A man with glasses holding a cat that's looking up.
A man with glasses holding a cat that's looking up. Photography ©kimberrywood | Thinkstock.

Let’s Talk Cat Names and How to Name Your Cat

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Bella has been one of the most popular cat names in the United States for the last five years. Why? Because people went crazy for the name Bella after the success of The Twilight Saga series of vampire books and films, with fans wanting to honor the protagonist, Isabella Marie Cullen, by naming cats after her. Now let the record show that Bella is a solid if unspectacular name for a pet — but the rest of a recent Top 20 list of male and female feline names is thoroughly uninspiring stuff.

Max, Oliver, Lucy and Chloe all feature, along with Luna and Simba. All fine cat names, but what if the world does not need any more tabbies named Simba or black cats called Shadow (another regularly popular cat name). How do you go about picking an eye-catching and individual name for your feline without stumbling into anything that’s humdrum, ridiculous or regrettable?

Cats names after pop culture trends

Rey from Star Wars.
Rey from Star Wars. ©Photo 12 | Alamy Photo.

Begin by taking a cue from Bella and dipping into the fruitful world of pop culture. Think about your all-time favorite musicians, songs, movies and books, and see if they spark any inspiration. If you want to be right on the wave of trending cat names, hot tips include Rey (Skywalker), after the heroine of the new Stars Wars flicks, and Ghost, in homage to the noble albino direwolf that Game Of Thrones’s Jon Snow roams with. (Naming your feline after another species character is totally legit.)

As you muse over pop culture-inspired monikers, side toward the classic. The name Bella is broad and plain enough to endure through the ages — it also means beautiful in Italian — but be cautious about burdening your cat with a title derived from an overnight hot thing. The world of pop culture moves at warp speed, and today’s sensation can be tomorrow’s fad. Returning to the Star Wars theme, think of those beleaguered kitties struggling to navigate the wilds of 2018 while called Jar Jar Binks. Oh, the horror! On a similar tip, calling your cat after a sports star who’s just won your team the title is destined to backfire once the player inevitably transfers to a rival franchise. Vintage players make for sturdier cat names.

Too-clever cat names

There are pros and cons with the idea of anointing your feline with a tricksy title, too. We all love a good pun, but be wary of trying to be too clever with your cat’s name. Calling your latest feline leader Chairman Meow is a fine quip with which to entertain a clowder of close friends over cocktails, but there might be public occasions where the name is seen as less appropriate.

Also, stay away from modern politics, please: Using your cat to push home an agenda is a disingenuous move. Plus, we all know cats would nap through voter registration.

Food cat names

Olive and Rye, food cat names.
Instagram celebrities Olive and Rye. Photography courtesy @oliveandrye.

A better naming tactic is to saunter over into the non-partisan world of food. After all, we’re all social media foodies these days. Successful sustenance-sourced names abound: Rye and Olive are a tortie and a calico rescue duo from Philadelphia who’ve become Instagram celebrities (@oliveandrye); Lobstah is a special-needs kitty named for his distinctive crustacean-shaped claw (@lobstah_the_cat); and Professor Pizza is the most infamous cat to have passed through the anime-themed Kawaii Kitty café (@thekawaiikittycafe).

Individual cheese cat names are ripe for plundering (Brie! Fontina! Camembert!), and Taco Cat is a classic that’s palindromic to boot. Feel free to snack heartily while considering chow-based sobriquets.

Be wary of too-long cat names

A word on nomenclature length: Granting your furball a grandiose triple-barreled name is totally fine. Just make sure that the root of it can be easily shortened.

A friend’s cat is named Maximillian Jeffrey III. He’s a distinguished tuxedo gentleman with a habit of fishing strawberry tops out of the trash. His full honorific is obviously a mouthful, so on a day-to-day basis he’s known as Maxi. The system works, people.

Don’t know what to name your cat? Try this.

Ultimately, the best way to find the ideal name for your cat is to relax and stop overthinking it — even if that seems impossible with all the excitement a new kitty brings. My own cat is called Mimosa. When we adopted her she was named something else. She had been rescued by a veteran who found her under a car in a parking lot and took her to a shelter in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that’s colloquially known as the Cat Loft. While there, this 5-month-old kitten was tagged Rosalita.

Now Rosalita isn’t a bad name, it just didn’t fit her look and personality. After racking our brains for a few days and throwing out and quickly discarding a fruitless series of suggestions, my girlfriend and I were stumped.

So we popped to a local bar where a friend used to work and serve us mimosas at midnight. That’s when it hit us: The cat’s name should be Mimosa. Thanks, serendipity (which would also be a fine cat name).

ROVER.COM’s 2017 Top Cat Names

Twilight pop culture cat names.
Bella has been the most popular cat name for the past five years. Photography ©Entertainment Pictures | Alamy Photo.

