The Naming of Cats

Steven Harper PiziksAre your cats named whimsically (Puffy Paws), seriously (Bast), traditionally (Patches), or something else?

The cat names in my family have run the gamut from mundane to unique.  We always had a cat or cats from my earliest memory, and, just for the heck of it, here they are, in order:

–Henrietta (named after Henrietta Pussycat from Mister Rogers)
–Midnight (all black)
–RC (“Rat Catcher,” which she was extraordinarily good at)
–Lightfoot (from the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books–he also had two white socks)
–Benvenuto (from a book about a dragon, except the cat was female while the dragon was male)
–Joe Cool (“Joey” for short)

Here we had a gap when I went to college.  Joey was always my cat, and I had planned to take him with me when I got out of school and had a place of my own, but he ran away and disappeared just after my parents moved.

–Addison (named after MOONLIGHTING’s David Addison because he liked sleeping on women’s chests)
–Ranadar (a name with a complicated origin; it shows up again in BONE WAR)
–Poltergeist (because he was loud, demanding, and liked to knock things over)
–Sirius Black (another black cat, named after the Harry Potter character)
–Omen (born on 06/06/06)
–Alec (a shelter cat who was given that name for reasons unknown)
–Dinah (named after Alice in Wonderland’s cat)
–Bernard (another adopted cat who came with his name)

During the Henrietta/Midnight/RC years, we had a few litters of kittens, some of whom we named.  But these are the cats we kept.  RC gave birth to Lightfoot and Benvenuto.  Benvenuto gave birth to Joey.  Lightfoot died of feline leukemia, and he was one of the first cats in the country to come down with it.  No one knew what it was then.

How do you name your cats?

–Steven Harper Piziks

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Danny Large



The Naming of Cats — 13 Comments

  1. Our current dynamic duo are Nova and Luna. They came to us so named by the woman who fostered the litter of rescued kittens they were part of. She gave them all celestial names. The names were part of the reason our attention was drawn to that particular group at the pet adoption event we got them at. That and extreme cuteness even by cat standards.

  2. Though I have lived with 7 cats, I have never named one. The first three were named by my parents, one was named by my spouse, and three already had names when they came to me. I’ve also never picked out a cat! My three were cats who needed homes at a time when I could provide a home. One, believe it or not, came with my first apartment. They’ve all had names you might give a bog standard Anerican child, but as I said, not my doing.

  3. I am a fan of T.S. Eliot’s poem on the subject.
    My Scottish Fold is named Tobey, which is short for Tobermorey. This is not actually after the cat in the Saki short story, but after the Scotch single malt whiskey. It seemed proper for a Scottish Fold to have a single malt name, and there are dozens of whiskies to use. If I ever have a tabby Fold he will be named Talisker; an orange one will be properly named Glenmorangie.
    My daughter named our two other cats, the orange one Fuego and the black Cineza. I found these uncongenial and call them Tiger and Panther. They respond to anything, however, as long as you hold a food dish.

    • In my experience, cat names occur, like poems, when you are very quiet and contemplative and do not push the subject too much — rather like cats themselves. I speak with some authority, having fostered quite a number of nameless cats and kittens (more than 50), over the years, as well as having been owned by cats my whole life. My current cats are Sinbad, who I saw coming long before he was born, and Mercury, who was named by my daughter at the age of eight.

  4. I believe all animals should have interesting names. My first dog was Fiorello LaGuardia Robins. My one cat was Alexis Jude McRabbit Robins (my room-mate’s cat was Misha deFaux Pas Rado). My current dog is Emily Apocalypta. Life is too short to name an animal Spot, even ironically.

    I do like the idea of naming your pet after various Scotches.

  5. Mom-cat….
    ….and her kids (all brothers);
    Ed E. Puss (he loved his mother overmuch)
    Guido (he had a dashing little mustache)
    Tigger (an orange tabby who liked very much to ambush his brothers)
    Pooh-cat Singh, The Ghost-cat of Kalawijari (he was all-white and glowed in the moonlight).

    Then there was Shadow, an elegant all-grey Siamese mix who was an excellent and stealthy hunter.

    They’re all gone now and were not replaced, being somewhat irreplaceable.

  6. I grew up with miniature dashies, black and tans, named Buttons because the first puppy tried to chew off the buttons on my shirt. We also had Buttons II (I suspect my father didn’t want to remember a new name) and I have no memory of Wiley, a beagle with too much energy for toddlers.

    I went for more interest. Once I had control, I had a Burmese cat named Brae (for Bonnie Brae, a curiously named road I often drove by on the highway) followed by Max (from Where the Wild Things Are) and Merlyn, because he was a wizard at most things. They are irreplaceable, but once I live somewhere that is mine, I am sure there will be a successor. The universe will send another interesting, companionable cat my way.

