Everyone reacts uniquely to the death of a beloved pet. Some people cry for days. Some people hold funerals or memorial ceremonies. Some people pray and meditate, and some plant a flower or a tree in memory of their special friend. Some people bury their feline friends in a pet cemetery, some have their cats cremated, and some people keep those cremains in a box or an urn on the mantel, while others scatter the ashes in a favorite place.
And then some people adopt a new cat and give him the same name as their dead cat.
That’s the one reaction I just don’t get.
Why on earth would you do this? It’s kind of creepy, in a Rose for Emily way. Yeah, there’s no 50-year-old corpse in the bed, but the theme of “inability to accept change” is just as strong in the repeat-cat-naming thing as it is in Faulkner’s gothic tale.
No, you don’t get a free ticket out of Creepyville by adding a number to your dead cat’s name. Jason 2, Jason 3, and so on are still just as icky as Jason, Jason, Jason, and so on.
It seems to me that naming your new cat after your former feline friend stunts the grieving process. When you get a new cat and give him the same name as the old one — particularly if the new cat looks a lot like the old one — it allows you to deny that your cat died, and therefore to deny that you’ve experienced a loss that needs to be grieved.
Incomplete grieving can wreak all sorts of psychological, spiritual, and physical havoc. If you never allow yourself to have closure about your loss, you run the risk of stress-related illnesses and falling prey to idealizing your deceased kitty friend to the point that no other cat could possibly compare.
I’m not gonna lie: Grief hurts like hell. I went through way too much of it last year, and honestly, I’m still processing my way through some of it. Humans have a natural desire to avoid pain and seek comfort, and an experience as painful as grief is not too high on anyone’s “boy, I really want to do that!” list. But we’re all going to go through at least one bereavement in our lives, so we might as stop avoiding it and embrace grief as a learning process and a spiritual journey.
If you want to be in denial about your cat’s death, I get it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it, and I do have compassion for you and the suffering you’re going through, whether or not you admit your cat has passed away. But here’s one more thing to think about: Naming your new cat after your recently deceased one does a disservice to the cat, too.
Even if you’re not in denial that your kitty friend is gone, naming your new cat after your old one almost certainly means you’re going to hold your new cat up to the standards of your former beloved companion. You may not do it consciously, but the odds are really good that it will happen. And what if Jason 2 doesn’t like to be held as much as the Original Jason, or he doesn’t like to play in the same way as Original Jason did? Do you get rid of him, do you resent him for not being a clone of Original Jason, or do you try to tie your new cat’s individuality into knots in order to make him more like your old cat?
I suppose some people who use the same name for subsequent cats do so for the same reason some families have ancestral names that get repeated down the family line (Fred Jr., Fred III, Fred IV, and so on). But I have mixed feelings about that, too. What if it turns out that Original Fred is an evil man who beat his wife and abandoned his kids? What does that tell Fred Jr. about himself?
Maybe I’m just a cat-name snob. When I adopt a cat, I ask her if she likes her name. If not, I’ll keep trying names until we find one that feels like a match. I would never have dreamed of naming Bella, my most recent adoptee, Dahlia II because she happens to be a small black cat like my beautiful beloved who died last year, and I’ll never in a million years name a ginger tabby female cat Kissy II.
Every cat is an individual, and every cat deserves to have his own name and not live in the shadow of his deceased predecessor.
What do you think? Have you given a cat the same name as one who came before him? Would you do so? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments!