I've had a couple incidents of a ghost cat jumping into bed with me. It was always when I was just starting to fall asleep or just slowly waking up, but it would jolt me awake and I'd lie there enjoying the moment.
The first time was a cat I had when I was very young, my first pet. I think I was in 3rd grade. I really loved the cat, but she got pregnant and it was a problem for my mother, who said we'd take the cat to the pound and pick her back up after she'd had her babies. She took it to the pound, but we never went to pick her up, and for years I cried over that cat. My sisters reamed her about it. About 5 years later I received a spirit cat who jumped up on my bed, kneading and purring big as life on my neck. I immediately thought of the cat I'd had and was sad because I knew she was dead. She was coming to say goodbye. My mother apologized to me when I was in college for taking my cat, and later my dog, my second pet, to the pound. She said I never brought friends home and didn't appear socialized; I spent all of my free time with my pets so she took away my animal friends in hope I'd replace them with human ones. I understood her logic, but it didn't change the sense of loss I felt for so many years.
The last experience of a spirit cat was about 4 years ago. I was on graveyard shift so I slept during the day. I was in a loft, so there is a lot of light during the day, and I could see there was no cat there. Shortly before, perhaps even a few months before, one of my cats did not come home. I finally concluded it was probably dead. We live in a rural area and a coyote or owl may have gotten it. His brother still lives with me and they were yin and yang, meaning very close and usually did everything together. The brother came home early the next morning alone. Usually they left together and came home together, but this one had stayed away as long as a week a couple of times in the recent past, so I didn't really worry at first. I figured he'd found another family he enjoyed and who obviously fed him, since he usually came back without weight loss. There was a certain amount of rivalry for my affection between the two and one cat was always snippy if I appeared to favor one over the other. I tried to be even-handed.
Maybe it was my cat telling me he was still around and OK. I looked for him for nearly a year after he disappeared, checking every cat dead on the highway, wondering if he was taken in by another family and kept inside, taken to the pound or if one of the packs of dogs running loose may have caught him. Both cats were raised with 5 dogs, so they probably weren't as nervous of dogs as they should have been, however they had five years of experience by then, and I saw they differentiated strange dogs from family dogs. I don't recall the time of year when it happened to me, but it must have been winter because I was sleeping in the loft where it's warmer. I now wonder if it was around October because I even worried about Satanists killing it because it was a black cat. That would be so traumatic for him because he'd known nothing other than love and affection from humans, and it made me sick to think about it. I prefer the coyote or owl scenario, because that's nature at work. There have been a few problems here with Satanists, but I figure they'll get theirs sooner than later. Anyhow, the point is that I worried and worried for about a year, until I finally lost hope of him still being alive.
I eventually wondered if it was an unrelated spirit cat just seeing how affectionate I was to my remaining cat and feeling comfortable with jumping up and cuddling for warmth. I thought this because it came to my side, not my neck. I wonder if they stick around until they find someone they can bond to on the other side, or if they just enjoy the ability to flit unseen here and there and probably causing mischief.
After his brother's disappearance, my other cat pretty much stopped going out at night except to potty. This was unusual because these two were big game hunters, bringing home jack rabbits bigger than they were. In fact, my husband had to chase a cottontail around the house that my cat brought home about 2 months ago, but that happened during the day and on a different property in town. It took a week before he deigned to notice my husband again, he was so angry at being deprived of his prize. Mice are no longer worth his notice. He still rarely stays out at night, though there are a lot more trees and shelters in town.
I thought he probably witnessed his brother's death, or perhaps had his own close call, and was no longer interested in being out at night. He was the less energetic/athletic cat of the two, but still it was unusual that he rarely went out when I left for work. I also noticed he'd very carefully scope out the area before venturing outside and was very nervous about being exposed. We live in desert with no trees available for shelter. For this reason I'd leave the door open as often as I could so he could come back in right away if he lost his nerve. He'd flat refuse to go out in winter any longer except in daylight for short periods when I'd be around to let him back in right away. I think he became aware of the contrast of his black coat against snow.
I firmly believe because of my experience that there are animal spirits. I think they linger because initially they are bonded to their humans and are having the time of their lives being able, particularly cats, to cause mischief and wreak havoc with live animals. Then it palls and they come to say goodbye so they can be on their way to another happy life. We may even meet again. That's my perspective anyhow.