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. Once I had 18 cats, most of which were offsprings of 2 dumped female cats.
    Names I Chose:

    Males: Oliver, Bart, Kovu, Simba, Milo, Spike, Ralph,

    Females: Olivia, Autumn, Gwenie, Cricket, Sabrina, Princess, Missy

  2. Melanie Geiser

    I have had a total of 7 cats. The first one was named Puddin’ Tane. My first black cat was named Toby, then we found out it was a girl. She became Tobreena.
    Next came a black cat named Sneezy and a tabby cat named Muzby (we muz-be nuts to get another cat!). My stray cat is named Alley Cat. I found a kitten with an injured leg. It couldn’t be fixed so the leg had to be removed. Of course his name is Tripod. I now have another black cat named Mr. Monster. If you met him you would know why!

  3. Why would you change a cat’s name just because you are adopting it? If kitty has already gotten used to being called something else, that’s not fair. If you were a kid in an adoption agency and you got adopted, would you want your new family to change your name just because they don’t like yours? Oh, your name is Sally? Well we’re going to call you Theresa. :(

  4. My Black cat names. Licorice , Boris (from opera) and Anonymus named by my 3rd grade poetry group who thought Anonymus was a real name of a poet! Fluffy tailed Featherbell sweetest of the lot!
    My other cats names , Boris’ sister, Carmen, Baryshnikov (walked on the tips of his paws)

    Currently have Xedo, the tuxedo cat

  5. Scooter James, Dottie Elizabeth, Patchy Marie, Smitten Louise, Sharky David, Ruby Lynn….just to name a few of my rescues. They always find me. Have your pets spayed and neutered, please.

  6. Good evening, I have a tuxedo cat. He has white socks, white whiskers, a heart shape on his crotch. His name is Sonnyboy. My cat ???? was born a runt. So so small his mom a Siamese. Didn’t want him. I took him in as my grandson. He’s now a huge cat. He’s being raised on the Navajo Nation. I love him so much, more like a service animal. He know when to make you laugh. He says mom. Loves softserve I’ve cream ????. Thank you for being there for me Sonnyboy. ????

  7. My Towanda was a feral 4 month old kitten when I took her in (named after Towanda from Fried Green Tomatos as she was kinda feral herself~my most favorite movie!) and it really fits her.
    My BJ was named such as when he first appeared in my yard and I would go out and feed him he would cry merraow ~ “I’m so lonesome I could cry” by BJ Thomas from the 60’s ~ so it really fits him. He is now my inside kitty.

  8. I’ve always talked to my animals when we met, commenting on their personality and look. And when they respond that’s the name! So they tell me.
    My male Maine Coon mix rescue was 10 weeks old sitting on my chest and was being such a such a “guy” yes, you’re my guy, and he looked up and purred. I said it again, and there you have it – MyGuy! Even has his own song too.

  9. Yvonne Summers

    When my tiny torbie came to me as soon as I saw the bright red fur I named her ‘Lulu’ for the 60’s pop star. My White Russian in her feminine elegance shouted ‘Annabel’. I like to call a name as though I am calling my pet to me to make sure it sounds inviting and easy to say then I decide on the name.

  10. We have Star Wars names and video game characters also. Link, Raven & Vader( they’re black), Obi-Wan, Leia, Kit, Mace, Allie, then the two shorthairs Cali & Zan. They are our show cats and have their fancy registered names but we use the short nicknames for them otherwise.

  11. My father-in-law had a gorgeous large black cat named Lucifer. When I had to fly both of them across country, it was an advantage going through TSA when security insisted that I needed to remove Lucifer from his carrier. When I told them his name, they changed their minds. Actually Lucifer was a very gentle cat, Lucy to his friends.

  12. Rescued 5 kittens from under a hedge and found homes for 2, who were named Sara and Ziggy by the new purrson they owned. The three left (all mostly white) were named Benjamin, Smudge (due to a large spot on the top of his head) and Diva (because she had an strong sense of noblesse oblige) Whenever I spoke to Benjamin, he would always respond, “Burt?” so he became Benjamin Burt. Diva, because of her incredible catitude, became Diva Mae, Princess of the Universe. Smudge lost the black spot on the top of his head, but later developed one by the side of his nose. I think cats prefer names with “B” or “M” or “P’ (even O) but not “S” or “F”

  13. We have a gentle, very large ginger with a white chest, white tail stripes and white stockings. We named him Colby-Jack because we love cheese and he is the same color. The name fits him perfectly. :)

  14. “May 29, 2018 at 1:54 pm
    Althea Craig says:
    My two little panthers were named by my son before I got them. My little girl is Teo [the other] and my little boy is TwoTwo [ because there are two of them] They were given to me because my Velvet had died suddenly. These two were always together so the reason for their names. Their mom was killed by an opossum so they and their siblings were rescued by my son.”

  15. We have tried to name our cats Disney theme names. I have Wonder after the Disney Cruise ship Wonder, Triton from the Little Mermaid, O’Malley from The Aristocats.

