Shmudla came into my life in October, 1995, when we went to "see" our friends' litter of kittens. They were all adorable, but the one that caught my eye was a longhaired orange-and-white ball of fluff who, instead of roughhousing with his litter mates, came to sit quietly at my side. And there he would remain, through three marriages, two countries, three cities, seven moves and 10 career changes, for the next 21 years!
Shmudla's mother was a DSH calico. We don't know who his father was, but Shmudla grew up looking like a Turkish van, with an incredibly dense, silky orange and white coat and an orange tail so big and bushy that when he was a kitten, he had to carry it over his back like a squirrel.
From the beginning, Shmudla was his own cat. For the first few days, he wouldn't eat, and I worried that he was sick. Then one day, I was eating some chicken, and I offered him a sliver. He immediately wrapped both paws around my hand and chowed down, letting me know that he was not only healthy, but that he expected better food!
Mourek, our Maine Coon, patiently accepted one new kitten after another into my home, but Shmudla was his favorite. They were inseparable companions for six years.
Shmudla thought toilet paper was a great scratching post, and it was not uncommon to come home and find the toilet paper completely unrolled all the way down the steps and piled up on the living room floor. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of his best trick, but for weeks we had to give him a bath every day because he would be totally black when we came home from work. We finally found him in the basement, using one of our supine winter tires as a hamster wheel.
Why I can't have a Christmas tree. We tried tying it to the ceiling, spraying it with cat repellant so strong we couldn't use the living wrong. Nothing could prevent Mourek and Shmudla from spending all day, every day, climbing the tree, eating tinsel and systematically unwinding the string of lights.
While Mourek learned to take long walks on a leash, and even use the toilet, Shmudla somehow slipped out of every leash. We used to call him "Houdini." He refused to be constrained, although he really didn't want to escape. One day we found him sitting outside, on the window ledge, having undone the latch on the sliding window at our house on rue St-Germain in Montreal.
Shmudla was not a lap cat — he did not like to be picked up or held. Instead, he was a companion, happy to sit at my side, maybe with a hand resting lightly across his back.
The boys went through a lot together, moving halfway across the country from Montreal to Kansas City in 1996, and then from Kansas City to Tucson in 2001.
Here we are passed out on the floor after pizza and beer on our first night in Kansas City, November 15, 1996. I have always felt that having made such a big move, the cats understood that home was not a place, it was with me.
What a fabulous butt warmer! Shmudla was dominated by Mourek, and later, by Caliche — both love sponges with relaxed, outgoing personalities. Shmudla was more reserved, and didn't always get as much attention for his unusual abilities, including, ultimately, his extraordinary longevity.
As a younger cat, one of Shmudla's favorite activities was to crawl up the back of the bookcase, knocking all of the books off the shelf as he went. And I wish I had a photo of him, all four paws in a row, balancing on top of the swinging doors between the kitchen and the dining room at our first apartment in Kansas City.
Kansas City Kitties. Mourek and Smudla ruled the balcony at the Columbia (c 2000).
Shmudla would only drink running water. I experimented with several cat fountains, like the homemade one shown in this photo.
He eventually trained us to turn on the bathtub faucet when he was thirsty.
Shmudla's coat was designed for winters in the Anatolian Highlands, so he found summers in Tucson unbearable.
So one summer I began giving him an annual buzz cut, and each time I did, he looked and acted like a kitten again.
Was he gay? I always thought so. His steady girlfriend was "Precious", a longhair with enormous eyes and a long silky coat, who lived next door to us at the Mud Tent. Years later, I found out Precious was a boy.
And then there was his flair for design. Whenever I needed to choose a paint color, I would line up all the paint chips on the table. One by one, Shmudla would knock them down, except for the one color that was obviously the correct choice. I called it "Fang Shui".
When I was shopping online for a new partner, all three cats cast a unanimous vote for Dennis.
At 10 years of age, Shmudla was still an accomplished jumper, who announced each leap by flicking his tail and "chirping".
That jump was a span of six feet, with a three-foot rise, about 10 feet off the ground.

Shmudla demonstrating his world-famous bidirectional purr.

In his later years, Shmudla became much more affectionate, following Dennis from room to room around the house, always joining us on the couch at night, and gently stroking us with one feathered paw to let us know it was time for a cuddle.
"Spay and neuter your pets ... and your weird friends and relatives." Good advice!
One of his last photos, looking a bit scruffy after losing a lot of weight. He was amazing, and I am so lucky to have had all those years with him at my side.