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Let's Talk Cat Names: How Did Your Cats Get Theirs?

T.S. Eliot once wrote that the naming of cats is a difficult matter. But is it really?

 |  Apr 18th 2012  |   175 Contributions


As I was walking home today, I saw a sign for a missing cat named Derrida. Since I'm the proud owner of half a Master's degree in English, I have some passing familiarity with the individual after whom the cat was named, and I thought, "Jeez, I hope the poor little dude didn't get himself deconstructed."

Although I was sad for the family who's missing their cat, as I am when I see any notices about lost felines, the poster did get me thinking about cat names.

My family's always been fond of giving our cats interesting names. One kitten adopted by a relative left our home with the name Jason Joe Sam Max Tigger Kelley. That's what happens when you ask five family members to contribute names -- and until the day the cat died, his caretaker called him Jason Joe.

Then there was a string of other cool cats: Castor and Pollux, twin tuxedo boys; Iris, a diminutive calico with a black I-shaped spot on her forehead; Purr Bear, a Maine Coon look-alike who earned his name because he'd purr if you even so much as glanced at him; Donegal, Fitzpatrick, and Kirk (pronounced with a ridiculously exaggerated Scottish burr) … and the list goes on.

In 1996, I adopted the first cats of my adult life, a pair of tiny, squeaky black kittens from a litter of four born to a stray mama-cat. From the beginning, they weren't the least bit shy about expressing themselves with an impressive array of vocalizations, so it made perfect sense to me to name them after female singers I love -- hence, they became Sinéad O'Kitty and Siouxsie Mew.

Sinéad (front) and Siouxsie, 2005. Photo by JaneA Kelley

Eight years later, I was working at a newspaper whose editor happened to know that I really like cats. He told me about a kitty languishing at the local animal shelter after his owner had moved to an assisted living facility. The cat was really sick, he said, but so friendly, and he could use a visitor. Yep, I'm a sucker, so I went over to visit him, and the rest is history.

This kitty came with the name Thomas, and I asked him if he'd like a slightly more noble-sounding name -- and he became Thomas T. Bombadil, named after the nature spirit in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yep, not only am I a sucker, I'm a big ol' nerd, too!

Thomas, November 2004. Photo by JaneA Kelley

In 2006, Sinéad died unexpectedly. I had no expectation of getting another cat: Siouxsie and Thomas were enough, and even if I was going to get another cat, I wasn't going to do it on the rebound.

All those noble thoughts went to hell as soon as I walked into a copy shop and saw three black kittens in a cage, on loan from a local humane society. I felt bad for the poor little kitties in the cage, so I had to pet them. I was fine until I picked up the third one, who squirmed up my chest and threw those tiny paws around my neck and started purring wildly. Oh, crap.

Once again, the rest is history. This kitten came with the name Blackie. (I know kitten season is long, but really? You couldn't come up with a better name than that?)

The naming of this cat was a difficult matter because the shelter staff told me that Blackie was a boy. I began going through all sorts of legends of males with the word "black" in their names and eventually settled on Black Jack Davy. When Blackie proudly showed me "his" butt a couple of days later, I realized that Davy was not an appropriate name … so she became Dahlia. Dahlia P. Kittenface.

Dahlia recently died of cancer, at the tender age of 6. This isn't the greatest photo of her, but it speaks volumes about her personality and loving nature. Photo by JaneA Kelley

When the time comes for me to add other cats to my life, I might try on some of the great names from Eliot's classic, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats -- Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer, Growltiger, Jellylorum, Bombalurina, Skimbleshanks …

How did your cats get their names? What's the coolest cat name you've ever heard? What's the most ridiculous cat name you've ever heard? Do you or your family have a tradition when it comes to naming cats? Let me know -- leave a comment below.

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