Once you name a cat, it is no longer a stray. It is a member of your household. Friends have claimed they are feeding a cat that has been hanging around but haven’t named it. They just call it Cat or Kitty or some other generic moniker. Hey…that’s a name! My friend Tammy, who my Tom calls the pusher as she always calls me when she hears of cats that need homes, continues to have strays appear at her house. One of those, called Yellow Cat by her husband, Tom, was dropping by and they were feeding him. But Tammy stated emphatically that they were not claiming him or giving him a name. My Tom pointed out that Yellow Cat is a name. He’s now been around for a couple of years.
Poet T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) had advice about naming cats long before we started to care for cats, but we have our own DO with regard to this: Do give all your cats fancy names so that when you’re outside screaming for them at the top of your lungs, your neighbors will think you’re classy. We haven’t used any of the imaginative and whimsical names, like Munkustrap, Bombalurina, or Jellylorum, that Eliot suggested in “The Naming of Cats,” first published with other cat poems in 1939. To our minds, however, we have improved at this ritual as the years have progressed.
New to this important task with our first and second cats, our inexperience is evident. After days of debate with kitty #1, the best we could do was Skooter—a typical pet’s name or kid’s nickname. (He was not named after the Muppet, Scooter.) We made our guy’s name a little different by using a “K” instead of a “C” in the spelling. But, still, it was not unusual or imaginative. Scooter ranks very high on the list of popular cat names.
Our second cat had an unusual name for a girl: Steamer. She was named after the brother of storyteller Ernest Randolph “Doc” McConnell (1928-2008): Cecil “Steamer” McConnell. We’d heard McConnell at a storytelling weekend at Mountain Lake, Pembroke, VA, and were delighted by a story about Steamer and a Vienna (pronounced Vy- ee-nuh) Sausage tree. But this was yet another nickname.
By the time we got to our third cat, Daphne, we had decided that human names were more sophisticated, developed our DO and have not deviated from this system except when naming Twinkle. (However, I would like to have a Sparkle someday, but probably will refrain as long as our neighbors have Sparky.) Daphne, according to Greek mythology, was a nymph pursued by the Olympian God, Apollo. Daphne prayed for help and was turned into a laurel. Though Daphne came into our lives in 1991, we did not know about the story of the laurel until 1994 when we visited Greece.
Until I began this post and re-read “The Naming of Cats” I hadn’t realized that we had used a derivative of one of Eliot’s “fancier” names. Chloë is another name for Demeter, the Greek Goddess of the Harvest. Chloë’s a very popular name on many pet naming web-sites as well. It’s the fifth most popular female cat name at cuteness.com and one of those listed at petrix.com along with Lily, Madison and MacKenzie. Dog lovers also must be partial to this name. The dog living across the street from us is a Chloë.
We showed great restraint when it came to our cat Madison. He hung out on the back deck for more than six months before we invited him in the house. And he did not get his name until he had become a permanent member of the household! Madison is not an unusual name. Human girls have been acquiring this name at an increasing rate during the past several years. Our Madison, however, was a male, and his name fit him perfectly. With his white fur and blue eyes most visitors thought he was a female. It really didn’t bother him as he was secure in his masculinity.
For information on how some of our other kids came by their names, please read the FELINES page.
Involving your children in the selection of a new kitty or in the naming process is always a good thing. But be prepared to live with their selections. Our previous neighbors’ large, female, tuxedo cat was named Jim!
I have lists of potential cat names for future felines that might come into our lives. At the top of all lists are the names Audrey and Jeanmarie. These ladies are both previous veterinarians to our kitties. Audrey was instrumental in saving Lily’s life, which you will be able to read about in a future post. Both came to the house for annual check-ups and vaccinations and also picked up and dropped off various kitties when they needed care that required an office visit. We think naming a couple of our pusses for them would be the supreme compliment.
If you truly are at a loss for a cat name and decide to Google “Cat Names,” you will find 73 pages of web-sites with various lists and suggestions for names. Numerous books also can be found with lists of names. But be adventurous and use your imagination. We have found that it takes about four months for the average cat (and, of course, none are) to learn its name, so we felt secure in renaming three of our kitties: MacKenzie originally known as Cyrus, Lisbeth formerly Cary and Astrid (Tabitha). Madison also most likely had another name. He was about two years old when he adopted us and so well-mannered that he previously had to have been someone else’s pet.
But no matter what you name your puss, as long as something good awaits, she’ll come when you call…eventually.