up in the middle of a deep sleep and I felt his insistent kneading on my neck. Purring. Kneading. Snuggling (to a point). Then he left.
The night before, he rested one of his shoulders upon my shoulder and reached around my neck with his other paw and actually 'hugged' me.
He has done this before, but when he was lying vertically on top of me as I was stretched out on the couch. He reached up and 'grasped' me with his outstretched arm. Because his arm reached up close to my neck, I felt like he was hugging me.
This night time visit makes me smile and warms my heart.
But it is such a drastic 'change' from his norm, I wondered aloud while I was talking with my brother this past weekend. "Do you think he is trying to tell me something? Like 'I'm hurting ... help me'?"
My brother assured me I will see the pain in his eyes when that is the case. He thinks Senior is telling me "Thank you".
There is nothing like a reassuring hug from a cat to make you feel loved. They are wise and highly sensitive creatures. I think he knew I could use a little hug.
"Thank you, Senior. I needed that!"