Say I've http://www.domain.com/whatever-with-hyphens-6.shml

And I wish to pass whatever-with-hyphens and 6 to my php script, wouldso would I accomplish this?

/php/catpages.php?cat=$1&page=$2

It might be the final rule and situation insensitive

Is what you are attempting to do?

RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule (.+)-([0-9]+)\.shml /php/catpages.php?cat=$1&page=$2  [L,NC]

This will rewrite http://www.domain.com/whatever-with-hyphens-6.shml to /php/catpages.php?cat=whatever-with-hyphens&page=6

I wouldn't pass these to your php script as get variables. Have your php controller script parse the asked for page title itself.

Rather than /php/catepages.php?cat=$1&page=$2 as the redirect destination, have

/php/controller.php as the rewriterule destination.

You'll be able to use split or whatever around the asked for URI and then leave $_Get free from it altogether.