  16. Tee ‘n’ the Wildlife

    I absolutely hate the creepy names that people give black cats. It’s unfair to the cat. So when I got my little hauspanther I named her Twinkle Twinkletoes Twinkleton. Winkie for short!

  17. We fell in love with a little black cat that the shelter had named ‘Arabesque’. We just weren’t feeling it. My wife thought that Lady Mae fit her well…I had to agree. She really nailed it.

  18. My gorgeous boy cat came with the plebeian name Mr. Orange Kitty. I came up with the name Miro using the first 3 letters, although I sometimes call him Mr. O. Miro is also the name of a surrealist artist.
    The tubby brown tabby was name Gingersnap. She has ear tufts like an Abyssinian. I call her Senna.

  19. We rescued our calico from the brush..took her to the vet and she weighed 5 oz. Mini coopers were popular then so we named her that…shortened to cooper because she`s 11 now and weighs 16 pounds.

  20. Kathy M Anderson

    I also have a Merlin. When I was doing the paperwork to adopt him from the shelter I said I was changing his name (Fred) as soon as he was mine. They asked to what and I said Merlin. We were watching a show about young Merlin and how he learned of his powers and how to best use them. My Merlin is now 9 years old, 20 lbs and solid black gorgeous! The most mellow cat I’ve ever known. He was turned over to the shelter at 4 years old and the person said he was destructive in the house. No Way!

  21. Kristin L Wentz

    I am a die-hard hockey fan and all my cats are named after hockey players. Sakic, Forsberg, Crosby and Zamboni. Zamboni is a black cat and I know there are black players in the NHL but people think black cats are bad luck. I didn’t want to give any player bad mojo so I named her Zamboni. They love watching hockey with mommy and their little heads are moving back and forth following the skaters. Love my “Hockey Cats” !!

  22. My two little panthers were named by my son before I got them. My little girl is Teo [the other] and my little boy is TwoTwo [ because there are two of them] They were given to me because my Velvet had died suddenly. These two were always together so the reason for their names. Their mom was killed by an opossum so they and their siblings were rescued by my son.

  23. Alice..you mentioned that you have never heard of a person or animal named Magnolia. I watched a sitcom on Netflix where 2 girls were named Lemon and Magnolia. From what I remember they were named that because of the fragrant flowers. The show was “Hart of Dixie”..I really liked it.

  24. anne w shepherd

    HOW ABOUT JINX MAXWELL!!!! Male cat named by my Grand daughters….. Great name but i call him BUDDY, my best friend.

  25. Nancy griffiths

    I always adopt from a shelter- so they have usually been named . I change those to ones that really fit. ie: My kitty, half white and half tiger – a beautiful girl I named Fluffernutter- a sandwich I had for lunch every day growing up in New England. Rhymes with supper!????
    My sweet, sweet, perfect, tall rat terrier who never did a naughty thing in all her 16 years, I called her SaraLee. Anyone who met her would sing the SaraLee jingle to her. ????

  26. I like humorous/frivolous names, or names with some meaning for the critters in my life. I’m more of a dog lover than a cat person (but share my home with both a dog and a cat), and have also had birds (parakeets) and for over 20 years a Pacific Pond turtle. The turtle was named ‘Umpy’ for the Umpqua River, where I found it. One of the two best dogs I ever had was a female mixed terrier we named ‘Worthless,’ her longtime housemate was a female German Shepherd we named ‘Trouble’ and neither ever lived up to their names. My current canine companion (for over 16 years!) is a female rat terrier/Min-Pin mix (11-pounds of crazy) who my son and I named ‘Attila the Runt.’
    Several years ago my home was invaded, three different nights in one week, by a badly emaciated Calico that appeared to have been someone’s dumped or lost pet. She was very tame and very affectionate, and I knew I had to at least nurse her back to health before finding her a home. The name I gave her was ‘Theophilus’ (Byzantine emperor, New Testament figure and many more), which is also a very bad pun — say ‘Theophilus Cat’ several times. I also call her ‘Theo’ for short. She’s part of the family, strictly an indoor cat and gets along fine with my dog

  27. My cats are Cleocatra “Cleo”, Neffrakitty, “Neffy”, and Tutakitten, “Tut”, my daughter named them. Neffy we thought was a girl…nope boy….we didn’t change his name, and Tut is a girl and we decided to keep with the names.

  28. Jessica Watson McCord

    My cats are Lord Tubbinghton (Tubby for everyday use) a BIG tabby & Kevin a long hair with points. I have a new kitten that has a soild black body and gray & black stripped legs

  29. Suzanne S Wright

    My 2 rescues were named Pi and Dre. They knew their names so I didn’t want to change the basic names.. Pi became Captain Horatio Pyewacket and Dre became HRH Princess Dreya. Still call them Pi and Dreya.

  30. 17 years ago my tiny little rescue kitten came with the all too common Calico kitten name “Callie”. She was way too pretty to have a common name. I thought and thought of what could I name her.

