Monday, August 27, 2007

Mister Firdusi


Robb and I were living near Johns Hopkins University in the summer of 1992. We had neighbors a few houses down who were students and (as far as I could tell) small time drug dealers. They had a number of cats which they allowed to roam the streets, a very risky activity in downtown Baltimore. I was constantly marching over to their house, with a squirming pussy cat or two under my arm, and delivering lectures on responsible pet ownership. "No, it is not all right to let your cats wander all over Charles Village." "No, dry corn flakes is not an proper diet for your cats."

Eventually, these kids moved out, leaving their cats to fend for themselves. Of the three cats they abandoned, I managed to track down a scrawny little white girl. I never knew what became of her handsome brother with the odd-colored eyes or the ginger tabby kitten. Even though Robb already owned two highly respectable cats, I just had to adopt this street cat. Niobe was a malnourished mess. I took her to the vet for a look-over, and asked the vet if she thought that Niobe might be pregnant. I thought her belly was awfully taut, but the vet thought otherwise. Being too poor to spring for the kitty sonogram, I listened to the vet's diagnosis of "not pregnant."

And then, a week to the day later, I got a frantic call from Robb. I remember his exact words. "Niobe has eaten and then regurgitated an entire rat!" What? Sure enough, that little bag of bones had just given birth to two kittens on our living room couch. Niobe knew exactly what she was doing. She somehow understood that only one of the two kittens was going to survive, and she picked up the little tuxedo boy and moved him into my sweater drawer. Robb and I did our best, but we only managed to keep the runty girl kitten alive for three days.

Oddly, there was never a question that we would keep Niobe and her son, thus doubling the size of our kitty menagerie. From the start, this little boy was a Lot of Cat. He was a huge eater. The first thing he ever ate that didn't come from his momma was a tortilla chip that he stole off our dining room table. He was a tiny kitten at the time, and the chip was almost as tall as he was, but he somehow managed to run, holding one corner of the chip triangle in his mouth. He was also crazy about peas, and we got far too much amusement out of tossing peas off the dinner table, and watching him race after and devour them.

He spent huge amounts of energy trying to become the Dominant Cat, despite the fact that his tiny mom always ruled the roost. He was quite a fighter, much to the dismay of Robb's Old Lady Cats. Eventually, they took up residence on the furniture, which he was either too chubby or lazy to jump on. Visitors probably thought it strange that we regularly had a cat snoozing on top of our fridge. They probably also shook their head at the ongoing Punch and Judy Show between Mister Firdusi and his mom. He seemed to delight in trying to bonk Niobe on the head, but all she had to do was give him The Look, and he would back down.

I had always been of the opinion that you shouldn't name your cats, but rather, you should wait until they name themselves. Mister Firdusi was such an oddball of a kitten (he seemed unaware of the fact that his hind legs and face were part of the same body, and spent hour kicking himself in the head, and then angrily chomping on his hind feet). One of us was reading the plays of Oscar Kokoschka, and stumbled across a character called Herr Firdusi, who was described as "a giant revolving head with arms and legs carrying a pig's bladder on a string." Clearly, our cats was an Absurdist or Dadaist, and thus he gained a name. (We never learned what his first name was. We were on very formal terms with Mister Firdusi.)

Mister Firdusi was a big boy, but he was not a vocal cat. He purred, and he hissed, but we lived with him for for several years before we heard him meow. One night, we heard a tiny, distant, squeaky, plaintive "weeeeeee-you" coming from somewhere. We thought there was a kitten outside our apartment. After looking around, we realized that our big burly tomcat had gotten locked out of our apartment, and was bawling his eyes out in the hallway. Firdusi liked to act like the toughest thing on four legs, so we found it hilarious that he had such a sissified voice.

We used to tease Mister Firdusi for being a Sullen Teenager, because while he desperately wanted our love, he insisted on acting all cool and standoffish. He and I both utilized the seduction technique that I dubbed the "Skulk and Glare." Remarkably, this normally unsuccessful method worked wonders on Robb. More often than not, Mister Firdusi slept nestled in Robb's arms. I'm not normally one to kiss-and-tell but every single morning when I left for work, Mister Firdusi was curled up on Robb's pillow like some kind of demented fur hat. He was a total cuddle-bunny.

Mister Firdusi was in apparently in perfect health when he literally dropped dead yesterday. I was working a later schedule than normal, and happened to be at home, when I heard a "clunk" in the bathroom, followed by a brief, horrible moaning sound. I ran in to see what was going on, and Firdusi was laying limp on the floor. Robb tried kitty Heimlich and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but it was too late. I took his body to the vet, who examined him and speculated that he must have had a stroke or blood clot in the brain.

I don't give a lot of thought to the afterlife. Occasionally, I have thought that it would be nice for everyone to get the afterlife that they would most appreciate. So, if Mister Firdusi is anywhere, I imagine him in some kind of Kitty Valhalla, where he spends the day pounding on his closest friends and relations, and then feasting and cuddling with them all night.

Yeah, he was a Lot of Cat, that Mister Firdusi.


wassamatta_u said...

SO very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing his story with us - he really was a Lot of Cat!