TOP CAT NAMES FOR FEMALE CATS

  1. Luna
  2. Chloe
  3. Bella
  4. Lucy
  5. Lily

TOP CAT NAMES FOR MALE CATS

  1. Oliver
  2. Leo
  3. Charlie
  4. Milo
  5. Max

Other ideas for cat names:

  1. Pop culture cat names: Rey, Bella, Chloe, Simba, Yoda, Buffy, Anakin, Rey, Binks, Ghost, Sansa, Arya, Bart, Chewie.
  2. Sports cat names: Jeter, Tiki, Ali, Babe, Carmen, LeBron, Bolt, Brady, Aaron, Eli, Jordan, Dale, Breez, Odell, Mia.
  3. Food cat names: Olive, Jellybean, Cookie, Coconut, Oreo, Biscuit, Taco, Brie, Bacon, Waffles, Peach, Potato, Muffin.
  4. Destination cat names: Paris, Kawaii, Kona, Zulu, Dutch, Miles, Scooter, Austin, Bali, Dakota, Napa, Minya, Verona.
  5. Superhero cat names: Captain, Batman, Thor, Flash, Wolverine, Robin, Bruce, Hulk, Loki, Mario, Samus, Zelda.
  6. Flower cat names: Willow, Rose, Iris, Fern, Daisy, Buttercup, Violet, Primrose, Poppy, Belle, Lily, Coco, Clover, Tulip.

Thumbnail: Photography ©kimberrywood | Thinkstock.

Phillip Mlynar likes to consider himself the world’s foremost expert on rapper’s cats. When not chronicling the antics of his rescue, Mimosa, for Catster, his musings on music can be found at Red Bull Music Academy, the Village Voice and NYLON. He’s won a number of awards at the Cat Writer’s Association Communication Contests, some of which are proudly on display at his local dive bar.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Kittens, a special issue from Catster magazine. Look for Kittens on a newsstand near you! 

Read more about your new cat on Catster.com:

This article was originally published on November 30, 2017 and was updated on May 22, 2018. 

113 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Cat Names and How to Name Your Cat”

  1. We have a calico cat named Mallory after the movie natural born killers. Because shes pretty and affectionet but she’s a crazy mouse killing machine. Lol. She’s still yet to get a mouse, but she gets the bugs!

  2. I had a failed bottle feeder foster named “Foster”; my beautiful orange tabby. His irange tabby mom I named Marmalade. Another orange tabby proudly named Atilla.
    A few other failed foster cat’s. Black Main Coon simy beautiful named Lexus, sickly kitten we named Tiny who grew into a beautiful tabico. And a Calico named Sleepy B.
    Many foster over 12 years Goose and Maverick (brothers), Mercades (Lexus’s sister) Denver, Dugan & Dallas. Saki and Soju and Madori. Hundreds of names.

  3. I had a femalw calico kitty who 2as named Sasha. It fit her and she seemed to like it. She always came when she was called. I now have a gray-ish girl named Storm .We very rarely call her by name. Usually she is just KiKi, Kitty, Kit Kat and on occasion PITA.

  4. I have a polydactyl named Hemingway. A tabby that looks somewhat like a raccoon named Rigby, a rescue that had a black eye named Osgood (as in Chris Osgood the goal tender from the Detroit Red Wings) another rescue name Chelios (Chris Chelios another Red Wings retired player) and a gorgeous polydactyl Manx named Lola Jane (Lola from Marvel, Agent Coulson’s car)

  5. The rescue gave our cat the name Little Momma as she was pregnant twice early on in life and she was small as a result. Not very clever, but functional for the resuce. She is also a Torbie and has beautiful markings. My wife picked her out and asked me what her name should be. I immediately said “Carmen”. My wife said “That’s great! With all the pretty colors, like Carmen Miranda, right”. I replied, “I was thinking Carmen Electra”.

  6. I’ve had a Sheba, a Pepper, Wiskers, Cookie, Zippie, and Shadow and Altair. The last three are with me now. I normally observe the kitty for awhile, and then a name comes to me.

  7. I’ve had over a hundred cats in my lifetime. Due to rescue and raising orphans mostly. Never used the same name twice. My first three bottle raised babies were two day old Manx kittens. Lily Sue, Bubba Hyde and Raunchy Louise. A few of the unusual names over the years, Diogenes, Pandora, Sealy ( she wouldn’t come out from under the bed for a few days), Eclipse, Nuisance, Catsanova, Trilby, Hidey (another scaredy cat), Sunkist, Pearl, Cutter, Titanic (he was the biggest wreck we’d ever seen), Kit Carson, Fiona. Xena was my last bottle baby, she’s six now, was a one day old single kitten. Figured she needed a strong name, so Xena Warrior Princess she was. Went straight to her head. I’ve enjoyed reading the unusual names. ❤️

  8. I named my little tuxedo female Petunia in memoey of my late sister Barbara. Barbara liked to call people Petunia when she was being sarcastic. I call my kitten Petie, Miss Pete and anything that rhymes with Pete! I somwtimrs call her Heatie Feet!

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