    Here is where I mention worst breath I had ever smelled. She would jump on me in the morning and wake me up with that breath. One morning after being awakened with her “morning breath” it suddenly hit me what to name her. If you are familiar with Shasta Daisy’s, you would know that they are beautiful, but stink….and thus that is how my little girl was named “Daisy.”

    By the way her vet after a thorough exam could not find anything wrong and she did eventually outgrow it. Now she is my old girl with small cell cancer and a touch of dementia, but she is still my sweet loving little girl who I will do every thing I can until it’s time to say goodbye.

  31. My cats were named Orville and Wilbur when I got them. I took them for a pre-neutering check up, and the vet said “these are girls.” Oops! On my way home I was trying to think of a pair of names for girls, and suddenly it was Laverne and Shirley! The names work perfectly. Laverne is bigger and kind of dopey, and Shirley is a schemer who gets into everything. Although I almost always call Laverne Verne now. And everyone thinks it’s a hoot when they hear their names.

    The price of fixing them went up as soon as they became ladies. Ha ha ha!

  32. I volunteer at a cat adoption center that works with a lot of rescuers, and also takes cats that people can no longer care for. One of our owner-surrender cats came in with the name Stovetop. It was, somehow, the perfect name for her :)

  33. Laura Markowicz

    I have a Merlin(his shelter name fit him),and a Melissa aka Little Missy. Her shelter name was the impossible “Ice Cream Sundae”! My favorite cat name was our Jennifur.

  34. The eternal playful, sweet, naughty, precocious and precious kitten, FIGARO. And, for his speed and ninja like instincts, I named him after Queen Victoria’s precious pup, DASH. So, there you have it. FIGARO DASH! If he ever gets a sister, her name will be Queen Charlotte. If I ever get a full blooded Maine Coon, of course, His/her name will be “MUFASA”. ok, YEP, I’m a Disney fan……..

  35. Cyndi DellaPenna

    We named our girls wit middle names also. Aurora Ann after the northern lights. Mishka Tuna a play on the name if one of my favorite Russian figure skaters, Nataliya Mishketunok. And last but not least Twinkle Marie. I think they are unusual. I also had a big male a while back we called Ignorme. Yep he totally ignored me unless I had food. Love my kitties.

  36. I love Arthurian legend, so called my new Bengal cross brothers Arthur and Merlin. Arthur can be regal and Merlin is just well, magic!

  37. I have almost always given my cats human type names. I have had a Theodore (Teddyt), a Franklin (Frankie) a Minnie, a Charlie. I have also had a Baby, a Peggy Sue (she had one leg amputated) and a Ziggy. My current cat was already given the name Bear, since he sort of look like one. I chose to rename him Jackson Bear. Not after Jackson Galaxy – I just like the name! He is now Jackie Bear, and it suits him perfectly.

    I read somewhere once that giving human names is a sign of respect. For some reason, this made a lot of sense to me. I have always felt that giving a cat a silly, goofy name IS disrespectful, and somehow creates a distance (emotionally) between you are your cat. I always felt guilty naming one cat Baby and another one Ziggy. But those names stuckm and the cats obviously did not care.

  38. I now name my pets slightly ridiculous names after naming a cat my favorite name in the world and realizing I could never use it one a human baby, haha! So that’s my best naming tips, save the best names for babies if they’re in your future!

  39. When I adopted my boy in 2015, he was named something else. I didn’t think it suited him. But he had these HUGE feet. I named him Tenzing Norgay (Zing for short) in honour of the Nepali Sherpa who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary up Mount Everest. It fits. He is, according to my vet, a very slender 16 pound boy-o!

  40. My cats not only have names but they have nicknames as well. Ramses (a large Egyptian Mau, a/k/a Monkey because he has very clever paws and gets into things; opens doors and drawers, etc.), Cosmo (an orange tabby Persian, a/k/a Muffin because he is so fluffy and sweet) and my newest acquisition, Merlin (a/k/a Munchkin, just because he was a cute little kitten. He is now 6 months old and already weighs 8 pounds plus he looks like he has a LOT of Maine Coon in his DNA. And when I say a LOT, he has the ruff, the fluffy tail, the soft, slightly long silky fur, he chirps and trills and plays fetch, all Maine Coon characteristics.)

  41. Zelda is not a superhero, it’s Link God amateurs. Coincidentally my newest kitten is named Link. Bonus points for whoever guesses what my other cats name is, also from the Zelda series.

  42. My Swedish Petra’s grandmother called her Petrushka when she was little; I had a cat named Petrushka. I adopted two cats on the same day and named them Macaroni (Mackie) and Cheese. Now I have a Frito, a Jessie and a Lyla.

  43. I couldn’t find the right name for my little rescue kitten. Then I heard an NPR story about announcing the name of the new baby panda-Bei Bei which is Chinese for precious treasure. And that was that.

  44. Squeaker = she squeaks.
    Honey = she’s super sweat and honey colored.
    Sir Chase-Um Tail = yes, he chases the girls. Chase for daily use.

  45. I looked though baby name websites and books for Evan, but Dierdre came from an Irish story a friend once told me, and Logan and Priya came pre- named.

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