Music Woman said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your cat! Maybe his spirit has been reincarnated into our new cat, Sylvester, who looks exactly like Mr. F, and (suddenly as of yesterday) has many of the same unusual attributes you mention. Sylvester came into our life about two weeks ago as a stray, who ended up being already neutered and well behaved indoors (even though he REALLY wants to go back outside). Starting yesterday, he loves to stare down our other cat, Kitty, who is 14 and is a little put off that a young 'un has decided to take over the house. It will be interesting to see how Sylvester will mold his place in the household!

Anonymous said...

Lisa, Robb & felines,
We are so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing Mr. Firdusi's story with us all. Isn't it fascinating to watch their personalities develop over the years? We subscribed to the same naming philosophy with our Mr. Pigeon. He truly named himself. We tacked the Mr. on the front since he was always dressed in spats, much like Mr. Firdusi. (Plus, really, how much dignity can a cat named Pigeon have? Gotta at least make it formal.)

If your Mr. F should find himself in the same section of Kitty Valhalla that our Mr. P is in, perhaps they could enjoy some time together, stealing food off of tables or playing underneath a fitted sheet.

Craftymouse and Dandelion

knitica said...

I can't beleive the Mike Tyson of the kitty world is gone. So sorry.

dorks anonymous said...

Robb and Lisa--that was a wonderful eulogy. I'm sorry.

Gothknits said...

Oh guys, I am so sorry!!!Tons of hugs. (Man this is a sucky month) I have fond memories of baby sitting the two of them for you. Lots of love you both and the two remaining kitties.

Anonymous said...

We completely understand your pain. Having 5 kitties of our own it's hard to imagine life without them. Just know they are waiting for you and watching over you.

Sorry for your loss.

Lots of love coming your way,

Team Springamajack

Sten said...

Alas poor Mister Firdusi, we will miss you. Next time me and my homies are sitting out on the stoop we will pour out a little from our 40s in his memory. He was a gato among cats and a inspiration to us all.


Ryan said...

What wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing them!

E said...

Really sorry for your loss. Loved the pictures and stories though. You have some wonderful memories to cherish.

~Baby Bookworm

Anonymous said...

Adding my condolences. What a wonderful tribute...the loss of a pet is so difficult. I almost see a story titled "Mister Firdusi" ...kinda a kids book, but a book in tribute to a great animal being....but maybe that's the writer in me...

Cheers to the memory of Mr.F.


lli said...

I remember meeting Mr. Firdusi at least twice. What a great cat, and how fortunate he was to be born into a house that showed appropriate indulgence and devotion to its kitty residents. I know he'll be missed.


Cellissimo said...

I'm so sorry about the loss of Mister Firdusi. He sounds like such a lovely, colorful kitty companion. Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Robb and Lisa,

I'm very sorry to hear of your Mr. Firdusi's passing. Our critters really are "family"; their loss, well, I have some serious empathy...

Thanks for sharing some stories about him, I love his "naming". (Yep, it's always better when they name themselves! Just ask me about "Din Che Tao" and "Wingnut" some time.:p).

I Loved You Best
Copyright Jim Willis 2001

So this is where we part, My Friend,
and you'll run on, around the bend,
gone from sight, but not from mind,
new pleasures there you'll surely find.

I will go on, I'll find the strength,
life measures quality, not its length.
One long embrace before you leave,
share one last look, before I grieve.

There are others, that much is true,
but they be they, and they aren't you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought,
will remember well all you've taught.

Your place I'll hold, you will be missed,
the fur I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you journey to your final rest,
take with you this...I loved you best.

My condolences,

Trekkie Gal said...

I'm very sorry. :( He was a beautiful cat.

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is such a very difficult thing. The story of his birth was fabulous - thanks for sharing it.

Be well. Laura H

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Those big furry guys sure can leave a large hole in our hearts, can't they?

Lots of kitty love coming your way from my clouder.

Mom and Diana said...

We're so sorry to hear about Mr. Firdusi...he was well loved, and we know he'll be missed tremendously by you both. Thanks for his story and pictures!

Anonymous said...

I am really sorry to hear of your loss.
He sounds like my cat, who after my boyfriend (now husband) opened the freezer door too wildly and a bag of frozen peas spilled all over the kitchen floor had to have his peas with every meal!
six stars

Anonymous said...

Oh my, such a beautiful story-- how wonderful that you knew him for his "forever"... I loved the part of the story about his little meow-- my daughter has a big boy (20 plus pounds) tuxedo cat with a very coy girly meow as well... Hugs to you all---

Love, Anna

Syndee said...

Sorry to hear about your loss. Losing any animal is just gut-wrenchingly sad. Thank you for sharing the story of Mr. Firdusi.

colormecynical said...

Mr. Firdusi sounds like he was a lot of fun. I'm sorry for your loss. Congrat's, Robb, on going the extra mile!

robb said...

Where were you, Kristen, when I was trying to come up with the title for that blog post?

extra mile... of course!

Shannon Clark said...

Lisa and Robb, I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Firdusi's passing. I know it was a shock...which somehow makes it harder. I pray that his mama is doing better with her kidney problems. He sounds like he was such a wonderful character and it's obvious he brought much joy and love to you both. He will be missed! Even by those who have only read his story.


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