My relationship with The Shah is not so straight forward. I am — please don’t hate me — a dog person. But I love my husband, and he desperately wanted a cat. So here we are.
The Shah (translation “King”) is a title for Persian monarchs. Guests often misunderstand his name and call him Sean. Or Shaw. I can relate to that. “Aelfie Oudghiri” is also a bit confounding. A barista once asked me if my name was the result of a cat walking over a keyboard. Thankfully, my parents aren’t that insane. Come to think of it, I don’t think we had a computer until I was around 11 or 12.Because of The Shah, I often find myself doing a cursory rundown of modern Iranian history—something I really did not anticipate when we adopted him. Aside from his name and its historical significance, he is a pretty normal cat. Very friendly, very fluffy. We have had the Shah for nearly a decade and he has lived with us all over New York City and in all sorts of apartments. He quietly witnessed us both grow up, build businesses, and start a family.
Occasionally he bites me. I think he may be peeing in one of our potted plants.We adopted The Shah from a shelter in East Harlem. At the time, I was a student and my husband was in between work. We were 20 somethings living together for the first time in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time in our apartment. We couldn’t afford to go out to dinner and most of our friends lived far away, deep in Brooklyn. It was a bit lonely being broke and living uptown. So, a cat made sense at the time.
The Shah had been rescued from a hoarder. That is all I know about his previous life. When he came home he had some odd and aggressive behavior, but nothing particularly un-cat-like. I could see the appeal of hoarding animals as opposed to, say, newspapers. There is something sensical about wanting to feel loved and needed by so many little creatures. It could give purpose to an otherwise aimless life.
I wonder a lot about the person who hoarded The Shah and what other animals may have lived in that home. I imagine an heiress in an Upper East Side estate dominated by an unruly band of long haired exotic cats. Maybe two dozen. Mostly Persians, busy clawing velvet upholstered French antiques to shreds and pissing all over intricately knotted carpets from far flung lands. Perhaps the stench tipped off the upstairs neighbor who called Animal Control—the aging eccentric’s first visitor in years.
This is, I think, the best scenario when imagining The Shah’s past.
Aelfie Oudghiri is the founder of Aelfie. Before launching Aelfie, she worked in fashion, drummed in punk bands, dropped out of medical school in Budapest, lived in Casablanca, Morocco and earned a degree in Religion from Columbia University. She now resides in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter and cat, The Shah.