In December 2005, my wife, Barbara, and I were introduced to our new cat, Rumina, a short-haired, dainty, little lady, who was two and one-half years old.
Lupita, a friend of ours, and her family had raised Rumi and wanted to find a good home for her.
I suppose it can be said that we rescued Rumi, but, without trying to overstate anything, it is probably accurate to say that Rumi rescued Barbara and me, at least as much as we rescued her.
I can still remember Rumi’s first day at our house.
Rumi was scared and hid downstairs under the bed of our daughter, Jane.
Barbara and I did not know what to do, so we called Lupita, and she and her sister came over and coaxed Rumi out of her hiding place.
For almost six months, Rumi remained somewhat traumatized, more than a little shy around Barbara and me.
But around June 2006, Rumi began to warm up to us.
She started to sleep with us on our bed, to cross her front paws, like the little lady that she was, as if she were preparing to have a tea party, to rest her chin on our laps and to stare at us with her big green eyes that were outlined like those of Cleopatra.
I would not infrequently be awakened at two in the morning by a petite rascal, who was perched on my head at the back of the pillow and who pricked my cheek or forehead with her retracted claw.
For a while, I wondered if Rumi was hungry at these moments in the middle of the night, but most of the time she just wanted to play, to mew to me, and to hear my funny voices, as Barbara pointed out.
As we all know, many writers have been drawn to cats, undoubtedly due to their mysterious beauty and charms.
Rumi definitely cast her spell with her gregariousness and with the generosity of her affection. Guests at our house, seated on the love seat in our living room, often found to their delight that Rumi would hop up on the armrest and lick their fingers without any prompting.
When Barbara and I first met Rumi, we were two months removed from the passing of our previous pet, our beloved, long-haired tuxedo cat, Carlitos. He had had diabetes, which he had stoically endured for six and one-half years. He ambled around at 22 or 23 pounds and took his shots of insulin like a gentle soldier. When he started having other problems with his kidneys, he finally expired at 16 years of age, though not before going on a final adventure or two. A few weeks before he passed away, Carlitos, who was strictly an indoor cat, hopped from our balcony onto a pergola and into the neighbor’s yard.
He reminded me of Tennyson’s Ulysses, who still yearns for more battles, more adventure in his old age.
Rumi was not as physically sturdy as Carlitos. She became anemic, and she also needed fluid injections.
Barbara and I knew that Rumi would not be able to handle such injections from us, so we had the veterinarian and her staff administer them, when we found out about two months ago that Rumi had pancreatitis as well as problems with her kidneys, though not diabetes.
Rumi lost about half her weight, from 15 pounds to seven and one-half or so, and she also lost much of her strength, even at times her ability to vocalize, to mew in her charming lilt, a high soprano.
For a while, she started hiding downstairs, under our daughter Jane’s bed, as she had the first day we met Rumi.
But Dr. Jocelyn Quan, a veterinarian of almost uncanny brilliance, intuited that Rumi would want to eat baby food.
She even intuited the flavor. “Try ham,” Dr. Quan said with a twinkle in her eye.
Dr. Quan was right.
We started feeding Rumi pureed ham, and it was a blessing that Rumi responded.
She began eating again, and Barbara and I started feeding her everything that Dr. Quan suggested, from water-packed Chicken of the Sea tuna, to Temptations chicken treats for cats.
It worked, and Rumi resumed her normal, kidney-based dry and wet food diet.
For the past two months, Rumi usually returned to our room to sleep on the bed with us, although in the past few weeks she started using our office, where I write, as her headquarters.
She greeted me when I came into the room by trekking across the floor over to my desk.
I would lift her up, in a move that I called the elevator treatment, and plop her on my lap while I composed.
She still used her litter box, which she, as a fastidious, little lady, never stopped using until the last two days.
I suppose I was in denial for some time that Rumi was dying.
It was easy to deny this because Rumi was still in good spirits.
A few weeks ago, she greeted Barbara and me in our room, came trotting in from the office, and mewed in her high register.
And she still hopped on my lap on the bed and responded to coos from Barbara and me by purring a bit and mewing.
Still, when Barbara called me yesterday to tell me that Dr. Quan had phoned and said Rumi’s blood work revealed that her kidneys were no longer functioning, I was not that surprised.
Rumi had stopped being able to control her bladder.
But as an indication of Rumi’s character and her love for life, when I awakened at five this morning, she had summoned the strength to hop off the bed to lap up some cold water that I had left in a bowl on the floor.
And she still licked my fingers when I offered her a few Temptations chicken treats late this morning.
Yes, it is a bit of a cliché for people to pamper their pets, to post cat videos, to dress up their cats and dogs, and to brag about them.
Barbara and I never dressed up Rumi. And we never posted any cat videos.
But we did feature Rumi in our holiday cards, as we did with Carlitos.
And we did not want her to suffer at all, as Dr. Quan sagely advised.
When Barbara and I adopted Rumi, she was introduced to us as Rumina.
But we took to calling her Rumi, even if we were not that familiar at the time with the Sufi mystic poet.
In honor of our angelic cat, Rumi, who passed away today at 15, I can’t think of a better tribute than to cite the words of the great poet, who wrote the following:
“I died as mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal, and I was human.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die human,
To soar with angels blessed above.
And when I sacrifice my angel soul
I shall become what no mind ever conceived.
As a human, I will die once more,
Reborn, I will with the angels soar.
And when I let my angel body go,
I shall be more than mortal mind can know.”