  7. Our current two cats are brother and sister adopted as rescues, born on my birthday. Tucker is a tuxedo cat, and Turtle looks part tortoiseshell. They were quite the explosive duo, so we called them TNT until they settled down. My sweet departed black cat I named Sombra (Shadow) while living in southern Chile. And a kitten who showed up on my doorstep in a snowstorm years ago I named Maynard G. Krebs (from “Dobie Gillis” show) for no particular reason that I can recall.

  8. Urchin we came up with doing a word association thing – and it suits her. For a pedigreed Maine Coon with loads of Grand Champions in her bloodline, she’s a scruffy streetrat.

    I’ve lived with cats most of my life, but she was the first I actually was involved in naming.

    There have also been:
    Bernie (Bernard Schwartz, black cat, named for Tony Curtis)
    Cassie (no idea why)
    William and Mary (brother & sister, when my grandparents were living in a W&M era house)
    Macavity (arrived named)
    Jemima (named for Jemima Puddleduck, very independent, lovely little tortie, didn’t stay long)
    Leon (Noel backwards, came at Christmas)
    Siggy (Sigmund Freud, was found in the grounds of a psych hospital)
    Pythagoras (no idea)

  9. My cat was named Malcolm because I got him and the next day I had a telephone interview for an internship with someone named Malcolm Burdick. This was almost 30 years ago – how can I remember the last name of this man? Weird. Anyway – Malcolm was attempting to climb up onto my head as I attempted to sound extremely academic and serious. I bagged going to that internship. But I kept the cat. He was a Devon Rex. My first cat ever, because I was wildly allergic to cats, and these cats didn’t have as much fur – and their fur is curly. I sneezed my way through and loved that cat. He could sit, stay, roll over, play, dead, use the toilet, and when you sang the Beach Boys “Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s learning how..” he would jump on my boyfriend’s skateboard and roll across the hardwood floor. Devon Rex cats are really food motivated. And smart. And I was extremely avoidant of finishing my dissertation. When Malcolm died, my allergies had gotten better. So I got a rescue cat. Named him “Pip” – but the cat remains dumb as a bag of hammers. We renamed him Phillip in hopes that this would improve his intelligence. So far, not so much. I think the cat isn’t sure where we live as he disappears for weeks at a time. Still, he’s a rather attractive cat. And soft. Sigh.

    The next cat? Devon Rex again. I like them smart and talkative.

    Name? Who knows. Clark, Dexter, Robert – I don’t know. He’ll name himself.

  10. When I brought our current Lilac Point Siamese home from the shelter, he had the name Apollo.

    The moment I walked in the door, cat carrier in hand, hubby pronounced his name was Chessie after the mascot of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway System. The cat liked that, but since he is the emperor of his universe he has become Mr. Chessie and only responds when we add the honorific. If we shout Chesapeake and Ohio Railway System he folds his ears back and hides because he knows he’s done something intolerable.

  11. Hmmm….well, my first cat was Eleanor of Aquitaine, and she believed she was. I had a grey tabby named Gandalf (but this was long ago, pre-Peter Jackson) so my vet always asked where I got the name. I had them both when Taliesin (Tally) adopted me. Brief interlude where we got a mini-dachshund named Katydid (because she usually did) who was raised by the three cats & was convinced she was a cat. Ellie lived to 16 & Tally to 18. After Ellie died, I got Bridie and Finn mac Cumhaill. After losing both of them at 16, I adopted a set of ginger long-haired tabby girls – Laoise who has smoked paws and a magnificent set of black and white whiskers & Ailbhe who has white paws. Gee, I guess my study of British history really shows.

  12. My first cat was called Ambie which was short for Ambitious. He slept all day. Then came the petit Siamese Shorty because she was smaller than Ambie. Then came Pumpkin because he was orange. Then a very fluffy white female who was somewhat vacant who my mother named Princess, but I called her fleabag which became Fleabert and finally Lady Fleabert. I found a small black and white who became Munchkin Magillicutty but she kept attacking dogs and munching on my arm so I thought fighting Irish and decided tto change her name. I asked her ‘What do you want to be called? ‘ she said ‘Merp’ so that was her name from then onwards. She quit attacking dogs too. A black and white tuxedo cat had to be Fred Astaire. But he kept jumping and missing and knocking things over so I changed it to Fred the Friendly Cat. I saved a tortoise speckled female who became Oolong La Fondue. When the 3 sisters came the brilliant grey one was a purr-singer so she needed a musical name like Sonata. Her calico sister who saw invisible things became Alien Moon Cat and the red and white became Sunshine who was always a very good girl. My big red tabby boy’s real name is Topaz but he doesn’t know that because I call him Giant Kitten or GK. It seems like a lot of cats but I started at age seven and I am a senior now. Most of them lasted 16, 17 years.